For Marilyn Rossa and Louie Rossa-Quade, the fun of creating a home isn’t so much in finding the right match, but in achieving the right mix. Their Arroyo Grande home represents just this sort of creative fusion. When the two Cuesta College educators purchased the five-acre lot in 2002, there was a small cabin on the property that was built in the early 1970s using trees from the region.
Their first decision was how to merge their plans for a larger, more modern home with the existing structure. In the end, they salvaged some materials from the cabin and used a few of its features, including the original fireplace. They extended the footprint of the home as well as the second story.
The architecture of the remodeled home is just as much of an amalgam.
“The architecture was inspired by a visit to the French, Italian, and Spanish countrysides — and also by a bit of Craftsman from my childhood home in suburban Chicago,” Marilyn explained. “We lived very close to the many Frank Lloyd Wright homes in Oak Park.”
They worked with Morro Bay architect Donald H. Smith to put their vision onto paper, then called upon general contractor Glen Reynolds of GTR Construction to bring the design to life.
To give the facade of the home an Old World feel, they used antique French shutters purchased at a local antique fair. They also purchased a hand-painted custom fresco from an Italian Web site. Mounted above a window, it was left to age naturally.
Inside, they blended traditional, Old World features with modern conveniences. In their kitchen, for instance, along with their modern stainless steel appliances, they have rough-hewn Turkish stone floors. Their copper stove hood was created by a local coppersmith and left untreated to acquire a verdigris patina. A stained glass window in the kitchen was originally from the Chicago home where Marilyn grew up.
Materials salvaged from the original cabin also contribute to a feeling of age. Salvaged eucalyptus wood was used for second-story flooring. The cabin’s front door, which was originally from an old hotel in Pismo Beach, is now the door to the master bedroom.
Marilyn and Louie carried their love of eclecticism over to the furnishings for the home.
“A place shouldn’t be overly stylized,” said Marilyn. “I didn’t want the house to be too perfect or too formal.”
Both have been antique collectors for many years. Marilyn operates an antique store in the barn on the property which, incidentally, was built by the previous owner from pilings from the Pismo Beach pier.
The pieces in the home are a combination of heirlooms, antique store finds, new items and pieces acquired on the couple’s travels.
In the dining room there is a new, contemporary dining table, two French antique cabinets and a Craftsman-style cabinet that was a built-in part of Marilyn’s childhood home. In the living room, traditional sofas sit alongside an old church pew. A carved wood angel that is new but looks old, hovers above the fireplace. On one wall is an eye-popping piece of modern art, an original lithograph by Spanish surrealist painter Joan Miro.
From their travels, they picked up pieces like the painted and inlaid game table in their living room, which they purchased in Sorrento, Italy. Marilyn collects women’s religious iconography, including two Our Lady of Lourdes statues from France that sit outside the master bedroom door.
Marilyn has no qualms about mixing such disparate items.
“I’m more interested in how the colors match up than in the style,” she said. “If you carry one thread through everything, it seems to keep it all cohesive.”
The couple lived in a guest house on the property during the 15-month remodel, which was completed in 2005.
“We fell in love with the view first,” she said of the vistas, which include Pismo Beach and the Oceano dunes. “But the house is so comfortable and welcoming. It was home the minute we walked in.”