Local architect George Garcia and interior designer April Garcia are a husband-wife team who frequently collaborate on projects. But when it came to building their own San Luis Obispo home nine years ago, they were treading on new ground.
“My experience is that husband-and-wife projects tend to create undue stress,” said George. “My approach was to have April essentially be the client while I was more in the role of the architect, listening to the client’s needs. It helped to expedite the whole process.”
George favors modern design and April is partial to traditional. Their architect-client approach meant that the home veers more toward April’s taste, yet seamlessly integrates many of George’s preferences as well.
Adding to the potential stress, the couple also acted as their own general contractors. They had two condemned buildings on the property demolished and, in their place, constructed a new 2,300-square-foot, two-story home.
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The couple integrated some traditional elements into the architecture, such as locating the garage at the rear of the house, out of sight.
“It’s more of a pedestrian street presence rather than something oriented toward the vehicle, which is the typical California lifestyle,” noted George.
The overall architectural style, however, is indefinable, according to George.
“What we tried to do is create an exterior architecture that is timeless, that has some elements that people recognize, but isn’t necessarily of a particular period or age,” he said. “When people say they can’t figure out what style it is, that’s a good thing for me.”
The interior refuses to conform to any given style as well. The Garcias selected materials that are traditional, yet not likely to ever look dated, such as crown molding, sash windows, and subway and hexagon tiles in the bathrooms. Clean lines and simple, uncluttered spaces are a nod to George’s modern sensibilities.
In some areas, George’s design influence is more overt. The front parlor, used as a music room, has a bay window that echoes the curves of the family’s Steinway piano. The powder room is equipped with contemporary fixtures, including an ultra-modern wall-hung commode from Germany.
“We went through three plumbers before we found someone who could install it,” said George. “Almost nine years later, we’ve never had any problem with it.”
The couple found many ways to combine their tastes. A high-contrast combination of black and white marble for the kitchen countertops gives the traditional material a contemporary edge. In the master bathroom, the couple selected a traditional wood table as their vanity, and combined it with contemporary vessel sinks.
The Garcias and their two children previously lived in a 900-square-foot starter home. Consequently, they purchased most of their furniture new. For the most part, their choices reflect their preference for simple lines and neutral tones.
“We tried to choose pieces that would be durable, yet classic,” said April who noted that, after nearly a decade of use, the furniture has held up extremely well.
When the Garcias moved into their new home, their children were aged seven and 10, so family-friendly features also abound. They chose hardwearing materials, such as a patterned carpet in the living room that has a tough, sisal-like texture. The kitchen opens to the family room so that April could keep an eye on the kids while making dinner. They also built a loft area outside the kids’ rooms. Originally a play area, it now is a spot for television watching, gaming and computer use.
“We can have visual control without having to be there in an overbearing fashion,” noted George.
With their oldest child ready to leave for college, the Garcias believe the home will transition nicely into their empty-nester years without any dramatic changes — a testament to its timeless style.
“Building the house together was an interesting journey, and we learned a lot,” said George. “In the end, it worked out well for everyone.”
Rebecca Juretic is a freelance writer who lives in San Luis Obispo.