Skip Dyke had long planned to renovate the timeworn Huasna ranch house where he and wife Susie had raised their two daughters. Located on a bucolic 600 acres in Huasna Valley, it has been the location of the family cattle and horse ranch since 1977.
But before those plans came to fruition, Susie was diagnosed with breast and bone cancer. “Those plans got put on the back burner,” said Dyke. After a long and valiant fight, Susie passed away in 2004. A few years later, Skip became reacquainted with Betsy Kiser, who is a retired director of SLO Parks and Recreation. As fellow equestrians, their paths had crossed several times in the past. The two married in 2008 and Kiser moved to the Huasna property known as Yellow Jacket Ranch.
By then, Dyke’s daughters had grown, and the early 1900s farmhouse was in poor shape. “It seemed to be held together by termites holding hands,” quipped Dyke. The house was a hodgepodge of additions, hastily added on as the family had grown.
The couple decided to start fresh with a new home in the same location. In an act that was as symbolic as it was practical, Skip initiated the demolition of the old house on his bulldozer. “There was a lot of history there and mixed emotions,” he said, “but it was time for it to go.”
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Under the direction of architect Marcus Ziedses des Plantes and general contractor Erich Schafer, a new twostory, 3,600-square-foot home emerged during 18 months of construction. They started with the concept of a ranch-style Craftsman home. “Both my husband and I love the craftsman style with its exposed beams both indoors and out, and use of natural materials such as stone, wood and organic colors,” said Kiser.
True to the Craftsman aesthetic, woodwork was a top priority in the house. The finish carpentry team with Alfirevic Construction estimated a three-to-fourweek timeframe. However, “when they saw the variety of beauty in the wood selected for the home, they fell in love with the project,” said Kiser. It took more than three months of painstaking work, carefully matching up wood grains and combining complimentary wood tones, to finish the project.
They used a mix of both common and exotic woods, which Kiser said is typical of a Craftsman-style home. The floors in the main living area, parts of the staircase, and the decorative bellybands on the walls are sapele, an African species with a look similar to mahogany. Cabinets in the main living area are knotty alder. Interior doors and ceilings are mahogany. Golden-hued Douglas fir was used on window frames, balusters and exposed beams.
The stone and wood gives the house its earthy and warm personality. It also helps the home to “withstand the wear and tear associated with ranch life,” said Kiser.
The couple worked with two interior designers: Jan Kepler for the kitchen and Anne Fortini for the rest of the house.
Kiser and Dyke combined their favorite pieces for an eclectic palette of decor that includes art, antiques and collectibles. Some spaces in the house were designed specifically for treasured pieces. The parlor was sized just right and given the proper acoustics for Kiser’s baby grand piano. An antique Philippine mahogany dining table, passed down from the parents of Skip’s late wife, has nine leaves and wouldn’t fit in the old house when fully extended. The new dining room has ample space and can seat a crowd as large as 18.
Kiser has collected art since her college days and is a member of the board of directors of the San Luis Obispo Museum of Art. Her pieces span all genres. Her favorites include an early 1900 California landscape by Jack Wisby, and a modern humanoid sculpture in metal by local artist Jim Jacobson that sits at the base of their staircase. Her collection includes work by several local artists including Roseanne Seitz and Ken Christensen. She also has pieces she picked up on her travels, including a watercolor from China depicting a woman bathing, which hangs above the master bathtub.
The simple Craftsman lines and the rich woods provide a neutral backdrop for a range of decor styles. “The high ceilings in the living room, dining room and parlor offer large and beautiful canvases for both the vintage and modern artwork that grace the walls,” Kiser said.
The home was designed so that the couple could stay there well into their senior years. All guest rooms are upstairs, while the master suite is on the main level. They designed wide hallways and doors and created ramped or ground-level entrances “to accommodate wheelchair use should it be needed in the future,” Kiser said.
The couple added plenty of features from their individual wish lists. Kiser got a huge master closet, which Dyke joked, “sleeps four.” Dyke got his longed-for upstairs balcony overlooking the ranch. They also traded a seldom-used tennis court for a backyard lap pool.
The new home, completed in June 2012, is not just functional, it is meaningful for this couple that is creating a new life together. “It represents a collaborative design which meets the dreams and visions of both of us,” said Kiser.