Home & Garden

The David Hannings home in SLO is an artistic, historic, colorful adobe

The original adobe is filled with David Hannings’ travel memorabilia and collected art.
The original adobe is filled with David Hannings’ travel memorabilia and collected art. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

Like many homeowners undergoing a complete kitchen remodel, David Hannings spent more than he bargained for on high-end cabinetry and countertops. But instead of splurging on the state-of-the-art, he invested in the traditional and timeworn.

Hannings lives in a San Luis Obispo historic adobe — a circa-1860 structure built with adobe covered in wood siding. Originally 1,000 square feet, it underwent several expansions and remodels. In the 1880s, an addition brought the total size to 2,700 square feet. And in the 1970s, it received a kitchen remodel that, according to Hannings, was out of place with the Mexican colonial style of the home.

Hannings designed both the kitchen remodel and a new 135-square-foot sunroom. Pete Star of Star Construction was his general contractor. Their aim was to create new spaces that were indistinguishable from the old.

The sunroom is topped with a large skylight that floods the space with sun. Hannings, a Cal Poly professor emeritus of horticulture, nurtures a large collection of indoor plants there, including bromeliads, orchids, ferns and unusual specimens such as a large, cascading Nepenthes alata hybrid that catches and consumes flying insects in bulb-like pitchers.

Hannings created the space to appeal to all the senses. A fountain filled with goldfish gurgles in one corner. Radiant heating under the handmade Mexican terracotta tiles is toasty underfoot and also keeps tropical plants healthy in cooler months.

Hannings isn’t shy about color. Walls and counters in both the sunroom and kitchen are clad in richly hued handmade tiles from Mexico and Portugal. To enliven the non-functioning sunroom fireplace, he commissioned muralist Marcie Hawthorne to render a vibrant mural depicting the Garden of Eden.

In keeping with the botanical theme of the space, Hannings dried, peeled, sanded, stained, then waxed four large eucalyptus branches that he used as decorative columns.

Hannings gave his new kitchen an aged look with rustic materials and finishes. He designed custom cabinets, which were built in Mexico by artisans commissioned through San Luis Obispo’s Luna Rustica. The pine, salvaged from an area near Puebla, Mexico, has a weathered appearance. Elegant carvings and copper panels give a striking patina and bring refinement to the cabinetry.

Hannings found juniper landscape beams at Hayward Lumber and liked their rough-hewn look. He sanded, stained and waxed them, then used them as decorative beams and columns in the kitchen. He took inspiration from his selection of Mexican tiles and used an overriding color palette of terra cotta and green.

A new 60-square-foot pantry located just off the kitchen serves as Han nings’ main storage space and allowed him to forego traditional lower cabinets. Instead, he designed open shelving and arched display areas to exhibit his collection of antique beer pots that were once used by the Tarahumara people of Mexico.

Because Hannings lives in an historic home, his remodel was subject to more scrutiny from the city of San Luis Obispo, he said. He was required to install double-pane wood windows to match existing windows — a significant expense.

Voluntary splurges included the cabinets and tiles. However, if you look carefully, you’ll see budget-conscious materials used as filler in less conspicuous places. Above the kitchen range and nearly out of sight, there are black ceramic tiles from Home Depot. And on the sunroom walls, plain terra cotta tiles, also from Home Depot, are a simple backdrop for the Hawthorne mural.

“The handmade Mexican tile was $28 a square foot. The (12-inch) Home Depot tiles were 99 cents each,” he said.

Hannings believes even the greatest expense was justified.

“You spend much time in your kitchen every day,” he said. “Do a good, careful job and it will make you happy every day.”


The Monday Club will host an educational tour of several historic adobes in San Luis Obispo, including David Hannings’ home. The tour will be April 27 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, visit http://www.themondayclubslo.org.


MAKE IT YOURSELF Items that you have made yourself bring a sense of pride and ownership to your living space. If you are not artistically inclined, you can find simple ways to repurpose items that appeal to you, such as when David Hannings used eucalyptus branches and juniper landscape beams as decorative columns.

BUY QUALITY Choosing high-quality materials and good craftsmanship elevates the look and feel of your home. To cut costs, you can use better materials in conspicuous areas, then fill in with carefully chosen, less costly items.

ENLARGE A ROOM Never underestimate how much high ceilings and lots of windows can make a small space seem larger. And remember that the opposite is also true.