With Coronado’s limited real estate, you’d be hard pressed to find an empty lot around town other than those behind construction fences. A number of the city’s architects and builders weighed in on what’s trending, as residents adapt older homes or build new ones that function for today’s families.
“The best homes come from the best clients and this would definitely be one of them,” architect Christian Rice said of a 4,000-square-foot contemporary custom home on three levels he recently completed on Cajon Place. The home’s design challenges included a compact lot, just 40 feet wide, of less than standard depth and with no alley access. The answer was a subterranean garage and studio.
The homeowners were open to contemporary styling, Rice said, “which became a perfect backdrop to showcase the wife’s collection of French antiques and art.”
Rice likes to balance high tech finishes with the warmth of wood and other natural elements, which he did on both the interior and exterior of the Cajon house.
The home’s central glass-rail stairwell features a stainless-steel structure and tube steel handrail and is softened with the warmth of the wood. Rice’s introduction of a slat-wall screen backdrop of oak wood in a warm red-brown custom finish helped define the dining area. “You can still see the stairs through the wall, so there is a degree of transparency,” he said. “The slat wall itself became a beautiful art piece.”
Exterior touches include the front entry, incorporating a steel frame and glass pivot door with mahogany cladding. Rice also clad the undersides of the large roof overhangs in mahogany and incorporated recessed uplights to wash them in a warm glow at night. He used LED light strips on entry steps, “a new technology that lends a fun yet elegant contemporary detail that fits perfectly with this house,” he said.
“Coronado has such an eclectic mix of designs, and contemporary deserves to be represented here too,” said Rice, who also designed Glorietta Bay Point, four condominiums at the intersection of Gloriettta Boulevard and Ynez Place. That project, now nearing completion, also features pivot doors with gray-green sandstone finish accents above each entry and on the building’s corner.
Architect Kevin Rugee says that today “everybody wants an open plan: kitchen, living and dining spaces all contained in one great room format.”
Making open concepts live even larger are bifold door systems that bring the outside in and vice versa, which is what Rugee recently installed at a contemporary Spanish home on Guadalupe Avenue. “You can have 12-, 14- or 16-foot wide doors stack back against themselves into a wall, providing a seamless integration of outdoor and indoor living spaces,” he said. “You can now open up the downstairs space to the front and back porches and have a party,” Rugee suggested. “It has great air flow and circulation.”
The Guadalupe house, occupying a 40-foot-wide lot, expanded a 1,590-square-foot floor plan to nearly 3,000 square feet, plus a porch. A stepped-back second floor allowed space for a balcony to run the full width over the porch and garage.
Rugee also added a front yard fire pit. “Fire pits provide provide much more warmth than traditional fireplaces, where most of the heat goes straight up the chimney,” he said.
The house now features four bedrooms, including a first-floor guest suite, four and a half baths, and an upstairs office, taking advantage of panoramic views of the Coronado Golf Course and Glorietta Bay.
Except for homes fronting the ocean and bay, view spaces aren’t that prevalent in Coronado, Rugee noted. In those instances, he said, “You need to take what you have and create courtyards and indoor/outdoor areas, working with landscaping and trellises.”
Because the Guadalupe Avenue home was a remodel — defined by retention of at least 50 percent of exterior walls — the existing single-car garage could be retained, but Rugee explained that new construction would have required compliance with current zoning requirements, which call for two covered spaces, “essentially that equates to a two-car garage,” he said.
Nicolls Design/Build, headed by general contractor Kraig Nicolls and interior design firm Bungalow 56, headed by Jessica Nicolls and Karyn Frazier, recently collaborated on a condominium remodel in the Las Flores building at Coronado Shores.
The property, consisting of two units that had been combined into one many years ago by the client’s mother, was now dated and not functional for a large family.
“Our client, Rocio Carrera, has been coming to Coronado from Mexico since she was a small child,” said Frazier. “She and her husband, Miguel, now have five children and have wonderful family memories that have been made in Coronado. They wanted to make their new home a comfortable place for the entire family to enjoy.”
