Home & Garden

Find out what makes a custom home so special on this SLO home tour

Folding glass doors at Michelle Borrero’s San Luis Obispo loft open to a patio that offers sweeping views of the mountains and the city.
Folding glass doors at Michelle Borrero’s San Luis Obispo loft open to a patio that offers sweeping views of the mountains and the city. garcia architecture + design

The local chapter of the American Institute of Architects will host a spring home tour showcasing five San Luis Obispo residences designed by its members.

The homes have been selected based on criteria such as design excellence, quality of craftsmanship, innovative use of materials and sustainable design.

“Our local architecture-loving community will have a rare opportunity to experience what makes a custom home so special,” said tour chairperson Micah Smith, noting that guests will be able to “meet the design professionals and talented builders who bring homeowner dreams to life.”

Here is a preview of three of the homes that will be a part of the upcoming tour:

Borrero Home

Borrero_ga_1880 Santa Barbara interior16
Michelle Borrero’s San Luis Obispo loft features distressed walnut floors and mid-century modern furniture and fixtures. garcia architecture + design

Architect: George Garcia, garcia architecture + design

Builder/Contractors: Specialty Construction, Stalwork Construction

This modern, urban residential loft owned by Michelle Borrero is part of a mixed-used project in San Luis Obispo’s historic Railroad Square. It is a new unit, built atop an annex to the familiar 1912 brick building. The entire complex was severely damaged in a 2002 fire and subsequently restored.

Creating a residence that bridges modern aesthetics with historic context was “an impassioned collaborative effort between the client and design team,” architect George Garcia said.

Like most lofts, the 1,400-square-foot space is open, with each room flowing to the next. Midcentury modern furniture and fixtures were chosen for their stylish, yet timeless, design. Natural dark wood cabinets and distressed walnut floors complement the heavy timber and brick of the surrounding buildings.

Sweeping mountain and city views are the focal point of the home. There is extensive use of glass, including a row of folding glass doors. A 500-square-foot private terrace expands the home’s living space and allows for an indoor-outdoor lifestyle, even in a city setting.

Bowin Home

The Bowin home was built in the 1940s and is just 1,100 square feet. American Institute of Architects California Central Coast

Architect: Heidi Gibson, Studio 2G Architects

Builder/Contractor: Crizer Construction & Design

For David and Lauren Bowin, the fact that their new home was a mere 1,100 square feet was something of a relief. After living in a 5,200-square-foot home, they were ready for a simpler existence.

“We wanted less of everything,” David said.

Few improvements had been made since the house was built in the 1940s. The remodeling project began with a few minor improvements, such as creating a master suite, but snowballed quickly once they discovered serious problems with the plumbing and electrical systems.

“Eventually, we were down to studs,” he said.

The renovation became an opportunity for the Bowins to modernize the home and tailor it to their tastes and lifestyle. They wanted a warm, contemporary aesthetic with midcentury modern touches. They also firmly believed that, despite its diminutive size, the house could function well for entertaining.

They did get their master bedroom suite, plus an indoor laundry. The team expanded and modernized the kitchen, making it a centerpiece for entertaining. They also built outdoor spaces, including a semi-enclosed patio with fireplace, which greatly expanded the living space for the couple.

The extensive use of Douglas fir brings warmth and comfort to the modern home. They used the material on their ceilings, floors, doors and trim.

The house has numerous space-saving tricks, including the use of wardrobes instead of a master closet. But the real trick of downsizing is organization — and having the right attitude, David said.

“You make it work and find out you don’t need what you thought you did,” he said.

Neuschwander Home

The Neuschwanders chose a neutral color palette to better highlight the views of the surrounding hills. American Institute of Architects California Central Coast

Architect: Andrew Goodwin, Andrew Goodwin Designs

Builder/Contractor: KGM Construction

Empty nesters Bruce and Cindy Neuschwander recently completed a new, 2,250-square-foot custom home after discovering their nest would not be so empty after all. With five grandchildren and a large dog, they wanted a comfortable space for family gatherings.

An open great room encourages family to interact during meal prep. Three bedrooms allow plenty of room for overnight guests. The family took full advantage of their 1-acre lot, adding entertainment spaces like a bocce ball court. An outside-to-inside shower keeps kids from tracking in mud after exploring.

The Neuschwanders like the clean, simplicity of modern style. They kept colors neutral to place the focus squarely on views. Radiant floor heating keeps the home comfortable without unsightly air vents. Character comes from carefully chosen details, such as the collection of Italian light fixtures the couple has amassed over many years.

The Neuschwander home incorporates several green features as well. Clerestory windows allow air circulation in the summer, and solar panels supply much of their electricity.

“It’s nice to take advantage of the SLO sunshine,” Cindy said.

If you go

The American Institute of Architects California Central Coast home tour will be held from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sunday, May 21. Tickets are $30 each, or two for $50. They will be on sale at the Home & Garden Expo at the group’s booth at the Alex Madonna Expo Center on May 6 and 7, and online at www.aiacentralcoast.org.

For more information, contact Micah Smith at 805-704-7118 or publicrelations@aiacentralcoast.org.

Proceeds from the tour benefit county art and architecture education programs serving students from kindergarten through college.