Home & Garden

1920s Los Osos fishing shack gets an artsy redo

The front room is lit by skylights and left neutral to highlight a rotating display of art.
The front room is lit by skylights and left neutral to highlight a rotating display of art. The Tribune

Few would have given a second look to the ramshackle, 1920s Los Osos fishing shack that Karl Galluzzo purchased in 1989. But Galluzzo saw potential.

“The value was not the shack but its location, on the edge of the tidal bay, a hundred feet from the water,” he said.

Galluzzo, a Nipomo resident, was retired from a two-part career, first as a high school industrial arts teacher, then as an engineer for PG&E. He viewed the building’s renovation as a much-needed hobby.

But this would be no weekend project. There was no foundation under the structure. Its walls had settled unevenly, the roof leaked, electrical systems were shot, and there was extensive termite damage.

Galluzzo was limited to the approximately 800-square-foot-footprint of the original fishing shack. So he kept his goal modest: to create an artful retreat that makes the most of its natural setting.

Instead of demolishing the structure, he chose to work at an unhurried pace, tackling one project at a time to bring the building up to code and create an aesthetically pleasing environment.

“The pleasure was in the journey, not the destination,” he explained.

The budget for the project was minimal. Galluzzo saved on labor by handling the majority of the work himself. He only hired contractors for electrical work and plumbing.

Another enormous cost-saver: Galluzzo worked almost exclusively with salvaged materials. His sources included scrap piles, leftover construction materials and tree removals. Friends in the construction business would alert him before a demolition job. The materials may have been cheap or free, but they were certainly not junk.

“Some stuff you can’t buy at any price, because it’s an older material and unavailable now,” he said.

Nearly every material in the house has a story. The hard rock maple used for ceilings, kitchen walls and an accent wall was once locker room benches at Righetti High School in Santa Maria. The glass in the kitchen window was salvaged from a remodel of the Cal Poly University Store. The koa wood handrail for the loft staircase was previously part of a San Luis Obispo Airport ticket counter.

Old redwood planters, used in Salinas to grow carnations, became the front door, front room trusses and exposed ceiling sheeting. The laminated beams over the stone columns in the front arbor were salvaged from a fire at the Oak Knoll Shopping Center in Orcutt. Galluzzo built a black walnut coffee table from an 80-year-old tree removed from Arroyo Grande High School to make room for new tennis courts.

Finding and using these random finds took vision and patience.

“You can’t plan on salvaging something — it’s not anything you can look for,” he said. “You may not have a use for it at that instant, but down the road you can find a way to apply it.”

Rustic, natural materials echo the rugged, bayside location. Galluzzo used hand-cut Santa Margarita Stone from Sanford Stone Company for an accent wall and stone columns for his wisteria-covered arbor. Interior beams were sand blasted to emphasize the texture of the grain. He used salt water to give metal plates supporting roof trusses a rusted patina.

To visually enlarge the structure, Galluzzo installed floor-to-ceiling windows that bring in light and expansive views of the bay. One set of glass doors opens up to a glassed-in patio covered with colorful sail shades that functions like an additional room. Galluzzo also built a small loft area with just enough room for a sleeping space and reading nook.

“When you’re tied to such a small space, you have to think outside the box,” he said.

Artful elements permeate the space. The exterior of the house is a composition of contrasting materials including green slate roof shingles, copper sheeting, carved wood panels, wood shingle siding and stained glass. Galluzzo crafted metal sculptures and wood carvings, including a flowing seaweed motif on the front door. He created stained glass for a kitchen cabinet door, kitchen box window and front accent window. For the bathroom, he hand-painted tiles with a wisteria design.

After a 10-year renovation, Galluzzo now uses his “artistic cabin” as a personal retreat, guest house, and a place to entertain. He has dedicated the front room to a rotating display of work by local artists. The cabin is restful, artful and a far cry from the original run-down fishing shack.

“It’s not what you’ve got. It’s what you do with what you’ve got — that’s what counts,” Galluzzo said.