The story of Mike and Sharon Evans’ home is about a longstanding dream realized in unexpected ways.
In 1982, an elderly Louisiana couple, Ben and Margaret Brown, contacted Los Osos designer/builder F. Michael Lorenzo about a wooded lot they had purchased in Cambria. They hoped to relocate there some day.
Margaret was a violinist who also had a finely-tuned sense of design. She and Lorenzo discussed at length the stylistic direction the home should take.
“She wished the style to be inspired by the Greene & Greene bungalow era, but didn’t want to use it exclusively,” he said. “She desired a rustic ‘Cambria’ exterior with an artist, craftsman, and handmade feel on the interior.”
When construction began, Lorenzo was given free reign to design the home. The Browns continued to live in Louisiana, visiting only occasionally to view its progress.
Lorenzo worked area by area, wall by wall, sketching out ideas and laboring alongside a cadre of skilled craftsmen that included local sculptor Michael Miller, who created marble work and exterior light fixtures, and Jim Sala, who handled finish carpentry. Lorenzo oriented the 2,000-square-foot home based on passive solar principles. The sun would warm the breakfast area in the morning and the rear of the home through skylights in the winter months. The placement of every window was carefully considered to capture the best views.
The rustic exterior was achieved with site-milled rough-sawn redwood combined with cedar shingles. Once it was complete, the interior progressed at an unhurried pace.
“In some ways, the interior took on a boat-like approach with beautiful black oak, Douglas fir, some mahogany and teak,” he said.Scrupulous attention to detail guided every task. All moldings and trim were milled onsite then held in place by countersunk screws and wood plugs – very few nails were used. All wood was hand-varnished with three coats for a furniture-like finish. Midway through construction, things took a tragic turn. After showing Margaret the progress on the home, Lorenzo saw her off to Napa for a ballooning expedition – and he never saw her again. Cancer had claimed her life.
“I never knew her age, and I didn’t know she had cancer,” he said. After a one-year hiatus, Ben asked Lorenzo to continue with the home as planned. Construction went on for five years total. When it was complete, Ben lived in the home for several years before passing away. “The family decided to sell the house, and because of its unique and personal design, it required new owners with an appreciation of something special,” said Lorenzo. The Evanses seemed to fit that bill. Mike is retired from a career as an aeronautical engineer, but his passion is designing houses. He has been a licensed contractor for 30 years. He was designer and project manager for two new homes and eight remodels, including the couple’s Woodland Hills home. “I know when I see commitment and detail,” he said. “The house that Lorenzo designed was put together like a piece of furniture.” The Evanses purchased the home in 1996 to use as a vacation home. They immediately began with updates to the house. They completely re-landscaped and had the home’s weathered siding stripped and re-oiled. Mike designed a detached 350-square-foot studio that mimics the style of the main home, except for its corrugated metal roof, which gives the structure a barn-like feel. In the main house, they added built-in storage such as a bookcase nook in the dining area and cabinetry in the laundry room. They remodeled their half-bathroom with teak shelving and a Japanese-style blue vessel sink. Whenever possible, they used the same materials and design principles Lorenzo used throughout the house. “We really watched the house come back to life,” said Mike. The couple furnished the home in a contemporary vein, freely mixing furniture of different genres, all reflecting their yen for simplicity and good design. In the living room, an Eames chair looks perfectly at home alongside a piece of Stickley furniture. In the master bedroom is a bed designed and built by their son, architect Matt Evans. They resisted the temptation to over-accessorize, or even to paint the walls. “We’re both kind of neat-nicks, so we don’t like a lot of clutter,” said Sharon. “We saw furniture as something to accent the beautiful home, rather than to create another focal point.”
When Mike retired in 2000, the Cambria home became a full-time residence for the Evanses. Sharon continues to work from a home office as an executive consultant, keynote speaker and author,
Their onetime vacation house transitioned so well to a primary residence that they parted with nearly all of their old furniture when they sold their Woodland Hills house. The only major change was a redesign of their living room five years ago.
The couple’s one worry was that the magic of the home would evaporate once they lived in it full-time.
“We thought it wouldn’t be such a relaxing, wonderful getaway anymore,” said Sharon. “Thank goodness we were wrong.”