Even if oversized windows didn’t capture wide-angle views of the Cambria coastline, the home of Virginia Severa makes no mystery of where it’s located.
Severa was instrumental in the design of the house, which was built in 2000. She calls its style “Big Sur.” Ideally suited for the bluff-top locale, it blends modern and earthy elements in a casual, understated manner that keeps the focus on the ocean view.
The modern personality of the home comes out in its angular lines, openness, and heavy use of glass. In addition to ample windows, there is a glass ceiling in the entry hall, skylights upstairs, and a glassed-in atrium at the center of the house.
“It expands the feeling of openness, brings a protected outdoors inside ,” said Severa of the atrium.
Exposed ductwork provides an industrial element and represents how Severa made the best of unexpected situations. Hanging the forced air ducts from the ceiling became necessary because of a high underground water level and no attic space. Severa opted to paint them black, making them a striking design feature.
The warm and woodsy side of Big Sur style balances the home’s modern aesthetic. Severa used rustic woods, including dark-stained, rough-sawn post and beams made of Douglas fir, tongue-and-groove ceilings in a natural stain, and a hand-crafted wood front door. Exterior cedar shingles were left unstained so that they would weather naturally.
Natural stone lends rustic appeal to the living room fireplace and chimney wall that extends upward into the master bedroom loft and also into the atrium.
Beachy materials evoke the ocean in a subtle manner. Tiles used for the stove backsplash are embedded with impressions of fish fossils. Driftwood is a recurring material in the house. Sev- era’s pot rack was made from a four-foot piece of driftwood salvaged from a local beach. In the living room, there is a coffee table crafted by a local artisan from driftwood topped with glass.
The house wouldn’t quite be Big Sur — or Cambrian — without artful touches. In particular, Severa likes the subtle color and sparkle of stained glass. She had panels inset into a kitchen cabinet. Stained glass sidelights by the front door were made by a Cambria glass artist, adapted from a Frank Lloyd Wright design. Vintage pieces of stained glass hang in the living room and atrium.
Severa made the most of the home’s 2,350 square feet. Luxuries that were incorporated for her, as well as her late husband Paul Reynolds, include a sauna in the master bath, a spa in an upstairs deck and a garage designed to accommodate a car hoist. The living room was sized to fit a baby grand piano.
The home has three modestly-sized bedrooms and an office. In one guest room, a ladder leads to a surprise space: a “children’s loft” that is a favorite hideaway for Severa’s grandchildren as well as asewing area. The master bedroom is also an open loft. With views of the wooded lot, it has the feel of a well-appointed tree house.
“It feels larger than it re ally is with amazing views of the ocean and view of the downstairs but retaining privacy with the stone chimney wall,” Severa said.
Severa decorated in a laid-back, homey style that combines natural elements, antiques and rustic touches. Among her collection of antique and vintage pieces is an iron bed that she bought at a yard sale in San Luis Obispo over 30 years ago. She never touched it up, appreciating the way chipped paint adds age and authenticity to the piece. An armoire in the master bath was purchased at an antique store in Solvang. She had a mirror installed and uses it to store towels.
“There’s nothing formal at all in the house,” she said. “Everything’s very casual, tending toward rustic.”
Severa decorates mostly in neutrals, but her definition of neutral goes beyond the usual tans and browns. She selected floor tiles in a rust color that has a neutral feel because it is reminiscent of tones found in natural clay and stone. Carpeting in bedrooms is a rich plum color.
“It’s my favorite color, and it’s really a neutral because it goes with everything from navy to brown,” she explained.
Accent colors are also drawn from nature. A red Asian cabinet purchased from Willis and Bennett in Arroyo Grande inspired more red accents in the living room and kitchen. One bedroom is outfitted in pale yellows, greens and blues pulled from a botanical print. Another bedroom has two deep blue accent walls.
“All the white in that room was too stark, so I chose blue to relate to the ocean,” she said.
After 12 years, Severa is still enamored with her bluff-top lot, and the home that was inspired by it.
“It’s inviting and casual, and I just feel good being here,” she said. “I can be away from the hustle and bustle of the world and just be in my own, comfortable world.”
Reach Rebecca Juretic at firstname.lastname@example.org