After a 39-year career as an aerospace engineer, Richard Horner was ready for a design challenge a little closer to home.
In 2000, he and wife Rebecca were living in Orange County and preparing for retirement — he from Boeing, she from a career as an elementary school teacher. Richard had long been enamored with the idea of building a custom home for them. So, when looking at property around the state, the opportunity to build was a primary factor in choosing the Cypress Ridge area in Arroyo Grande.
“It was farther north than we had planned,” said Rebecca, “but was one of the few places left where you could still buy a lot without having a lot of acreage.”
They bought the property in 2000 and began designing the house with San Luis Obispo architect Steven Puglisi. Noticing that many of the homes at Cypress Ridge were Craftsman in style, they began studying magazines and touring Craftsman bungalows in Pasadena and Orange County.
The couple decided on a more contemporary take on Craftsman architecture. They liked the workmanship and the simple lines that are the hallmark of the Craftsman style. However, they wanted a space that would be much lighter and brighter.
The Craftsman aesthetic inspired the extensive use of wood, including custom moldings and a staircase hand-built by Traditional Stairworks of Grover Beach. Their custom fireplace surround, a combination of carved wood and arts and crafts reproduction tile, was modeled after one they admired in American Bungalow magazine.
The Horners wanted modern technology without a modern look. So they purchased energy-efficient Milgard windows, but concealed the vinyl trim with wood trim and added mullions for added architectural detail.
“It’s all the advantages of new windows, but they look like they could be from the turn of the century,” said Richard.
Wanting the look of antique hardware, they purchased an antique reproduction clawfoot slipper tub for the master bathroom and vintage-style glass doorknobs from Internet vendors. Although a few recessed can lights were necessary for adequate general lighting, they also used reproduction Craftsmanstyle lamps and fixtures throughout the house.
Only one thing about Craftsman design didn’t appeal to the Horners.
“We just couldn’t do the small, dark rooms,” said Rebecca. “Our tastes were lighter woods and higher ceilings.”
To create a lighter, more open space, the couple chose to have a large, open living room with 18-foot cathedral ceilings. A bank of windows that spans the back wall brings in sunlight, as well as a wide-angle view of the golf course.
The Horners decided to act as owner-builders, so when construction began in 2002, they moved from Orange County to a rental home in Nipomo. They were aided by Toby Bellocchi of Tobyco Builders, who was their construction supervisor. The home was completed in August 2003.
The Horners’ previous home was very traditional, and as soon as they moved in, they knew something was amiss.
“We had all this Ethan Allen traditional furniture, and it just didn’t look right,” said Rebecca. “We started replacing it one piece at a time.”
They eventually ended up with a mix of vintage and reproduction Craftsman furniture, as well as other pieces that blend well with the simple Craftsman aesthetic.
The Horners were eager to add personal touches to the new home. They modeled the color scheme after Rebecca’s favorite family heirloom—her mother’s Franciscan apple-pattern dishes. From them, she pulled brick red, forest green, and the muted gold that adds a warm glow to the walls.
When choosing art, they hired local artist Rosanne Seitz to paint some of the cypress trees that grow near the house. They worked with her to find the right scene, the best composition, and just the right color palette — a process that took a year to complete. Hanging over the mantel, the watercolor is a fitting tribute to a house that, like the painting, took some planning but turned out to be just what the Horners had hoped for.
Rebecca Juretic is a freelance writer who lives in San Luis Obispo.