Ranch Redux: A Ranch Done Wright

Oh My Butterfly! | June 29, 2010

After commuting from Irvine to San Marcos for 2 ½ years, we finally sold our house and moved to Carlsbad.  This was almost 13 years ago.  We started out in a rented, furnished condo in Aviara area with expansive ocean views.  It sounds real nice, but I did not like living in a condo or in Aviara for that matter.  I felt rootless and insecure and was dying to find a house to live in.  Tim spent practically every day searching for our new home.  We would go into a house and immediately I would say “this looks fine, let’s buy it.”  “But T,” Tim would say “the house is falling down the hill.” Or “But T, it backs up to the freeway.”   After about a month of this we found our little ranch house on a cul-de-sac.  I heard Tim on the phone making the deal for our house thinking that we had really overpaid (Really, who pays $230,000 for a silly little stucco box in Carlsbad a mile from the beach?!), but I was desperate so I agreed to the deal.

Our house was built about forty years ago.   Some developers bought an old chicken ranch, built 12 houses in a cul-de-sac, and called it Glenview Estates.  Pretty funny considering we do not have a view of any glen and the houses certainly are not estates.  There are only two styles of houses on our cul-de-sac and they all have curtain walls  The neighbors go into each other’s houses looking at how the homes have evolved in past  four decades.  One neighbor with our model took out a wall to make the living room larger; another took out a wall to make the family room larger.  In our house, the previous owners left the walls alone, but built an addition on the back porch which they used as a dining room.  This left us with four small bedrooms and two very small bathrooms, along a skinny dark hallway.

We have what real estate agents call a “peek” view of the ocean which means if you stand in a certain place in the back yard you can see a tiny bit of the beautiful, blue Pacific.  As soon as we moved in we started dreaming about remodeling the house and putting on a second floor.  We had vague plans and simplistic drawings, and we talked obsessively about what we wanted, so we naturally assumed we would be able to design the remodel ourselves.  My friend at school even generously offered to show us how to use a computer program to aid in our design.  It took about an hour of wrestling with the program before we realized that we really did need an expert… badly.  We wandered around  Carlsbad for a week or so looking at the modern houses we liked and found that one architect’s name kept coming up: Samuel B. Wright.  Grandson of Frank Lloyd Wright? Perhaps.

Sam came to our house, inspected the existing floor plan, and sat for hours and listened to our ideas and dreams about what we wanted.  He seemed not to take many notes, but was thoughtful in the questions he asked.  A week later he came by with preliminary floor plans.  Except for some very minor changes, the plans were just what Tim and I envisioned.  Even better.  The elevations were next.  What could we do to make our ranch house interesting, but not too weird for the neighborhood?  Tim and I were thinking along the lines of The Incredible’s house, with a butterfly roof and everything.   I love The Incredible’s house and would move in today, even with the obvious two dimensional drawbacks.  It is elegant and Eichleresque.  Oh my butterfly!

(The house in The Incredibles)

Sam obliged, drew up plans, and even made a model.  It was good, but not right. Tim said it looked like the front of a condo development which made us all cringe.  We just don’t have  wide enough lot for it to look like home of super-power heroes.

(model #1)

Undaunted, Sam came back in a week with ANOTHER model with a wedge instead of a butterfly.  At first I was unmoved by the wedge, but eventually I came around.

(The Wedge)

Sam is an old school architect who hand draws the plans and makes 3D models.  I really appreciate his style.  It is true that you can do a lot with a computer model.  I have seen how you can manipulate the images easily and get various views at a touch of a keystroke.  The trouble is that you have to be at your computer to do all of that, so you are consciously thinking about the house and your preconceived ideas of what you want.  Having the models lying around for a week while we were deciding on the roofline meant that I would be traipsing through the living room, not thinking about the remodel, and the models would catch my eye.  It was at those moments that the wedge sang to me.  The lines seemed cleaner and less contrived than the butterfly.   I was really sold when Sam told me that with the wedge my closet would be much bigger and we could have a hatch that leads to a secret overlook on our flat roof.  So, out with the butterfly and in with the wedge.

Next: Getting this project going.

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We are embarking on an adventure turning a boring little ranch house into a modern style remodel.

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