When Mike Spangler purchased his nearly three-acre hillside lot in Shell Beach five years ago, he envisioned building a sprawling Mediterranean estate. What he ended up with was nothing close—but no less dramatic.
A resident of Shell Beach since 1969, Spangler took to heart the fact that his home is at the northernmost point of town.
“I wanted to build a house that was fitting as an entrance to the beach community,” said Spangler. “It had to be a little out of the ordinary.”
When zoning restrictions made his vision of a Spanish home out of the question, he approached San Luis Obispo architect Steven Puglisi.
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Regulations required that Spangler build up, rather than out, to attain the 3,800 square feet and ample garage space that he desired. They also called for a flat roofline to preserve views from Highway 101. The natural conclusion was to build a house of contemporary design.
Spangler and Puglisi wanted the design to blend almost seamlessly into its environment. To this end, they created a two-level structure whose architecture echoes the stepped hillsides surrounding it. Its earthen hues and naturalistic landscaping allows the house to blend even more with its surroundings.
“People who drive up and down the road all the time don’t see it,” said Spangler.
The upside of modern design was the opportunity for Spangler to draw on one of his passions. A metalworking hobbyist for much of his life, he turned his craft into a business when he opened SLO Works, a welding shop that is just one of his many enterprises.
Spangler used the home to experiment with novel applications for metal. The garage doors, one of the few metal elements not fabricated in Spangler’s shop, are aluminum and stainless steel. A steel cylinder supporting the bar in the kitchen was given a texture that suggests gently billowing seaweed. It was created by metal artist Steve Prachel using automotive abrasives. Spangler designed the exterior railings, then, with the help of Hank Vangalle of SLO Works, fabricated the handrail out of oval stainless steel tubing typically used for NASCAR exhaust pipes.
His use of glass was equally imaginative. In several areas, including the front door, kitchen counter-top and backsplash, he used cast glass. Each piece required artisans to design a mold to produce a specific texture and shape. The finished glass has a fluid, rippling effect that is evocative of the ocean.
As the design process came to its conclusion, Spangler had some concerns.
“We made a model and it looked an awful lot like a dentist office,” he said. “I was afraid of having a home that was too modern.”
He worked with Puglisi to integrate curves that soften the hard lines of the home. The dropped ceiling in the kitchen, originally sketched out as angular, was bent into a gentle serpentine curve that extends to the living room fireplace.
From Italy, he sourced black oak interior doors that have a subtle s-curve. Even the kitchen cabinetry has a slight camber.
Wood further warms up the space, and here Spangler was no less discriminating. The cabinetry in the kitchen and den, built by San Luis Obispo company Woodtech, is a combination of mahogany and zebrawood. To give them the sheen he desired, craftsmen borrowed yet another technique from the automotive industry and gave them a high-gloss automotive finish.
Once the home was complete, Atascadero company Kuznetsoff Design helped to source modern furniture; a San Luis Obispo firm, The Design Collaborative, helped to infuse color into the neutral-hued space. Spangler chose rugs in subtle water-inspired hues and modern designs to punch up his brown porcelain tile floors, which were chosen to accommodate his dogs, Scout and Turbo. Vivid modern artwork, mostly purchased from Hawthorne gallery in Big Sur, adds graphic interest to the white walls.
The Spangler home took two years to build and was completed in 2007. Spangler now shares the home with Robin Irwin.
The home has given Spangler a new perspective on contemporary design.
“With contemporary, you get a lot more freedom to do personalized things,” he said. “Looking back, I’m really glad we went with it.”
Writer Rebecca Juretic lives in San Luis Obispo.
Architect: Steven Puglisi Architecture
General Contractors: Mike Spangler, Mark Sullivan