Home & Garden

Some of our favorite SLO County homes from 2013

Marcie and Daniel Hawthorne home in San Luis Obispo. Dining area.
Photo by Joe Johnston 05-06-13
Marcie and Daniel Hawthorne home in San Luis Obispo. Dining area. Photo by Joe Johnston 05-06-13 jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

Some resolutions are driven by the proverbial “carrot on a stick:” The skinny jeans you want to fit into, or the Caribbean vacation you hope to someday afford. But if spiffing up your residence is on your 2014 to-do list, a better motivator might be the success story. People who have succeeded at creating an appealing living space provide inspiration, as well as guideposts on how they reached their final destination.

For this reason, we offer three of our favorite homes from 2013. It’s an opportunity to look back, as well as forward to new possibilities in our own homes. These living spaces may not reflect everyone’s personal style, but perhaps we can all find lessons that will bring us closer to the goal of living in a space that fits just as well as those coveted skinny jeans.


ARCHITECTS: Donald Hoppen, Bob Easton and Jeff Lentz

OWNER/BUILDER: Daniel Hawthorne

Decades before salvaged materials began showing up everywhere from furniture stores to chi-chi boutiques, Daniel and Marcie Hawthorne were disassembling old barracks at Camp Roberts and scouring salvage yards in San Francisco to build their San Luis Obispo home. But they would be the first to admit — they didn’t aspire to be trendsetters.

Instead, they built a house that appealed to their aesthetics. And gradually, over many years, that house evolved and adapted to their changing lifestyle. They brought into it only things that gave them pleasure. They used reclaimed materials to keep costs down, but also because they like the look of rough-hewn heavy timbers. They skipped most mass-produced pieces and bought handmade items whenever possible including handcrafted lamps, pottery sinks, and an artisan-built front door made from Honduran mahogany and stained glass. Marcie, a skilled muralist, used their walls as her canvases, rendering scenes from nature inspired by their own rural surroundings.

It may be easier and cheaper in the short term to go with the trendy, the off-the-shelf and the readily available. It’s tempting to throw a room together in a weekend, lifting a design scheme from the pages of a magazine. But the Hawthornes consider their home a means for self-discovery and self-expression, both of which take time and contemplation. Their payoff: the couple is just as enamored with their home now as they were 36 years ago.


GENERAL CONTRACTOR: Tim Hutchinson of Solid Builders

STRUCTURAL ENGINEER: Fred Schott & Associates

John and Melanie Hodges were looking at tract homes when they stumbled upon an Arroyo Grande Victorian desperately in need of TLC. Known as the Pitkin-Conrow Estate, the circa-1890 stickstyle Victorian had been used as a bed-and-breakfast, a restaurant and a wedding venue.

Melanie, an interior designer, relished the opportunity to restore the home to its former glory. They purchased the house in 2003 and began whittling away at a long list of projects that included repairing water damage, replacing roofs, and repainting the main house and three other structures on the property.

As if this wasn’t enough, the 2003 San Simeon Earthquake struck and caused more damage. In addition to repairs, the couple embarked upon an earthquake retrofit and continued with restoration work.

The Hodgeses endured many frustrations, including mounting costs and living in a portion of their barn for a year. The unexpected became a regular occurrence, such as when they went to install a new gas potbellied stove and found a massive hive of bees inside the chimney chase that extended to their basement. Removing the hive required a posthole digger, many additional hours of contractor work and was, according to Melanie, “a very arduous ordeal to say the least.”

Throughout all this, the Hodgeses persevered. And though it would have been tempting to rush the process, they kept their focus on details, even having special cutters made to replicate the original redwood trim, and traveling to the Bradbury & Bradbury facilities to select just the right historically accurate wallpaper.

It is inevitable that home improvement projects will come with some level of frustration and unexpected roadblocks. This is why most of us have unfinished projects, and others that we never managed to start. The Hodgeses’ ordeal may put our wall paint fiasco, or landscaping headache in perspective. We can also take Melanie’s advice on how to manage a job that seems like a beast.

“Our attitude has been to take small bites at the elephant at a time,” she said.



A few people have the opportunity to build a custom home, hand selecting everything from the floor plan to the bathroom tile. Most of us have to make the best of the place we happen to live in.

This was the case with Jason Ortiz, an interior designer with San Luis Traditions, who would love the opportunity to style his own house. Until that day comes, he is making do with a 900-square-foot San Luis Obispo condominium with an awkward floor plan and a limited number of materials he’s at liberty to change.

Has that deterred him? Not in the least. With a modest budget and loads of elbow grease, he created a chic, modern-Asian space. He convinced his landlord to let him repaint the “rentalwhite” walls, as well as the dated cabinetry and worn trim. He replaced 1980s lighting fixtures with modern versions, and switched out old bathroom faucets, the dented front door, and every switch plate and outlet cover in the house.

Replacing the worn carpet and vinyl wasn’t within his means, so he brought in area rugs to add color and interest. He called upon his expertise as a designer, and resources at San Luis Traditions, to find contemporary furniture that is both sophisticated and comfortable. While many people shy away from large-scale furnishings in small spaces, Ortiz believes that too many small pieces make a room feel cluttered and cramped. So he went with full-sized couches and tables. He was bold with color, choosing a palette of jewel tones like deep red, purple, and sapphire blue.

Ortiz filled his condo with personal mementos and treasured pieces of art — not all of it expensive, but every piece meaningful. It all goes with his philosophy of putting together a home: “You should live with what makes your heart happy.”

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