Modern Family Home: A Contemporary Redo Lets Kids be Kids
A Coronado contemporary do-over with family living in mind
Modern and Built to Last
It’s chic. It’s modern. It’s sexy. But in conversation with Christian and Allison Rice there’s one word that keeps popping up about their Coronado home: durable.
Built to withstand the forces of nature unleashed by two young children, this striking property—meticulously designed by Christian, who founded a Coronado-based architectural firm in 2004—puts family first without sacrificing an iota of style.
“We have an 8-year-old [Zoe] and a 4-year-old [Zach] and we wanted to make sure we were putting things in that didn’t make it feel stark, so they felt like they could run around and use it—and I wouldn’t be scared they would ruin it,” Allison says. “I’m a real estate agent in town and a lot of people are not used to this type of design in Coronado. They walk in and say, ‘Oh, you can have kids here; it feels warm.’”
Set on a corner lot, the original home was a single-level, midcentury-modern ranch house the couple purchased in 2009. They loved the house and the initial plan was to renovate in order to accommodate their growing family. A not-so-gentle nudge from Allison’s mother, a longtime Coronado Realtor, convinced them to rethink their plans.
An Architect’s Dream House
“Every architect’s dream is to be able to design their own house,” Christian says. “So it was a fun opportunity to get more expressive and creative, and not having the limitations of the existing house allowed me to do that.”
The plans had basically already been drawn in Christian’s imagination, Allison says. “When you’re an architect, you’re always dreaming and drawing. While I was watching Real Housewives, he was drawing our dream house. It probably took him one night to design the house; two, after I asked for a couple of changes.”
And any regrets about excising a 1950s classic from the neighborhood have been easily assuaged by the final results. “There was a little bit of guilt but Christian designed something so magnificent it took all that away,” she says.
He dubs the style Tropical Modern, and stepping through the front door of pivoting, opaque glass into a resort-like courtyard one half expects to be immediately handed a rum drink with an umbrella in it.
“We wanted to have this house be like a break from our busy lives, to create an escape,” says Christian, who was inspired by design features he has seen on his travels to Hawaii, Bali and Mexico. “It has a lot of that tropical flair and feel to it, which to us means vacations.”
Indoor-Outdoor Practical Luxury
The dominant feature is an upstairs wing, cantilevered from the main house and hovering above the courtyard, forming an outdoor room complete with fireplace and kitchen that includes both a traditional grill and a way-cool Evo flat-top grill, perfect for whipping up everything from pancakes to stir fry.
“I grew up with my dad barbecuing every Friday night so we got sold on the Evo,” Allison says. “You can do anything on it.”
The yard also has a pool and hot tub (with an automated retractable cover for kid-proofing), and a 400-square-foot guesthouse, all surrounded by textured tile, synthetic turf, and—as a nonnegotiable component—a teak deck area.
“There’s just something about the softness of teak, the feel when you’re walking on it,” Christian says. “It’s also a neat way to differentiate the covered outdoor living room from the other outdoor areas. It’s definitely a little more maintenance but we’re purists.”
Landscaping reflects the tropical vibe, too, with easy-care stalwarts like plumeria, agapanthus, asparagus ferns and palms, including a pricey king palm that was a splurge for a centerpiece planter. “I think half our landscape budget went to that one palm tree,” he says.
The home also takes full advantage of San Diego weather, seamlessly blending indoor space with the courtyard. In fact, when the home’s glass walls are pushed back into a wall recess, it’s difficult to determine where the threshold between in and out lies.
“The way the living space opens up to the backyard is super successful,” says Kellie McCormick of McCormick & Wright Interior Design. “It just creates such a large area for entertaining and enjoying the whole space at once.” Kellie, who has worked with Christian on numerous projects, assisted the couple in adding warmth and kid-friendly materials, avoiding any hint of a modernist mausoleum. “Christian likes clean lines, a contemporary look, and Allison likes color and texture so it was fun for us to get together and combine those elements.”
The kitchen was designed with entertaining in mind, taking into consideration gatherings ranging from family holiday dinners to Brownie troop parties. A countertop of Brazilian quartzite (resistant to stains from accidental juice spills) cascades to the floor over walnut cabinetry while a doppelgänger “dirty” kitchen lurks just out of sight.
“I’m doing a lot of houses where you split up the kitchen into a ‘clean’ and a ‘dirty’ kitchen,” Christian says. “It’s kind of a glorified pantry, but there’s a second sink and dishwasher. All those countertop appliances can go in there and don’t have to clutter the main kitchen; it’s a great prep zone.”
“You can close it off so no one can look at your mess,” Allison adds.
Flexible, Durable and Stylish Upstairs
The rich walnut highlights continue in the flooring and cabinetry upstairs, including in the master bedroom where sliding barn-style doors provide privacy for the huge tub, powder room and impressive walk-in closet.
A hallway serves double duty as an office-and-study space and family photo gallery, and leads to the children’s rooms, which are connected by a playroom in between.
“This is the kids’ wing, so we can close them off acoustically if we want to,” Christian says. He also notes the playroom easily can be converted into the main house’s fourth bedroom.
“I always try to build in some flexibility with my designs.”
Another unique feature is the home’s bold wooden louvers that vertically adorn the exterior, announcing its iconoclastic presence in the neighborhood and echoing the interior wood accents.
“All that wood is natural sapele, which is a Brazilian hardwood that weathers like mahogany,” Christian says. “I just love the warm, red-brown color.”
And, no surprise, it’s durable.