They say gifts mean the most when you make them yourself. Local builder Gary Grossman took this idea to the extreme when he designed and remodeled a Shell Beach home for his parents, Roger and Adele McGee.
Grossman, president of Inland Pacific Builders, purchased the home in 2008 with the intention of remodeling and flipping it. But when his parents saw it while on a visit from Hawaii, they mentioned that they would love to have it as a second home.
“I thought it would be nice to have my parents live near me,” said Grossman, “and someday move here full-time.”
Known for building in a variety of architectural styles, including his own Mediterranean style Shell Beach home, Grossman was eager to experiment with postmodern contemporary design. Plans for the remodel were already under way when the focus shifted to creating a residence for the McGees.
The McGees, who are active seniors, were open to the idea of living in a modern home.
“We really wanted it to be comfortable and warm, as well as uncluttered and stylish,” said Grossman. “I wanted to make sure the house fit their lifestyle.”
He drew out plans and put together color schemes. He then hired architects with Isaman Design Inc. and interior designer Kriste Judd to bring his concepts to life.
The home, which was originally built in 1981, had a French mansard-style roof, a popular architectural feature from the 1960s to the 1980s. The dark, dated interior did not take advantage of its dazzling ocean views.
The redesigned home maintained the footprint and the 3,800-square-foot size of the original house. Nearly everything else was reinvented.
Light and views were brought in with floor-to-ceiling windows and skylights. Inside, glass and metal reflect and expand light, while stone and wood add balance and warmth. Cramped interior spaces were opened up with a new free-flowing floor plan.
Grossman, who describes himself as intensely detail-oriented, was on site daily during the nine-month construction period in 2009.
“This was going to be my parents’ house, so I was kind of an iron hand on this project,” he acknowledged.
His insistence on maintaining a modern, streamlined look called for innovative designs. For instance, to eliminate the need for baseboards, walls were “floated” on pieces of inset chrome — a building technique common in Europe but novel in San Luis Obispo County.
He also insisted on modern, European-style kitchen cabinetry, which is the specialty of SieMatic, a German company that designs and builds high-end custom kitchens. Richard Jess, a local SieMatic distributor, collaborated with Suzie Cox of Beach House Wood Designs to create both the kitchen and several pieces of built-in furniture.
The ultra-modern feel of the kitchen comes from the sleek frameless, handleless cabinets made of a textured composite laminate in a rich brown, offering strong contrast with the white quartz countertops. Full-height aluminum pantry doors complement professional stainless steel appliances including a Sub-Zero refrigerator and Wolfe range.
Far from being merely a showcase, the home was designed to be a practical living space for the senior couple. Grossman designed an ultra-modern glass staircase with nearly invisible grooves on each tread to prevent slipping. The home already had an elevator, but he went one step further by placing everyday living spaces on the same level. Kitchen countertops were scaled to Adele’s petite frame. Hallways and doors were built extra wide to accommodate a wheelchair in the future, if necessary.
The McGees are accustomed to indoor/outdoor living in Hawaii, so Grossman ensured that the house would interact well with its environment. A series of sliding glass doors connect interior spaces with the rear patio and the master bedroom opens to an ocean-view balcony.
“It’s important for their health to be able to look out and see the ocean, to be part of the backyard and not feel closeted up into an interior space.”
When working with Judd to design the interior, Grossman wanted the home consistently contemporary, yet comfortable. They chose furniture with modern, linear silhouettes, yet sheathed in soft materials like chenille and supple leather. A palette of grays, browns and teals evokes the earth and the sea.
“I didn’t want it to be one of those modern houses where you don’t know how you’re going to sit on a chair or you can’t relax,” said Grossman. “Everything is designed to be beautiful to look at, but also super comfortable.”
Subtle Polynesian touches were added to remind the McGees of their time in Hawaii. Grossman used dark bamboo floors throughout the house and had a bamboo headboard custom-built for the master bedroom. He and Judd selected vases, baskets and artwork with a tropical feel.
The McGees now split their time between their Hawaiian estate and their Shell Beach home. Grossman believes the home will transition nicely into a full-time residence sometime in the future.
The self-proclaimed perfectionist is satisfied with the remodel. “There’s very little I would have done differently,” he said. “It’s a running joke with my parents that if they want my house, I’d take theirs.”
Rebecca Juretic is a freelance writer who lives in San Luis Obispo.