The Art of Indoor/Outdoor Living
Home Feature: By Thomas Shess Photography by Martin Mann
The Art of Indoor/Outdoor Living
A retired bio-lab builder transforms a Del Mar beach cottage into a family art colony…
IN 2001 DAVID AND MOLLY BEGENT bought their dream property a few short blocks from the ocean in the Del Mar Beach Colony. The idea was that David would eventually design and build a family home that would provide multiple spaces to highlight collected and family artwork (the entire family is gifted). Seven years later, he retired and started his quest for a home that was an “architectural sculpture” as well as a comfortable, environmentally friendly home.
Molly readily admits she loves their new home, but is quick to point out the project vision was “all David’s.” He collected ideas for his dream home while on the job as a builder of commercial (mainly biotech) buildings and labs. When the time came to implement the personal nooks and crannies for his own home design, it was like introducing a kid to the proverbial candy store.
David plunged into designing the 2,300-square-foot home with the passion of a determined shipwright. He understood he had a limited amount of space for his vision. But, much like an artist who revels in each brushstroke, David found joy in the small details.
For example, cabinetry and concrete flooring have aluminum trim inset throughout. Flooring, stairs and the upstairs guest bedroom’s wall and door veneer are of commercial plywood, but David found beauty by cutting it to reveal remarkable grain patterns. And the refrigerator is handy but not visible. David’s design taste eschewed “having the refrigerator stand out like a sore thumb.” He says, “Nothing against the quality of the unit, but I’d rather have it tucked away in an adjacent hallway, out of sight.”
As a builder, he knew how to implement his must-haves — one of which was the library’s full wall of bookshelves. However, he didn’t have enough command of architectural bureaucracy to face the looming roadblock of a daunting Del Mar city review — or as Molly puts it: “David was concerned about the permitting process.”
Enter Del Mar-based Bokal & Sneed Architects, an experienced firm well schooled in coastal property design and permitting details. The couple credits Bokal & Sneed for buttoning down David’s concepts.
“They did a great job. Plans passed on the first inspection,” Molly says.
Even with an experienced architectural firm at his side, David says there were aspects of the house that were confounding. “We had to get all the angles to fit. The entryway glass around the door was delicate. We drove neighbors nuts with our diamond saw cutting the flagstone. Each stone had its place. It was no faux flagstone installation.”
A big rebuilding goal was to maximize the Begent’s California indoor/outdoor lifestyle. Every square foot of the lot was utilized with patios and courtyards that make the small lot seem twice as big.
“Bringing in the exterior was important to us,” says Molly. “It takes some vision to see though existing walls to perceive what can be done if they are removed. Plain bedroom walls can be knocked out to install a French door, which immediately creates a patio area. We did that so all of our bedrooms have patios or terraces connecting us to the outside.”
Another idea utilized to bring the outdoors in was David’s concept for the master bath, where he incorporated interior and exterior entrances. “We can come in sandy from the beach, shower and enter into the master bedroom,” he says.
The kitchen design is intriguing. David pitched the roof to create a cathedral ceiling. Then, to add drama, he created a free-form hanging ceiling over the work area to provide a more human scale. True to the Begent’s themes of metal and art, David used a traditional Parsons table design and added artistic metal insets into the large dining room table he created.
While the kitchen is form over function, the state-of-the-art Loewen window systems, installed throughout, are not. In fact, David made sure all products facing the exterior could stand up to the rigors of living so close to the Pacific Ocean — including the accordion-style set of connected doors, which used to be the kitchen’s east wall, that open to the home’s well-used central courtyard.
“When you buy a view home, you also own the view,” David says, “and when you design that home to bring the outdoors in and vice versa that adds to the joy of living in California because in a sense you own the weather, too.”