Richard Soundy and Roseann Church were still immersed in their Bay Area careers when they bought a nearly 10-acre hilltop lot in Atascadero in the mid-1980s. Soundy, an engineer, and Roseann, a Realtor, envisioned a place to spend their retirement.
In the 10 or so years between purchase and construction, they had plenty of time to consider design options. Among their wishes: clean lines, indoor-outdoor living and an abundance of windows to enjoy the view. The obvious choice, a modern structure, didn’t seem to fit with the rural environment. Then, after a few trips to Arizona, a vision began to gel.
Soundy eventually designed the house himself: a two-story, 3,300-square-foot structure with the thick walls and flat roofline common to adobe-style homes in the Southwest. He put his own spin on it, however. Many windows and an open floor plan make it contemporary. There are also Moorish elements, including flat-topped arches that frame doorways and windows.
The couple wanted a sustainable structure. They hired Atascadero’s Semmes & Co. Builders, which specializes in sustainable construction. Their original intent was to build a strawbale home. “We were told it wouldn’t work well because of all of the windows,” said Soundy. So instead, they built a house with passive solar features, meaning it manipulates the sun’s energy to regulate the temperature inside the house. Eighteen-inch, well-insulated walls on the south side of the house means the couple only needs air conditioning a handful of days each year. Well-placed overhangs block summer sunlight but allow more light in the winter.
Soundy gave the home just two bedrooms and a large office, opting to invest square footage in spacious, free-flowing rooms. The master suite, for instance, is one large, open area encompassing the entire second floor. The guest wing is also an open space with a pocket door that slides shut for privacy. Soundy, who dislikes interior doors and narrow hallways, created a wide passageway to the guest suite, lined with windows and art, that he calls a “gallery.”
The kitchen was a compromise. “We wanted some openness, but not so much that guests sitting in the living room can see dirty dishes, pots and pans,” Church said. So Soundy designed a sloping divider between the kitchen and living room that evokes the contours of the mountains surrounding their home. The result is a space that is “half open, half not,” he said.
After Soundy designed the exterior, Church crafted the interior. Rebuffing anything generic or mass-produced, she hand-picked every faucet, doorknob and drawer pull in the house. Some items, including light fixtures, kiva fireplaces and the home’s massive wood doors, were purchased in Santa Fe and shipped to Atascadero.
Church painted every wall in the house herself with just a quart can and a brush — a task she enjoyed. “I like how paint can transform a room, and it’s not very difficult to do,” she said.
The open floor plan required a color palette that flows from room to room. So she went with one overriding hue — a pale sandy pink that she accented with other warm pastels in the main living areas. She saved bolder contrast for private spaces, such as a metallic silver accent wall in the master bedroom.
To add sparkle and color to the simple, understated backdrop of the home, the couple added a scattering of stained glass panels in windows and doors. “I just love the rainbows stained glass creates,” said Church.
While Church is partial to Southwestern architecture, she’s not overly fond of Southwestern furniture. So she decorated primarily with clean-lined contemporary pieces, and a few Asian furnishings, such as an altar table that sits in the entryway. “My look is eclectic,” she said. “I don’t like everything to match.”
Soundy, now retired, and Church, who is semi-retired, are avid gardeners who like to live outdoors most of the year, according to Church. Nearly every room has access to a patio, deck or a portion of the secluded backyard. Inside, they make the most of views by using almost no window coverings. After living an urban lifestyle for many years, they are taking full advantage of their new rural existence.
“The house suits our lifestyle now, and we love that,” Church said.
Home design tips
Color that flows
In an open floor plan, a wall color scheme that flows easily from space to space keeps the house from feeling chopped up. Choose one primary wall color and accent sparingly with similar hues. Save strong colors and contrast for smaller, private spaces such as bedrooms and bathrooms.
Petite paint jobs
Instead of painting large portions of the house at once, Roseann Church painted one small area at a time — with just a quart can and a brush. She believes that doing so is less disruptive than having to move furniture and lay drop cloths in a huge section of the house. It also allows you to change direction more easily if you find you are not happy with the results.
Expand your kitchen
To make a cramped kitchen seem larger, consider doing away with some or all of your upper cabinets. You’d be surprised by the increased feeling of space. If you hate parting with the storage, consider building a pantry elsewhere. Or, take the opportunity to let go of your seldom-used small appliances, cookware and kitchen gadgets.