Building A House

Our house, such as it is, is located in a charming neighborhood. It's an endearingly quaint little box of about 970 square feet. 

On the plus side, it has hardwood floors, an angled, tongue-and-groove pine ceiling, large windows that open to salty ocean breezes, is well laid-out and has a huge, tree-laden yard. The negatives? Well, built in the '50s, it leaks like a sieve when it rains, has teeny tiny rooms with no storage, has only one microscopic bathroom, no insulation whatsoever, horrid, antiquated plumbing and electrical, and for more than 30 years, has been a one-stop, all-you-can-eat buffet for termites. Until a couple of weeks ago, you could find large piles of their poop in every room in the house.

House_Modern_LaJolla_2For all of that, we love it. It was my grandparents' home; I spent lots of time growing up here. I have warm, grassy, sunshine-filled memories of this place. Over there is where grandpa gave my brother and me wheelbarrow rides. Over here is where the hummingbirds built a nest in  grandma's orchids. Out in front is where grandpa beat a gopher to death with a running hose while spraying my dad from head to toe. And here - this is the spot where I first rocked my daughter in the sunlight.

Nevertheless, living here is more like luxury camping than living in a nice neighborhood in San Diego. And since we've no intention of moving or selling, ever, it's come time to think about a new house - not the one we've got but the one we need. 

So we've embarked on the long, long, looooong road of building a new house. Technically, it'll be a remodel, but really? It's going to be an entirely new space. I've been clipping images and ideas for years. It's a favorite daydream, one I've dedicated an entire journal to. I've been taking Deb on long walks all over San Diego with a camera strapped to my back (the pics on this page - other than the top one which is our house today - are of houses we think are cool), snapping images of houses, collecting concepts - and confused looks from wary homeowners. Am I casing their place? Yes. Yes I am! With a real live kid, bright orange stroller and unwashed hair as the perfect disguise! Mu-ah-ha-ha! Your Noguchi table will be miiiiiine!

House_Modern_DetailBesides daydreaming, the first step in any remodel is to find an architect. And you'd better choose right, all of the advisors warn, because you'll be seeing more of your architect over an extended period of time than you will your family. Plus, he's going to need to know all sorts of personal stuff about you. S-c-a-r-y.

Well, perhaps it's folly, but we found our architects on the first try. Yes, plural. They're a duo. Like Batman and Robin, but without the tights and with mechanical pencils instead of utility belts. They've just started their own firm, and we really like their work. More importantly we just totally hit it off with them. They're smart. Neck-high in enthusiasm, and have nary a whiff of that jaded, just-out-for-a-buck world-weariness so common in established professionals. We're excited to be working with them.

And we're even more excited to be a client during a creative process, instead of the service provider. I am already practicing shaking my cocktail glass to make the ice cubes tinkle just so, waving my free hand airily and shouting, "Dance, Sweet Things, Dance!" Or maybe, "Mmmmmmmmmmm - no. We'll need another revision..." And definitely, "Where's the chutzpah? THE CHUTZPAH!?"

The Varmint's list of musts are entirely different. They include:

1) The house must be designed in the shape of a dragon's head. The bedroom windows will be the eyes.

2) When you ring the doorbell, the tongue will roll out over a moat of fire to let you in.

3) House_Oceanfront_70s_2There will be a FLAMETHROWER OPTION for solicitors and Bible thumpers. 

4) It will include at least one fireman's pole, one trapdoor and a zip line that leads into a swimming pool full of warm Crisco. 

5) There will be a secret bunker, with a secret door and super-secret, super cool things inside.  

MissionHills_ModernRemodel_Needless to say, The Varmint has been barred from one-on-one dialogues with the architects. Still, it would be an interesting thing to see what His Muskiness would come up with for a structure, if left to his own devices: A multistory playhouse constructed completely out of dirty laundry? An organic, nest-inspired retreat woven entirely from burrito wrappers? 

I shudder to think. 


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I am a writer and lazy artist who loves travel, architecture and design. Right now, I'm into photography. My fabulous husband (a.k.a. The Varmint) and I are also the principals of a San Diego-based creative agency - and new parents to the divine Baby Mak. Read More >