Rodeo Drive

La Jolla 2008

The muse for this new home was a tiny coastal cottage of single-wall construction cottage, built over 100 years ago and located near the heart of La Jolla. Our clients wanted their new house to be reminiscent of the older cottage, but suitable for their family and lifestyle, and with some current day interpretations.


A number of key elements must be considered when re-packaging such a house:

1. Size: scale and proportion

2. Layout – Expand the compact box and incorporate the Southern California indoor/outdoor living

3. Reinterpret the Details

4. The fourth element is the Serendipity in any design, but especially interesting here.


The scale and proportions of the house needed to be relative to the users, first from the obvious standpoint of width and height – what you see from the street. Modern rooms are all larger, so how do we make the proportions similar without creating 12 tall walls (when the old were 8 foot)? Such tall walls would be terribly out of scale. It helps that we are, I think, taller than 100 years ago, but wall height alone wouldn’t solve the problem.


We needed to divide the house, breaking it into wings and smaller pieces. The final floor plan looks like an odd “H” with a tail. This way, the scale was kept more in proportion to the original. We don’t live the ways families did a century ago. The wings of the house help address the connection of the interior spaces – a century ago, the cottage was compact, all rooms adjoining one another. This house needs light, air and ventilation for all the rooms, so spreading the plan out in the “H” keeps the spaces adjoining, yet able to breath, with spaces that are much more lively.


Architectural details were studied with a modern eye. Door and window moldings, ceiling treatments, and rafter tails were among the details scrutinized and re-evaluated. The question was always whether to maintain historic authenticity versus paring the elements to their modern simplicity. We were, together, constantly balancing this issue. The living room shows an excellent example of allowing the historic pendulum to swing – elements were consistent with the early 1900’s. The fireplace was a century before, the steel casement windows and simplified wood casing hinted at old but seemed new, and the lighting almost always brought us forward into today.


The “H” layout also allows a wonderful three-dimensional layering affect, where portions of the building are seen through other portions. The wrap-around deck, reminiscent of a slower time in history and lifestyle, helps reduce the bulk and scale of the house and allows the visitor to see hints of other parts. And since the house faces north, the south light illuminates with a backlighting, and filters through windows and the open porch.

The master bathroom also exemplified the combination of old and new elements. The marble tile wainscoting and flooring were certainly a century old. But the Waterworks pedestal sink and tub are beautiful elements of modern design.  

Typology Residential
Location La Jolla, California
Status Completed
Date 2008


Architect DuCharme Architecture
Contractor Four by Four Construction
Structural Engineer SDSE
Interior Designer KLID
Landscape Architect Todd Fry Landscape Architects


  • San Diego Home & Garden Lifestyles