Christy Candaele can talk at length about Flemish bond brickwork and the quirky appeal of clinker bricks.
This wasn’t always the case. Her keen knowledge of masonry has been acquired from years of examining the nooks and crannies of the 1926 English Tudor residence in San Luis Obispo that she shares with husband, Casey, and daughter Reece.
Years ago, she would take strolls through the historic Anholm tract and admire the handsome brick structure known as the Cook house. “I remember thinking, this is my dream house,” she recalls. “I like homes that are old, different and unique.”
When the house came on the market in 1991, the family jumped at the chance to own it.
Candaele soon became acquainted with the home’s history. The original owner was local grocer Floyd Cook and his wife, Agnes. The contractor was W.J. Smith, who built several prominent local structures, including Hawthorne Elementary School. He is also believed to have constructed some of the buildings at Hearst Castle, including a large Spanish-Colonial style warehouse and several ranch buildings.
The home’s brick construction is, in itself, historically significant. The bricks were manufactured by a local company, San Luis Brick Works. The chimney is embellished with irregularly shaped “clinker bricks” which Candaele believes only adds to the home’s charm.
The Candaeles are the third owners of the house. They were fortunate that previous owners had made numerous improvements, including turning the attic into a master suite, installing new plumbing and updating the electrical system.
The family had a 3-month-old son when they moved into their home, and their second of three children was born three years later. Their growing family inspired two major remodeling projects. The first was a new detached guest house, constructed in 1994 by Mike Congdon. Faced in brick, it matches the style of the main structure.
They waited until 2001 for their next big remodel: an expansion and revamp of their kitchen and dining room that took the house from 1,400 to 2,300 square feet. The builder for the project was Carty Holland and the designer, Kowalski Design.
Candaele saw it as an opportunity to finally bring the home in line with the family’s own style and preferences. The family craved warmth and color, yet had existed for a decade in a space of cream-colored understatement with French Country overtones.
The kitchen needed to be functional as a place where “the whole family congregates,” said Candaele. So now they gather around a large central island that seats five and is clad in earthen-hued granite. New stainless steel appliances keep up with the demands of a busy family.
The Candaeles added color in bold strokes, starting with a concrete kitchen floor stained a green inspired by native serpentine rock, created by Roy Burch Concrete. White backsplash tile gave way to ceramic tiles in earth tones interspersed with pops of blue and green.
The remake of a bland, kitchen archway was inspired by a mosaic backsplash the family spied in a Carmel restaurant. Candaele and her then-8-year-old daughter Brady headed to a tile store for an assortment of multicolored tiles, then set about smashing them to piece together their own mosaic. Their efforts turned an inconspicuous corner of the kitchen into a focal point.
That’s the great thing about brick, said Candaele. It plays well with a host of different styles and colors, while adding a hefty dose of warmth and texture. So when the kitchen and dining room expansion turned exterior brick into interior walls, she welcomed them as a fine backdrop to her eclectic style. “You can mix different colors and textures with it and it all looks good,” she said.
Candaele’s decorating style is casual with elements that point to the historic nature of the house. In the living room, an antique trunk stands in as an end table. In the dining room, there’s a a custom-made farmhouse table that Candaele herself took out into the backyard to “beat up a little,” she said. She coated it with a dark stain that settled into all of the scratches and nicks, highlighting them and creating the look of age.
The Candaeles like to surround themselves with meaningful pieces. Throughout the house are mementos from their travels, including art from France and Italy. There is furniture built by Candaele’s father, Dick Humble. Humble also built a brick barbecue in the backyard, as well as other brick features that honor the home’s history.
Last year, with two of their children away at college, the couple decided it was time to downsize, so they put their home on the market. Then, earlier this year, Candaele agreed to participate in the Monday Club’s Architectural Tour, and she had a change of heart.
“We couldn’t find anything quite as special, and getting the house ready for that tour, I starting noticing all the details of this house,” she said. “I fell in love with it again.”
If you go
The Monday Club Architectural Tour will be held on Sunday, May 1. Attendees may choose between morning and afternoon tickets, with tours starting either between 9 a.m. and noon or between noon and 2:30 p.m.
Tickets are $45 or $35 for students with an I.D., and include lunch in the Monday Club garden, as well as light refreshments at one of the tour stops. Tickets may be purchased in San Luis Obispo at SLO Consignment Furniture or online at www.brownpapertickets.com. If still available, tickets may be purchased at the door.
This is a self-guided tour. A brochure and recommended order for touring the homes will be provided. The tour begins at the Monday Club, 1815 Monterey St., in San Luis Obispo.
This year’s tour has a masonry theme, showcasing nine historic buildings in San Luis Obispo, all built with locally quarried stone and brick. Historians and masonry experts will be available to answer questions.
Proceeds from the event will fund fine arts awards, which reward excellence in music and visual art for San Luis Obispo County high school juniors and seniors.