Casa Compassion

Robb 21

An elegant Rancho Santa Fe estate was custom designed to be the FACE of animal kindness.

LUCKY ARE THE GUESTS overnighting at the Rancho Santa Fe estate of Cini and Ira Robb. Reason: the view from Casa de Cinira. The top level of this custom-built, 16,000-plus-square-foot Spanish Colonial Revival-style home captures vistas from the Robb’s red-tiled hilltop hacienda to the Pacific Ocean.  

 “Frankly, our guest suite upstairs was meant to be the master bedroom,” said Cini, who is president of the Foundation for Animal Care and Education (FACE), a North County based not for profit, whose mission is to enhance and preserve the quality of the life of animals. Ira is the retired Southern California president of an international vehicle-rental operation.

Why the Robbs moved their master suite to the first floor is the gist of this story.

Pure and simple, the Robbs enjoy a lifestyle involving animals, especially those that have been abandoned, rescued and healed. The well being of animals is a huge passion, a lifestyle vision that Ira and Cini immerse themselves in 24/7/365. 

Early in the planning of the home, the homeowners brainstormed with architect John O’Neill, contractor Douglas Martin and interior designer Randy Boyd to ensure the home be elegant and utilitarian for the many charity fund-raisers and committee events held there, yet at the same time create a comfortable environment for six mini dachshunds, two cats and 13 birds. 

Careful not to call them pets, the lovable menagerie are family equals and, with a few exceptions, have run of the home. But let’s dispel any images of the home being Camp Runamuck. The Robbs have set limits. 

 “We work with Kate Abbott, a dog trainer, who has actually trained us in understanding that family animals need discipline. They need areas where they can and can’t go,” says Cini.

That preparation began when they had the estate designed to be animal friendly. The flooring has been sealed for easy water clean up.  Same for the upholstery and drapes throughout, which have been fiber sealed.  

Wishing to keep the dogs in the spacious kitchen as their main hangout, half gates of wrought iron with a Spanish Revival design were installed.

“We like to keep them where we can see them and the kitchen is a great place,” says Cini. “The kitchen is where we have the most doggie beds.” 

Also, major security features were installed. For example, exterior metal gates have been meshed to keep out rattlesnakes. Triple perimeter fencing keeps out the coyotes. And, again the home was designed to have walled-in courtyards where the dogs can play safely.

Yet, with so much attention to the animals, this totally custom home remains extremely sophisticated and period authentic. A lot of planning went into accomplishing that goal. Because the home is partly designed to complement fund-raising events, there are 13 bathrooms, a billiard parlor that doubles as a mini casino, plus countless meeting/seating areas around 11 fireplaces.

Avid travelers, the Robbs combined vacations over the years with home-shopping trips to add Euro flair to the interiors. All the doors and windows are made with alder wood and imported from Italy, but the main décor theme throughout the interior is a mix of contemporary and country French, including a tasteful but eclectic range of art. Flooring throughout is white oak that was hand distressed and stained on site. Entry and traffic area flooring is in antique terra cotta with Verde marble insets recycled from Tuscany.

Amenities include a French kitchen for show with a deep custom sink carved from one solid block of black marble, plus surrounding custom alder and walnut cabinetry. Then there’s the all-Viking butler’s kitchen where the Robbs can cater events such as the annual “Beads & Baubles,” a free-to-attend silent auction that raises well into six figures for the Face Foundation (next event is April 28, 2013).   

The bucolic 4-acres is tree-lined with native Torrey Pines. The 1-acre home “pad” is exquisitely landscaped with several pocket herb and veggie gardens, including a delightful rose enclosure. The compound includes a separate guest home and a stylish cabana that opens to the pool. 

Other highlights include a wine cellar that has been floored with an imported Biblical-era stone from the Mideast. Among the 28 flat-screen TVs throughout, there’s a HD 100-inch TV screen in the home theater, framed with two inset 42-inch HDTVs for side action. Ira’s office is on the lower level and includes a wall of books, while Cini’s office is upstairs next to the gift-wrapping room that’s customized to be a “Beads & Baubles” prep room. And nearby is her stuffed-animal collection, which in sheer numbers is worthy of the Guinness Book of Records.

For those not familiar with FACE Foundation, the group was established in 2006 to provide access to necessary medical care and education. In many cases, FACE provides grants to animal owners who are unable to partially or fully cover the cost of their pet’s emergency or critical care.

The Robbs also support animal care at the national level with Best Friends Animal Sanctuary and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles (SPCALA). Cini is also driven to save families by actively working in the field of addiction as a board member of the Betty Ford Center.

Back to the beginning of this story: The Robbs, who are childless, enjoy the company of their dogs during evening hours and if the dachshunds choose they can hop into their bed via a specially designed ramp (custom carpeted, too).

Stairs are difficult for dachshunds, especially those who have been injured before being rescued. In order to be close to their adopted canine family during evening hours, the Robbs had architect John O’Neill create the master suite downstairs.  Home guests get the lucky view of brilliant sunsets over the ocean. 

Homes: By Thomas Shess Photography by Martin Mann

Categories: Home Design