Bypassing traditional design, a couple with two children find their aesthetic in a minimalist home “where life happens”
What they call “the San Diego of Orange County” served Tracy and Jennifer Maziek well for 13 years. They enjoyed the “comfortable lifestyle” and their ocean view in San Clemente. But their house sat on a postage stamp-sized lot, and T racy was commuting some 50 miles to La Jolla when they decided it was time to move.
“The kids were getting older, and we were looking for a place where they could have more area to explore,” Jennifer says, referring to their son Trevor, 9, and daughter Kira, 7. Thus began the hunt for a house in San Diego County that fit their modern aesthetic.
“After a year of searching, we discovered we weren’t going to find anything,” T racy says. “I convinced Jennifer we could build our own house. “We wanted to stay in North County. We like the schools; and in my line of work, I wanted to have a reach up north to Orange and L.A. counties.”
They found a lot in the Olivenhain area of Encinitas, but the city code favors traditional styles of houses, says Stephen Dalton, the architect the couple hired to bring their dream to reality. On top of that, the sloping, .65-acre lot they chose presented its own challenges.
“It was very restrictive,” Stephen says. “A good third of the property is dedicated to open space, and the [building] pad was established by the subdivider.” T racy notes that Stephen also was limited by a “very finite” budget.
“The design comes from wanting to marry modernism with the family,” Stephen says. “I have heard it called ‘warm modern.’ It accepts that life happens within the space. That led to a lot of the woods. It was designed to have a lot of durable materials and be low maintenance.”
The range of wood types adds character, variety and purpose throughout the home. Although the main living area floors are porcelain tile, Stephen interjected engineered white oak for a step down into the casual living room. In the entryway, white oak floating stairs begin with a platform floating over the tile. The second-story flooring also uses white oak.
Behind the stairs, an accent wall in cedar rises to the second story, level with the top of the loft railing. Stephen also used cedar for exterior cladding and for the undersides of overhangs protecting patio spaces.
The light tones of the oak provide an intriguing contrast with the richly colored walnut used for cabinetry in the kitchen and the wet bar (also sunken) adjacent to the living room. Overhead, birch plywood ceiling panels define the living room and entryway.
“It remains part of the house more than it would be on the floor,” Stephen says. “It doesn’t get covered up.”
Tracy liked the panels so much that he used the same technique on a wall in the media room on the first floor beyond the staircase. A barn door closes the room off from the open floor plan that includes the living and kitchen/dining spaces. The front door is composed of yet another wood: mahogany. But the main focus here is the stacked-quartzite wall that continues from the exterior. A glass panel keeps the wall visually unbroken from outside to inside. Up-lights outside and in the foyer floor add drama at night.
Balancing the warmth of the woods are the porcelain flooring, chroma-gray quartz countertops and simulated-aluminum toe kicks, a back-painted glass backsplash that blends into the walls painted Swiss Coffee white, and the staircase balustrading of powder-coated steel stringer and rail with stainless steel cable.
Frameless glass in the dining and living room corners lend a definitive modernistic edge. Pocket doors open the living room corner to the patio spaces and an airy view across a natural landscape to a distant hillside.
“We wanted the outdoor areas to be an extension of the indoor space. That led to the doors that open with no corner post,” Stephen says. “Because the lot is fairly confined, the patio was never going to be overly large. But as an extension of the indoor space, it’s adequate.”
“We have had a dozen people say they’re surprised the home is only 3,400 square feet,” T racy says. “It lives much larger.”
Beyond the living/dining areas, patterned concrete steps down to a seating area with solid concrete “islands” surrounded by river rock at one end of the blue-tiled pool and spa. Because the lot slopes, the barbecue area is sunken below that, increasing the functionality of the hillside. One end of the barbecue pit features an open wall, designed by T racy and made of red balau, which also was used on a deck for poolside lounges.
Around the corner of the house is a stacked-quartzite outdoor fireplace and sitting area, which also is accessible from the wet bar and a guest suite. At the top of the stairs, just beyond built-in birch cabinets, lies the master suite, which has a deck with an elevated view of the landscape seen from the living room.
The master bath cabinetry features yet another wood: teak. To make the most efficient use of space, Stephen created a
wet zone shared by the tub and shower.
“What does it matter if water from the shower goes into the tub? This way, the tub doesn’t become a space hog, and the shower gets to be generous,” Stephen points out. Adding to the sense of space, a skylight over the Porcelanosa-lined shower brings in natural light.
Picture windows in the loft-style hall-way between the master suite and the kids’ bedrooms create a light well for both floors and “living paintings” of the natural landscape beyond. Stephen created the loft to connect the upstairs and downstairs, as well as to give Trevor and Kira shared space to play.
“I wanted it to feel like a tree house,” he says. The play area sits just outside their bedrooms — the only spaces painted in non-neutral white.
“We let the kids pick their bedroom colors and said that would be their stamp on the home,” Jennifer explains. “Our daughter chose pink. Our son picked a very bright blue, but the builder said, ‘I am going to tone that down a bit.’” (And no, they didn’t tell Trevor; he seemed not to notice.)
The children have another stamp on the house: a sculptural artwork — made from wood left over from construction — that hangs prominently on the living room’s only painted wall.
Tracy, Trevor and Kira painted the wood a variety of colors. Then, T racy gave them instructions that caught them by surprise. “I said, ‘Now it’s time to destroy them.’ They looked at me with fascination and then started to drill holes and give the wood a distressed look. It’s near and dear to us, because the kids and I made it and it incorporates wood used in other parts of our home.” He pauses briefly, then adds, “I hope it’s there for 30 years.” ❖