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Going Up In Style In California

by Mary Ellen Polson on November 13, 2013

in Furniture & Interior Style

A California architect saves the essence of a 1910 house while adding a second story in a handsome makeover.

The second story is all-new, and includes a treetop porch set into the cross gable. The core of the house dates to 1910. All photos by Larny J. Mack

The second story is all-new, and includes a treetop porch set into the cross gable. The core of the house dates to 1910. All photos by Larny J. Mack

Blame it on the falling plaster. What started out as the enlargement of a one-story bungalow in San Diego’s Mission Hills neighborhood turned into a complete architectural makeover when the old ceilings began to collapse.

Fortunately for both house and owner, a full cave-in was averted. Architect Ione Stiegler was able to keep intact the historic core of the 1910 house. Project manager Joseph Reid took sections of the original moldings, beams, and other architectural trim that were compromised and had them meticulously re-created. “It feels like the old house,” says the owner. “But obviously it’s a modern house.”

Pewabic Pottery green field tiles were custom cut to fit around decorative tiles the owners bought in Pewabic’s gift shop long before they planned this renovation.

Pewabic Pottery green field tiles were custom cut to fit around decorative tiles the owners bought in Pewabic’s gift shop long before they planned this renovation.

The career automotive designer bought the two-bedroom bungalow when he was transferred to San Diego 20 years ago. When another transfer took him and his partner back to Michigan, the couple held on to the property, knowing they would eventually return and make it their permanent home. While in Michigan, they’d enjoyed a large, expansive kitchen built for entertaining.

As they planned the California remodeling, an enlarged kitchen with easy flow to the dining room and patio was on the agenda. They also wanted to add a large family room with a fireplace.

Because the house sits on its lot slightly off-center, shortening the effective building code setbacks, there wasn’t much room to expand on the original one-story footprint. The new kitchen was stitched together out of the tiny original plus an adjacent utility porch and hall bath. The owner is especially proud of the bracket detail on the kitchen island; it’s taken from the mantelpiece in the living room. To make the room feel even larger, the architects kept the kitchen open on the side facing the new family room by adding a colonnade.

The family room was cobbled together out of the existing downstairs bedrooms along with a modest bump-out addition. Although everything else about the room is new, the fireplace mantel is a modified antique, picked up by David Snyder of Unique Stone. Snyder has worked with IS Architects on many projects. “Years ago he ran across this piece in England and as soon as he saw it, he said, ‘This is Ione,’” says Reid, the project manager.

Behind a colonnade patterned after one between the dining and living rooms, the new kitchen is twice the size of the old.

Behind a colonnade patterned after one between the dining and living rooms, the new kitchen is twice the size of the old.

As the downstairs space was reconfigured, the architects found enough room to deepen the foyer and add a gracious staircase. Leaded- glass windows on the second level flood the space with light. An original downstairs window was the model, which the architect adapted. The paired spindle motif in the balustrade is a period detail from a Stickley house in New Jersey, found in one of the owner’s many books on Arts & Crafts houses.

The original bedrooms were swallowed up by the family room, so two new bedrooms were added upstairs: a master suite with its own bath, and a guest bedroom and hall bath. Both have vaulted ceilings, and stained mahogany beams lend structural emphasis on the master bedroom ceiling.
The idea for the setback second-story gable came from the owners, who also decided to add the projecting porch with treetop views. One owner proudly notes that the exposed rafter tails under the new addition are original, “except for the one on the end. It had to be upgraded to meet the new fire code, because we’re within 200 feet of a canyon.”

On the upstairs porch, the gable detail and balustrade rail are variations on a theme introduced with the new main staircase.

On the upstairs porch, the gable detail and balustrade rail are variations on a theme introduced with the new main staircase.

Because the house is in a fire-prone area, many other parts of the house were rebuilt with fire-resistant materials. “Apparently the house has to be able to burn for an hour before the fire trucks get here,” the owner says.

As work on the house wound down, the last of the building inspectors did a final walk-through, and declared the much-expanded and upgraded dwelling “a beautiful old house,” the owner recalls. “It seems like it was always like this, a good feeling.”

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