Home & Garden

Shell Beach home is inspired by Old World Tuscan style

The Tuscan-inspired Pajares home in Shell Beach has a stucco exterior and a Roman-style flat pan roof made of clay tiles.
The Tuscan-inspired Pajares home in Shell Beach has a stucco exterior and a Roman-style flat pan roof made of clay tiles.

Bill and Cheri Pajares were living in a contemporary home when they took a life-changing trip to Italy. They brought back fine linens, ceramics — and plans for a new home.

The empty-nesters had recently purchased property in Shell Beach. They contacted Cal Poly alum and architect John Mack with their idea for a 2,458-square-foot, two-story Tuscan-style residence. Bill, a retired firefighter and contractor, built the house. Cheri, a retired bookkeeper with a degree in interior design, made many of the design choices.

The home is distinctly different from the Mission-style homes popular in San Luis Obispo County. It has a Roman-style flat pan roof made of clay tiles that are common in Europe, “but only one company in the U.S. makes them,” Cheri noted. The exterior stucco is smooth but with an aged finish. Also distinctive are the Roman columns and the use of rough field stone on accents around doors and windows, which add depth and interest to the exterior.

Sturdy, Old World materials continue inside the house with travertine and hardwood floors, wrought iron, burnished metals, and 8-foot-tall solid core tropical hardwood doors.

The couple wanted a house that would spark social interaction, including intimate family visits and full-blown parties. For outdoor entertaining, they designed a large front loggia, or covered porch, that doubles as a carport. The porch leads to a courtyard where the family likes to host outdoor movie nights. A 480-square-foot roof deck includes a spa and fireplace, and offers views from Point San Luis Lighthouse to Point Sal.

When the coastal fog rolls in, guests can retreat to the open great room that includes the kitchen, dining room and living room. The kitchen was designed to feed a crowd with an induction cooktop and granite island with its own prep sink and seating area.

Against this Italian-inspired backdrop, the couple inserted some beach-inspired elements to remind them of their coastal locale. Stamped concrete on the walkways and driveway contain impressions of shells, sea stars and seahorses, giving it the look of a petrified sea bed. Its blend of earthy hues incorporates red to match the windows and a range of browns.

Wall murals by artist Gerri O’Brien pull together both Italian and coastal elements. In the home’s entryway, a 10-by-9-foot mural depicts a Shell Beach sea cove. On the stair landing, two niches are painted with landscapes of hilltop towns in Italy that the couple has visited. And in the master bathroom, the half-barrel ceiling, illuminated by rope lighting, glows with the colors of a sunset sky.

“Being around this art brings us so much joy every day,” said Cheri, who noted that the murals have become their favorite feature.

The couple chose to furnish the house in a traditional, rather than a strictly Old World, style. “The house is in a beach area, so we didn’t want it to feel too heavy,” said Cheri.

Pieces are larger in scale and sturdy to match the proportions and architectural style of the house. But they were also chosen for comfort, with nothing too fussy or ornate. They chose leather upholstery and custom tables made from stone, wrought iron and wood. Their color palette is pulled from the earth with browns, greens, golds and reds.

The couple decorated with items from their travels to Italy, including textiles and porcelain. But some of their pieces hail from closer to home. One of their favorite pieces of furniture is an Ethan Allen walnut credenza. They created a niche in the entryway to fit it. “It works so perfectly there that when we leave this house, we will probably have to leave that too,” said Cheri.

The Pajareses incorporated many amenities, including a built-in vacuum system, whole house water filtration, radiant floor heating, audio and intercom system, and elevator. A guest apartment with its own kitchen, laundry and parking offers privacy and comfort for guests.

Cheri called the home, which was completed in 2009, “the most comfortable, warm and convenient house,” offering the best of the Old World, with plenty of modern-day comforts.

Design tips

MAKE YOUR MARK: Stamped concrete offers a wide variety of options for both color and texture. The Pajares family had concrete walkways stamped with shells to give them the look of a fossilized sea bed.

A ROMAN ROOF: The Pajares family chose Roman flat pan clay roof tiles for their distinctly European look. They differ in shape from the Spanish roof tiles commonly seen in California.

MURAL MAGIC: In the Pajares home, Italian-style wall murals tie together the home’s Old World architecture with its beachy elements. They depict some of the couple’s favorite locales, including Italian towns they visited on their travels, and an ocean cove located at the end of their street.