Originally, the unit had three bathrooms, a small closed galley kitchen and a choppy floor plan. The design solution opened up the kitchen to the living and dining area, that captured the full panoramic views of San Diego Bay and the downtown San Diego skyline, added a fourth bedroom and a new bath. Jessica Nicolls noted that “We were able to achieve the end goal: a home that can sleep many family members and guests, feel very open, be very stylish and highly functional for entertaining.”
Carrera, who said she and her family are now “enjoying their new home immensely,” noted that even though she was out of town through much of the construction, the project was carried out flawlessly.
“They were efficient, always in touch, approachable and accessible and always had all the accounting in order and handy,” Carrera said. “We only had a few appointments and that was enough to understand what we wanted. They accepted any suggestions we had and made them possible. Karyn and Jessica have great eyes on choosing furniture, bedding, accessories and objects, and they sure know how to put it all together.”
The team at Lorton Mitchell Custom Homes is continuing to build on the legacy of its founder, the late Lorton Mitchell.
“Lorton set the bar,” said Carolyn Mitchell, who, along with construction supervisor Jeff Norton, carry the mantle of the firm today. “Now we’re striving to meet and exceed that bar. We know Lorton would like it that way.”
Architect Dorothy Howard, who has worked closely with the firm over the past decade, leads design and meets with prospective clients.
Also working with the firm is Taylor Mitchell, 24, a recent graduate of the University of California Santa Barbara. The younger Mitchell has been working with the firm his father founded for eight years, beginning when he was 16, although he admits to doing odd jobs around job sites as early as age 12. While he continues his training and full time work with an eye to heading the company in the not-too-distant future, Taylor Mitchell plans to get a degree in construction management locally. While Taylor concedes his degree in history from UCSB is not directly applicable to construction, Carolyn Mitchell is quick to note that some of the firm’s most noted successes have been historical renovations.
Norton joined the firm in 2008 as project superintendent, after working with Lorton Mitchell for several years handling foundation and concrete work. Like the elder Mitchell, Norton got his degree in construction management from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, and supervises three construction project managers, who handle project work at multiple job sites. Current projects include a new contemporary home on Ocean Boulevard, a Spanish Mediterranean home on Glorietta Boulevard and a remodel/expansion on First Street.
Norton notes that Lorton Mitchell Custom Homes has built more than 150 homes in Coronado from the ground up and while a few have been eye-turning projects, more often than not, projects are moderate in scale.
“We’ve probably done six that are the huge ones — three or four on First, and a contemporary one on G (at Ocean). They are the ones that everyone sees,” Norton said.
“But if you walk A, B or C avenues, we’ve built homes there, too, and they don’t jump out at you,” he said. “They are classic Coronado beach houses, with shingles, that sort of flavor. The reason nobody notices them is that they blend with the neighborhood. They don’t draw attention, which is how our clients like it.”
Among construction and design trends, Norton said basements are popular in Coronado, necessitated by compact lot sizes. “Subterranean spaces” as they are called, are in demand for another reason: they are one of the most economical ways to get square footage because they are don’t affect floor area ratios. They are a great place for mechanical rooms — HVAC systems, water filtration, as well as home theaters, kids’ band rooms and bedrooms. But one of the most appreciated and functional uses for basement space, said Norton, is simply storage space. “It’s like having your own mini-storage and it’s right there and all paid for. So practical!”
One of the unseen features that many clients choose during the construction phase is something that Norton is a strong advocate for: high-density spray foam insulation.
“We’ve been using it for five or six years, and it’s money well spent,” he said. “You see immediate tangible results.”
“We basically encapsulate the entire building envelop, under stairs, between floors. The impact it has on the livability is unbelievable.”
The product substantially reduces noise from the street and between rooms, prevents bugs, and maintains both heat and cooling within the home. “Because it seals the house,” Norton explained, “the house just feels quiet.”
To seal a 5,000-square-foot house, Norton estimates the cost at $20,000. “But it’s important to use a contractor who totally understands the product,” he advised. “Someone who will pay attention to water proofing and roof venting details.”
Carolyn Mitchell adds a final note, “We maintain ongoing relationships with our customers,” she said. “Our customers are really awesome, and they appreciate their houses so much, which makes it so cool. Our customers become our friends, and they know they can call us years after a job is ‘done’ and whatever they need will get taken care of. We get called for random stuff all the time, and we like it that way!”