Pretty Practical

A dramatic cedar ceiling—and a lot of light—add grace to a utilitarian, welcoming Leucadia home
cedar ceiling in an open floorplan kitchen dining space in leucadia near san diego

Contractor Pat Caldwell of Datum Builders worked with architect Caroline Dooley on the home to patiently craft this dramatic cedar-and-fir ceiling.

It’s impossible to talk about this house without starting with the ceiling, a dramatic cedar and steel-truss architectural gem perched high above the airy kitchen-dining space. Architect Caroline Dooley, who designed the entire remodel, specifically crafted the ceiling to play with the light. “‘Purlins’ are the little cross beams, and they allow the light to go under the rafters. I just love that detail,” Caroline says.

Combined with high windows through the dining room and a loft behind the kitchen and dining area, the space feels wide open and striking, despite its smaller size. To keep the kitchen and ceiling as open as possible, lighting decisions were tricky. “There were lots of conversations about getting the correct lighting in the space without interrupting the beautifully trellised ceilings with metal supports exposed,” says Rhianna Jones, who at the time was an interior designer at CM Natural Designs. (Rhianna now runs her own design firm, Tidal Interiors.)

cedar ceiling in an open floor plan kitchen dining room in san diego leucadia with a loft

This area is the heart of this family’s home, and the house features a series of partial levels that give this airy space a unique architectural texture. The cathedral-style ceiling unifies the space through the loft room.

The room is lit primarily by a series of track-style lights, positioned to angle both up to light the ceiling and down to light the workspaces. “Lighting that room was an interesting challenge,” says Hilary, who owns the home with her husband Luke. “I joke that it could be a cooking show set.”

The track arrangement works beautifully and eliminates the need for pendant lights above the island. The other main light fixture, an oversized hanging chandelier above the dining table, visually brings the vast ceiling’s scope down to human scale. “Because of the openness of the fixture, it’s not so ominous,” Rhianna says, “and it doesn’t take over the space.”

open floor plan dining room high ceilings and large chandelier

High windows above the dining area and bar add dramatic light to the kitchen-and-dining space.

Hilary and Luke spend a lot of time in the kitchen. Both love to cook and entertain, so the kitchen and dining remodel priorities were to make the areas practical, useful and durable—to support messy cooking and a growing family—while at the same time designing something pretty and stylish.

“They’re very much into food and beer culture, so for them, the kitchen was definitely going to be the heart of the home,” says designer Corine Maggio of CM Natural Designs. “And they needed it to be a place they’re proud to have guests in.”

kitchen handmade tile backsplash with quartz countertops

The kitchen includes a handmade-tile backsplash, durable quartz countertops, an extensive wine and beverage fridge and a custom bar with built-in kegerator and taps. The bar flanks the indoor dining area and the large sliding doors that lead to the backyard and its outdoor dining space, making the most of Leucadia’s coastal vibe. And because Hilary and Luke wanted an easy-to-care-for, functional sink that could serve the entire home, whether for cooking or for household things like crafts and laundry, they opted for a massive stainless-steel sink. “It’s huge—literally like 4 feet. It’s the size of a toddler,” Rhianna laughs.

A beloved feature that has become one of the most-used spaces in the home is Caroline’s signature calling card: a small seating area with two cushy yet tailored chairs, a floor lamp and a small antique side table that together form a casual gathering space that’s tucked against one wall of windows in the dining area.

architect caroline dooley hallmark seating area in the dining room

Caroline’s “calling card” is a casual seating area tucked away in the dining or kitchen spaces in the homes she designs. This nook—which looks out at the home’s remarkable ceiling—quickly became homeowner Hilary’s favorite spot in the house.

“It’s not something I would have thought of,” Hilary says of the extra seating in a room with several other seating options. “It’s a great place to have a cup of coffee, or I can feed the baby while my toddler’s eating at the table.”

Corine describes the project’s style as “modern farmhouse” with a focus on the couple’s personalities and their priorities for their family. “They’re so casual, there’s not even a hint of pretension in them, so their place really needed to reflect that,” she says. “They’re just really relaxed and happy people.”

dutch door entry way entryway

A Dutch door and a bench make an entryway vignette in the living room.

The living room functions as their primary TV-watching space, entryway, and casual hang-out area. It had to be durable, make the best use of the space and be polished enough to be the home’s first impression. The couch, a custom piece, provides ample seating and accommodates Hilary and Luke, both of whom are tall. To address the needs of a busy family room and entrance, Corine created a partial entryway with a bench, hooks, extra-long windows and a Dutch door to bring extra light into the room.

cantilevered doors indoor-outdoor living room family room

The living room is the family’s primary hangout space and is the home’s entryway, which presented a design challenge. The room is a flexible, comfortable and stylish space. “I didn’t need a big house; we didn’t want a big house,” Hilary says.

In warmer months, folding cantilevered doors—which make up one living room wall—open up to an outdoor living space. The garden area immediately outside of the living room is their primary outdoor play and hang-out area. The living room’s furnishings are stylish, but they’re also durable enough to account for kids, spills and scratches, and they’re mindfully arranged to allow for open patio doors and that indoor-outdoor feel.

indoor outdoor living cantilevered doors

The family embraces the home’s indoor-outdoor living.

“For me, your outdoor space is just as much a part of your life as your indoor space,” Hilary says. “I didn’t feel like we needed that much space inside. It’s kind of a very ‘foreman’ function—making sure every space works really hard and that we use it. I didn’t want to have decorative space that we’re not actually using.”

The front porch also forms an important extension of the living room. Their toddler plays in the front yard often, and the red Adirondack chairs, porch fan and Dutch door make it a perfect New England-meets-Napa-farmhouse-style place to hang out.

sunset deck leucadia

The home’s “sunset deck” continues the feature of the interior cathedral-style ceiling.

The house’s multilevel structure and positioning in the hilly landscape makes for a series of partial staircases, slightly lowered or raised rooms and a loft living space above the kitchen.

In the loft space—which can be used as an extra room, guest quarters or office space as the family grows—an extra bathroom features a unique sea-inspired blue scalloped tile in the shower. “When you open the bathroom door, the inside of that shower wall is the first thing you see, so we did it in a fun ocean color, a nod to the location,” Rhianna explains. The tile echoes the kitchen backsplash. “It’s a little deeper blue. Since it’s in a confined space, we could go a little bit more saturated.”

loft bathroom scalloped ocean blue handmade tile shower

Calling all mermaids: An ocean-inspired loft bathroom features a handmade scalloped tile.

The master bedroom and bathroom also make great use of space, height, light and color. Set off from the rest of the house with a separate hallway and even a step down, it evokes a suite feel. 

master bedroom

The master bedroom is tucked away on a lower level, which makes the small room feel spacious and private.

In the bathroom, lightness and not overcrowding were the priorities, and the design started with a black-and-white work of art the couple had, and a coordinating black-and-white vividly patterned floor.

medallion tile bathroom floor modern black and white

The master bathroom’s black-and-white cement floor is balanced by the neutral cabinetry.

The house—once a tiny beach cottage—still feels intimate despite its lofty and space-savvy interior. While part of that is credit to the designers, the design started with this family, their style and priorities.

“In the end, I truly feel like this home is a reflection of Luke and Hilary and their family, and that they are happy in their home,” Rhianna says.

bar area in dining space with built-in taps kegerator

Big fans of entertaining, the family installed a custom kegerator with beer taps and built a bar cabinet in their open kitchen and dining space.

Categories: Home Design