All In The Family
Relatives join forces for a country French remodeling project in La Jolla
TWO YEARS AGO, Mike and Kelly Dorvillier hired Mike’s brother and sister-in-law, Andy and Alison Dorvillier, to spearhead the remodeling of their 1950s home in La Jolla.
Andy is a wood pro and cabinetmaker, while Alison is a big-league kitchen pro. Together they run Inplace Studio, a firm specializing in home remodeling, kitchen design and installation.
With family, there is a frankness that from a shared history — no surprises, no candy coating.
“We got along by focusing on the good angels in our personalities,” Alison says. “We’re professionals, and that’s how we approached working together. We stuck to the plans and the budget.”
Mike (a financial planner) and Kelly (a fundraiser), who manage a household that includes two high school teens and a Labrador retriever, had definite goals in mind.
First, they wanted a very large home with a visual openness from front to back that would easily accommodate 200 guests for fundraisers. Second, they wanted the home to appear as though it had been there forever but had all the live-smart bells and whistles.
“The trick was to blend in with the neighborhood and the site while still accommodating the needs of the family and to retain the scale of the Torrey pines-lined neighborhood from a street-scene point of view,” Alison says.
The completed redo is a highly detailed, 7,000-square-foot effort with three court-yards, an attached guesthouse and front yard swimming pool. The interior is richly detailed. Custom-cast ceiling molding, hand-brushed window and molding paint schemes, walnut flooring, a brick ceiling in the dining room, a den, a media/game room, two offices, five bedrooms, three fireplaces, a full gym, a wine cellar and an underground garage add to a stylish dream home.
Kelly and Alison collaborated on the interior design. Settling on an elegant Normandy, France, country theme, they went on several treasure hunts for antique furnishings.
“Our shopping took us all over California and as far as Boston, and many finds came from e-Bay,” Alison says.
As the house unfolds from front to back, the design becomes more family oriented and less formal. A series of French doors line up so that when all are open, guests can pass comfortably from one end to the other. Three courtyards handle any overflow of guests.
It’s a smart home with computer-driven security and entertainment systems.
“All TVs and sound systems, all security systems and intercoms — everything is controlled by iPads, so you can see what’s going on in the house while you’re away, even on an airplane,” Alison says.
As far as the large kitchen goes, “The goal was to give it a feel of a French manor house and barn. We used old brick, old beams and rustic-looking cabinetry,” she says. Terra-cotta flooring transitions well from inside to out and from the family room to formal rooms.
Andy hand made custom cabinets, and the old cabinetry was used in the newly created laundry room. Built-in cabinetry that was part of a bedroom remains in its original place, but now serves a different purpose in the newly created library/office.
The kitchen island and granite counter-top were removed, refinished and reinstalled, as were many of the doors that found use as closet doors.
One of the biggest challenges was tackling the vast underground garage. Mike, who headed last month’s Concours d’Elegance fundraiser for La Jolla Historical Society, needed the space to house his car collection.
“We had to dig a lower level,” Alison says. “And, of course, we ran into an underground stream. Lots of cement, drainage and water-proofing later, the home is now three levels.”
The 2,400-square-foot subterranean garage is a showpiece that would make any car buff proud, especially filled as it is with family vehicles and a portion of Mike’s collection of vintage and exotic cars and oil-industry signs.
Overall, the home is a bit of a chameleon. From the street, it appears to be the same two-story home that has been there for years. Casual viewers will probably miss the fact that the profile of the residence was raised several feet to accommodate higher ceilings and a new upper level.
Also, because all front-to-back rooms and a central courtyard are interconnected by a series of French doors, Mike and Kelly can swing the doors open to create a flow of space that accommodates upwards of 400 people for fundraisers.
The collaborative effort by family members resulted in a remodeling solution for a family that enjoys entertaining to the max.
Homes: By Thomas Shess Photography by Roland Bishop