Honoring The Past


This contemporary design, crafted in a rural setting, channels the memory of iconic Irving Gill. 

Thirty years and 15 houses later, architect Bill Bocken and landscape designer Paul Adams have created their collaborative 5,000-square-foot masterpiece among the Torrey pines and curbless wooded lanes where Point Loma winds to the Cabrillo lighthouse and land’s end. The past is honored here, not the least in Bocken’s meticulous research and lovingly pastiched design boards reflecting his interest in the work of the early 20th-century architect Irving Gill.

To riff on an old ballad, “When the deep purple falls on sleepy garden walls”… you’re  only 10 minutes from downtown and a pleasant walk to Sunset Cliffs and Mission Bay. The 4-bedroom, 4 ½-bath home sits quietly from the street, with a low profile front entrance to the public spaces of the house, which then open to embrace the terrace, pavilion, garden and a swimming pool. The architecture is the modern concept of an L-shape with each leg only one room wide to afford maximum light and cross ventilation. Shelter blurs the boundaries to nature, a quintessential Southern California ideal.

The interior design by Bocken is serene, in repetitive shades of greys, whites and deep violet blue. Textures and surfaces in a continuous flow throughout add to the sense of a minimal, unadorned aspect. Local limestone is used on the first floor and terraces as a durable and maintenance-free surface. On the second floor, pre-waxed hardwood plank floors are quieter and warmer for sleeping areas. 

The focal point of the garden is an 80-year-old Torrey pine that gathers and rains down the moisture of frequent morning fogs to create a micro-climate all its own for plants below. 

“It’s another world around that tree,” says Bocken. 

There is a linear plan to the herb and flower gardens, with an emphasis on the mood indigo of purple and blue prevalent in delphinium that blooms as much as three times a year. 

“I wanted a mass of purple,” says Adams, the garden’s designer. 

These cool hues, repeated in other garden plants are clearly a leitmotif for the property. A vegetable garden furnishes produce for the frequent dinner guests in either of two dining areas.

Many of the homes in the neighborhood are vintage 1920. There’s a certain synchronicity in knowing that much of Bocken’s inspiration came from the Walter L. Dodge home designed by Gill in Los Angeles around 1916, (destroyed in 1970), considered today to be one of the great American homes of its era.

Environmental responsibility for Bocken and Adams includes a massive photovoltaic electric system concealed behind the roof parapet, low-energy consumption mechanical- and water-heating systems and drip irrigation. (Interestingly, an early solar-heating system was designed for the Dodge house, but never installed.) The saline pool uses no chemicals and is solar heated with a cover preventing evaporation.

Bocken has added a singular romantic touch of a series of carved solid redwood poles, placed inside and in the pavilion, most alluringly captured reflecting in the pool.

The Bocken/Adams residence, inside and out, has a clean, primarily unadorned aesthetic making use of simple massed shapes, arcades of arches framing a view and a trellised pergola of white and purple wisteria, purple trumpet vine and white clematis creating a journey through the garden. 

“This could almost be a Gill,” says Bocken.

Homes: Interior Design Report: By Phyllis Van Doren Photography by Shelley Metcalf

Categories: Home Design