Before & After: A Contemporary Renovation Brings Coastal Views and Indoor/Outdoor Living

By Jennifer Baum Lagdameo / Published by Dwell

A 1960s home in San Diego is updated and transformed with expansive windows and sliding patio doors.

A "prime location and a spectacular view" was what initially attracted this California family to the Plum Street House—a midcentury property located near San Diego’s scenic Point Loma with stunning views of the skyline. Originally built in the 1960s, the family saw the property’s ultimate potential, but realized that it needed considerable updates in order to meet the needs of their active, modern lifestyle. Luckily, they were introduced to Will & Fotsch Architects, Inc., an experienced California firm that only accepts new clients via referrals. The family and the firm quickly hit it off, granting the architect a creative license to renovate their 3,700-square-foot home.

Before: The Exterior

The exterior of the 1960s home as it appeared prior to the renovations. 

Courtesy of Will & Fotsch Architects, Inc.

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After: The Exterior

In addition to the home’s interior goals, the exterior was transformed with a modern facade. 

Photo: Zack Benson

The goals for the project included modernizing the floor plan by opening the home and "creating a series of comfortable interior spaces for living and entertaining" while keeping as much of the existing structure as possible. Showcasing the home’s spectacular views was also at the top of their list, in addition to maximizing the interiors to take advantage of the warm Southern California climate and support an indoor/outdoor lifestyle. 

To achieve these goals, the design firm’s principal, Andy Fotsch, looked to Kolbe® Windows & Doors. Fotsch selected products exclusively from the VistaLuxe® Collection for their "simple square profile" with minimal frames. The collection’s black extruded aluminum exterior elegantly outlines each opening to match the home’s contemporary style, while accentuating the views. A dark ebony stain was chosen for the interior wood frames to give a "warmth and dimension that relates to the home’s casual coastal feel," explains Fotsch. 

Before: The Kitchen

The first step was to open up the kitchen to create a brighter, more open space. 

Courtesy of Will & Fotsch Architects, Inc.

After: The Kitchen

Fotsch reframed the upper-level floor system to maximize the height of the doors and take them all the way to the ceiling. The expansive multi-slide doors from Kolbe provide a seamless transition to the outdoors and an uninterrupted view. 

Photo: Zack Benson

The most significant transformation was rearranging the floor plan to open up the living space with a great room. To accomplish this, Fotsch flipped the kitchen and the dining room, opening the space by removing the wall between them. The former dining room was converted into a sitting nook that sits just off the current living room. A former screened-in porch was converted into a large deck which extends the living space and strengthens the home’s indoor/outdoor connection. In addition, he reframed the great room—adding 14" to the overall height in order to accommodate eight-foot-tall Kolbe multi-slide doors with transom windows above—highlighting the home’s most spectacular view.

Before: Transforming the Living Room into a Great Room

The original living room had a screened-in porch, which was removed and converted into a large deck that connects the kitchen and dining room to the great room, creating an indoor/outdoor living space with spectacular views.

Courtesy of Will & Fotsch Architects, Inc.

The former dining room was dark and cramped.

Courtesy of Will & Fotsch Architects, Inc.

After: Transforming the Living Room into a Great Room

Originally, the kitchen was in the center of the house disrupting the flow between the dining room and the living room. Flipping the rooms allowed for the addition of the fireplace in the great room. 

Photo: Zack Benson

The former dining room was converted into a sitting nook just off the living room, which the family now affectionately refers to as the "parlor." Kolbe french doors provide outdoor access.

Photo: Zack Benson

Fotsch reframed the great room, adding 14" to the overall height of the space in order to accommodate eight-foot-tall Kolbe multi-slide doors with transom windows above—dramatically highlighting the home’s most spectacular view.

Photo: Zack Benson

The extra 14-inch ceiling height brings light and harbor views into the space, while transom windows add a bonus sky view.

Photo: Zack Benson

Now, the Plum Street home’s most breathtaking views are showcased by expansive multi-slide doors in the great room and the kitchen, which connect to the deck. Each unit is eight feet tall and spans six panels wide, opening in the center with three panels on each side. "We focused on opening the space and making it feel more connected. We dramatically increased the sky view and brought a lot more light into the space, and views of the harbor. When the windows are open, the breeze through the house is wonderful," explains Fotsch. "Ultimately, however, this project was all about the views—and framing the views beautifully was super critical." 

Before: The Backyard

The existing pool was two levels below the living space and felt disconnected from the house.

Courtesy of Will & Fotsch Architects, Inc.

After: The Backyard

The new pool was raised six feet above the ground and was designed for entertaining—and to better match the home’s new modern style. 

Photo: Kolbe Windows & Doors

The multi-slide doors on the lower level connect the house to the pool with functional decks and terraces, achieving a modern look and reinforcing the indoor/outdoor lifestyle. 

Photo: Zack Benson

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