Everything New is Old Again


A La Jolla homeowner takes her house back in time with distressed wood, salvages doors and antiques

A LEAK IN A MASTER BATH sounded like a knock on the door of opportunity for one La Jolla homeowner. Replacing the pink, purple and blue, nonworking Jacuzzi expanded to overhauling the rest of what she calls a “mishmash” of design in the house she and her husband bought some 18 years earlier. Once the project got underway, the couple lived downtown for the next two years. “[But] I was here every day,” Barbara says.

Her comrade in arms was La Jolla architect Trip Bennett.

“I said I wanted to have something more Old World and more Spanish. I wanted it to be comfy, cozy and warm. That’s how I decorate,” she says. “If you can say it’s cute, pretty or sweet, I don’t want it.”
To that end, she emphasized livability.

“Most people that have a formal living room don’t use it unless they’re entertaining,” she says. “This is our main room. Every couple of years, I have to change [the upholstery], but that’s OK.”
To create the European feel she desired, she had the shiny, smooth wood in the floor and ceiling beat and sanded. Stucco posts were covered in wood and then distressed. In the lower level, new tile floors — in different patterns for different rooms — also got the treatment.

“It took five guys two days to sand it to look old,” Barbara says.

Custom carved-wood cabinets by Closet Works in San Diego join salvaged doors picked up on a shopping trip with Trip in Santa Fe, N.M.

“He said it’s the best place to buy doors, and it was,” Barbara says. “I found three sets.” One replaced office doors that were “Palm Springs pink with stained-glass windows.”

To continue the Old World look, Barbara selected rustic, handcrafted lighting fixtures from Chandelier in Encinitas. She also found a large, wood-framed mirror there and had a second one made to hang over the his-and-hers master bath vanity. She also bought twin beds made of iron to fashion into a king-size headboard in the master bedroom. At the foot of the bed sits an antique cabinet concealing a TV screen that lifts for viewing. That cabinet and several antique armoires came from Barbara’s former stomping grounds.

“Most of my antiques are from Kansas City,” she says. “I’m from there, and they have great antique stores.” In one bathroom, she used a baptismal basin as a sink. An armoire in the living room features doors she picked up at a shop that was in a barn. Other furnishings came from an antique store in downtown San Diego that has since closed. They include a cabinet in the entryway that had to be cut down to fit into an alcove; the dining room table whose “shiny, flat black” surface was stripped down and distressed to look old; and 14 Spanish chairs with leather seats.

The lower level of the three-story house includes a wine cellar created from a dirt-filled underground space.

“For my husband’s birthday, I gave him a picture of a wine cellar,” Barbara says. “He asked, ‘Are we moving?’ I said, ‘No, there’s a hidden closet under the cabana.’” Barbara, her gardener and a girlfriend embedded pieces of tile and wine crate ends into concrete for the floor and glued shells onto the ceiling around a stained-glass light fixture.

Nearby is a game room with a cast-glass bar designed by Trip and a copper-clad fireplace (previously white-washed brick), the surround of which sports two carvings made from railroad ties Barbara found when shopping for antiques in Las Vegas with her husband.

“My husband told Trip, ‘When they arrive, please tell Barbara you don’t like them and not to use them.’ When they did, Trip said, ‘Oh, Barbara, what were you thinking?’” But after she insisted they at least hold them up to the fireplace surround to see how they would look there, Trip changed his tune. “He said, ‘Your husband is going to kill me. I love it.’ Now my husband likes it too.”

Trip is impressed with his client’s design sensibilities.

“She has good instincts,” he says. “That house is all her. When you walk in, it feels like Barbara, and I’m very proud of that.”

Homes: By Janice Kleinschmidt Photography by Martin Mann

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Categories: Home Design