Each morning, Carol and Glenn Oelker wake to the sight of gulls circling the surf and otters foraging for breakfast.
This was not always the case. Carol, a retired school counselor for the San Luis Coastal Unified School District, and Glenn, an ophthalmologist, lived in an Avila Valley home for 19 years. This June, they downsized from that 3,800-square-foot residence to a more modest 2,600-square-foot beachfront house in Cayucos.
The couple chose Cayucos because of its “continuous human and wildlife activity,” said Glenn. They built new in order to use the talents of their son, Gregg Oelker. Gregg, a Cal Poly graduate, designed the home with Cal Poly School of Architecture professor Richard Beller, who was also general contractor for the project.
Their biggest challenges were the narrow lot, bluff setback and height restrictions. “The problem was solved by balancing efficiently laid-out spaces and also creating spaces that could serve multiple purposes,” said Gregg Oelker. Among those dualpurpose rooms are the library/guest room, office/butler’s pantry/craft room and exercise/media/guest room.
Flexible spaces often require creative solutions. The library, for instance, is open to the great room and visible from the loft above. It quickly converts to a secluded guest room with a few adjustments: two double-wide doors slide shut, a Murphy bed lowers from a wall cabinet, and a motorized Lutron shade creates a temporary ceiling.
Steel beams supporting the second floor allow for an open floor plan, higher first-floor ceilings, as well as tall west-facing windows. The result is a brighter, more open space, with dramatic ocean views.
Another issue was the home’s close proximity to neighbors and a public beach access walkway. To maximize light without losing privacy, Gregg Oelker and Beller designed clerestory windows above the kitchen cabinetry, as well as three skylights. All are operated by remote control to provide ventilation.
Carol Oelker, who tackled the interior design with the help of Cindy Collins of Cucina Kitchens and Baths, had her own set of challenges. She wanted “to choose interior materials to complement the clean, modern lines of the house and not detract from the phenomenal oceanfront view,” she said. Her solution was a palette of light neutrals to play up the brightness and openness of the space. To keep rooms from feeling “chopped up,” she chose the same color for all walls: Benjamin Moore’s Edgecomb Grey, a soft, earthy hue. Flooring throughout the house is covered in large, 24-by-48-inch porcelain tile in a color inspired by beach sand. Neutral does not translate to boring, however. The Oelkers introduced hints of opulence, such as the living room fireplace, which is sheathed in a mosaic of Calcatta marble in shades of tan, gray and warm white from Matt Clark Tile & Stone. The marble pieces were artfully laid out by tile setter Mike Burke to best highlight the dramatic patterns in the stone.
Carol Oelker was aware that the long and narrow shape of the home could feel tunnel-like. She used strong horizontal lines to create the illusion of additional width. Long, horizontal rectangles repeat throughout the house, such as in the kitchen cabinetry and living room fireplace. According to Carol, this was designed to “pull your eye toward the open, extremely large windows on the west end of the house.”
Because the kitchen is visible to the entire great room, the Oelkers took great care with its appearance. They hired Cucina Kitchens and Baths to design it and to build all of the home’s cabinetry. For the kitchen cabinets, they chose textured Italian laminate in warm gray hues with a subtle wood grain texture. Glass panels on the cabinet doors add to the illusion of more space. Each panel is partly frosted, which according to Collins, “enhances the visual appeal and interest, while allowing for some display as well as obscured storage.”
Because of a required redesign, 2.5 years elapsed between the purchase of the lot and the start of con struction. “I was surprised when many of my first choices were unavailable by the time the construction process was ready for them,” said Carol. She was forced to rework colors and materials several times. In the end, she often wound up with a better final product.
One example: The original, standard-sized gray floor tile that Carol selected was discontinued by the time she was ready to order it. After an unsuccessful search for something similar, she switched gears and went with the large-format, warmer-hued tile. “The countertops, kitchen and bathroom tiles, fireplace facings, and wood flooring were changed to coordinate with the new floor tile and I ended up happier with the revised plan,” she said.
The couple let go of most furniture from their previous residence. Their new pieces are more modern and suit their new color palette. They also used space-saving built-ins whenever possible.
The Oelkers find their new home both functional and comfortable. Carol has just one complaint: “It’s hard to get much done with the distraction of the plethora of whales, dolphins, sea otters and other wildlife this summer. But most delightful of all is being blessed to live in a wonderful home that our son helped create.”