Home & Garden

Timeless quality: Dettmer house in SLO

Randy Dettmer designed the house to his and wife Kip's specifications. View from living room and kitchen look to the Santa Lucia Range.
David Middlecamp
6-16-2010
Randy Dettmer designed the house to his and wife Kip's specifications. View from living room and kitchen look to the Santa Lucia Range. David Middlecamp 6-16-2010 The Tribune

Frank Lloyd Wright once said, “The architect must be a prophet... if he can’t see at least 10 years ahead don’t call him an architect.”

When architect Randy Dettmer designed and built his San Luis Obispo home in the mid-1980s, it was as if he were peering two decades into the future. Since that time, it has made an easy transition from family-friendly haven to empty-nester retreat.

Randy, who graduated from the Cal Poly architecture program in 1973 and has been designing and building homes ever since, found a vacant lot nudged into the side of Cerro San Luis in 1984. He and wife Kip, who is a lab supervisor at Sierra Vista Hospital, knew it would be an ideal spot for their growing family.

Randy relished the freedom that came with designing his own home from the ground up. As an architect, he had worked in both residential and commercial construction throughout the western United States. Although he was inclined toward modern architecture, he rarely had the opportunity to work in that style.

“From an architectural standpoint, we wished to create a modern, yet warm home that took advantage of the spectacular views of the city and hills,” said Randy.

He designed the 3,000-square-foot home with traditional elements, such as a hipped roof, but also with modern features such as an open floor plan, vaulted ceilings and exposed beams.

Light streams through the house due to large mitered glass windows, ridge skylights, as well as interior clerestory windows that allow light from the skylights to illuminate the kids’ rooms.

The house was finished in 1986. Their son Todd was two years old when construction started, and daughter Jacke was born shortly after the family moved in.

The house and a detached guest house were constructed in the first phase. Over the next 10 years, they completed additional projects on the property. Within the year, they added decking at the rear of the house and installed a spa tub. Landscaping was added in several phases.

A more ambitious plan to build a second outbuilding and additional decking took several years, and plans remained fluid as the family’s needs changed.

The couple originally intended for most of their outdoor living to take place at the rear of the home to shield them from city and freeway noise. But they soon realized the best views were at the front.

“In reality, the sound of the freeway isn’t that objectionable,” said Randy. “We think of it as the pulse of the city.”

So they added decks to the front of the house, bringing their total outdoor living space to 3,000 square feet — the same as their indoor living space.

The outbuilding began as a green house for Kip. But one day, when it was under construction, the kids, who were pre-teens, dragged a ping pong table into it.

The idea stuck and the building became a game room until the kids moved out seven years ago, when it became the office for Randy’s architecture firm.

Today, the home functions well for the empty-nesters. Todd’s room became an office for Kip, and Jacke’s ditto room is now a guest room.

“We actually love it by ourselves now that kids are gone,” said Randy. “We still use all the rooms in the house.”

The Dettmers feel no need to renovate. They had wisely selected simple, classic materials, including an abundance of natural wood. Their floors are oak, which they originally finished with a light stain.

“After we lived in the house for awhile, we realized it wasn’t the right choice, so we had the floors refinished and left them completely natural,” said Randy. “They’ve aged really beautifully.”

Clear vertical-grain Douglas fir makes up the streamlined cabinetry, built-ins, trim and ceiling beams. This, too, has grown more lovely with age, taking on a golden-red hue.

The couple steered clear of trendy décor and resisted the urge to over-embellish. They kept walls white and décor mostly neutral. Furniture is contemporary and simple — only a few pieces have been replaced over time. Accessories are minimal and consist mostly of personal mementos and art made by friends and family.

Seven years ago, the Dettmers began to look at the last undeveloped portion of their property. They finally resolved to plant a half acre of wine grapes. The couple now produces 40 cases a year of syrah and chardonnay for themselves and for friends. “Sleeping Dog Vineyards,” named for the Dettmers’ two Labrador retrievers, has been a finishing touch on a home that, like the wine, continues to age beautifully.

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