We love beauty–in all forms. So when we began to contemplate building our home we knew it must be located in a place of unusual beauty. Rancho Santa Fe has that beauty with its vistas, hills and foliage, but it also inhabits a near ideal micro-climate that derives from the mixing of cool Pacific breezes and the warm inland dessert. Ancient Native Americans knew this and populated this coastal area, often living on the high mesas that occur in only a few of the West-most parcels of The Ranch’s boundary.
We chose what many consider to be Rancho Santa Fe’s best positioned of these mesas, a 14 acre plot with a 270 degree view that includes stunning inland valleys and mountains, with an unparalleled ocean view and magnificent sunsets. We imagine that this land has been favored by many inhabitants through the centuries. A stroll around the property today makes clear why–they would have been surrounded by the beauty of expansive skies, soaring birds from today’s adjacent San Elijo Ecological Reserve, and predictable sun with a soft ocean breeze. The top of our mesa offered approximately two acres of relatively flat land that would comfortably accommodate the main house, a guest house, ample areas for entertaining, pools, a championship tennis court and plenty of room for landscape design inclusive of locations for sculpture.
The home for this site needed a connection with the land that evoked feelings of ancient structures. It needed old, honest materials, but it also needed a connection to current day life that reflected our love for contemporary art and sculpture. We sought a young New Zealand designer and his architectural firm, Sumich Design, who we were told might be the group to create this structure. We gave Geoff Sumich one instruction: Build something that juxtaposes very old structures with clean modern lines. He brought back two concepts, one of which showed stone structures colliding with pavilions of steel and glass. This was the theme on which this home was designed—old world stone structures with steel and glass pavilions interposed. A two-story turret highlights the old and sits near the South end of the structure, housing the Italian-design, contemporary stainless steel spiral staircase.
The choice of materials used on the exterior structure took us to many places, but draws in part from the limestone and Cor-Ten steel that is evident at the “New” Getty Museum and its gardens in Los Angeles. For the limestone, we chose a white Texas limestone with highlights of gold and rust, taken from the same quarry near San Antonio that purportedly supplied limestone for the Alamo. The stone was honed to emulate old, rough-hewn blocks with a “white” mortar design that would be a typical product of crude tools and many coats of mortar replacing older joints. Exterior trim is rich Mahogany imported from the Philippines, which supplies the glow of yellows and oranges to accent the darker Cor-Ten rust hue.
Each of the materials inside and out was selected for beauty, efficiency and longevity. For example, while the Cor-Ten steel was selected because it is virtually indestructible, overhead shade structures of that material were designed to create lovely rust-colored murals on certain sections of sidewalk. These deepen imperceptibly each day as early morning clouds bring moisture from the ocean and continue nature’s subtle masterpiece through rust-colored drops on the hardscape canvas.
The dramatic, contemporary exterior design that showcased the spectacular view to the Pacific, demanded an equally inspired interior. The interior was designed from the beginning to exhibit art–large walls, high ceilings, a main gallery and secondary galleries, complemented by the natural beauty seen through soaring glass walls to the West. But this was also to be our refuge that we wanted to be safe, warm, filled with family, laughter, intimate spaces and peace. This concept became “Castillo Pacifico”, which we prefer to translate into the “Peaceful Castle”, but some refer to as the “Castle of the Pacific”. The “Castillo Pacifico” moniker appears at the front gate to the property.
To design this Interiors Vision into reality, we selected the highly acclaimed Barbara Lee Grigsby who advised on all design and materials used in the interior. The result was so pleasing, that it came as no surprise when we found out years later that she is a direct descendant of Charles LeBrun, primary designer of the interiors of the Palace of Versailles near Paris. In contrast to that exquisite palace, however, our home showcases clean lines, muted colors of carpets, draperies and furniture, and a warm contemporary style that we believe complements all genre of art.
The interior walls are clad with cream-colored Venetian plaster (made from marble dust), that offers the ability to achieve a sheen ranging from mirror-like to flat. We chose a medium finish with slightly varying shades of cream that provided a highly refined, textured surface. The floors are made of Brazilian Walnut, each piece of which was bleached to lessen the variation of white to black color, then hand-hewn to achieve a distressed, well-worn appearance, and finally re-stained to a warm, dark brown with hints of gold and crimson in the still prominent Walnut grain. The family room, the workout area of the recreation room and a powder bath in the Turret that leads to the upstairs bedrooms are all clad in the same limestone blocks used on the exterior, providing a link to the past and emphasizing the open, indoor-outdoor lifestyle that characterizes Rancho Santa Fe. The family room has two double sliding doors that flank the fireplace and massive double sliding doors leading to the substantial outdoor entertaining area. Each of these family room sliding doors disappear into the stone walls, providing a fabulous indoor-outdoor flow with three fireplaces serving three separate areas that can provide smaller gathering places or room for an event of 200 or many more if part of the yard or pool area is added.
Each interior area of the home exhibits not only art collected from many parts of the world, but also hardwoods from South America, including Brazilian Cherry, Imbuia (Brazilian Walnut) and Lacewood, with domestic Maple and Ash used where very light woods were desired. Cor-Ten steel accents appear on the main fireplace in the living room. Stone is used on four of the five interior fireplaces and for cabinet tops throughout–limestone in the baths, and exotic granites in the main kitchen and caterer’s kitchen located off the recreation room. Consistent with the exterior, Mahogany is used for all interior doors.
The home maintains a clean, contemporary feel inside because of the consistency of the interior finishes and elegant lines of the furnishings. We believe this continues the simple livability and uncommon beauty enjoyed by countless generations of California coastal inhabitants, some of whom likely called Castillo Pacifico home.