Beach House Breakout


A grown-up surf shack in Encinitas is the perfect undercover escape for this beach-bum-at-heart.

With a bland exterior and an interior made up of tiny rooms, the small stucco house overlooking Stone Steps Beach on Neptune Avenue in Encinitas was as nondescript as an undercover agent in a crowd of enemy operatives. But, like any good spy, this beach rental kept its most alluring features secret: low ceilings covered an expansive 11-foot volume, sheetrock disguised interesting Douglas fir framing and an amazing view lurked just above the small windows.

The house’s cover was blown when Justin Gooding, a doctor and an architecture buff, discovered it and hired local architect Steven Lombardi to transform it into something extraordinary. “I was interested in creating something new and different, and I drove around this area looking until I found just the right house,” says Gooding. “My sister lived in New Zealand for a time, and while visiting her there, I was really taken by the modern architecture that used a lot of glass and metal. Those houses made a big impression on me.”

Gooding and Lombardi share not only a passion for modern homes but also a love of surfing, and both men have been riding the waves their entire lives. Gooding, who grew up in Northern California, had been hoping to live near the ocean ever since he worked as a junior lifeguard in Stinson Beach as a teenager. It makes sense, then, that Lombardi added a 30-foot tower to the south of the home’s entrance as part of the master bedroom. “In a way, it’s like a lifeguard tower or station,” says Lombardi. “When you are standing up there, you can view the horizon and see up and down the coast.”

Lombardi wrapped the tower in wood, metal and glass. “The translucency of glass makes it a fit near the ocean,” he says. “The metal cladding on the tower makes it appear lighter, so it blends into the sky.”

Because of the home’s proximity to a protected bluff, building codes allowed for only a 500-square-foot addition—just enough room for the tower. The architect’s challenge was then to find a way to open up the rest of the house, which totaled 2,000 square feet. “Since I couldn’t add to the interior, I opened it to the outside,” says Lombardi. “If you make the outdoors part of the house, it feels roomier. An indoor-outdoor connection is a prerequisite for all my projects.”

The architect added several major openings, including a wall of oversize glass doors that swing aside to connect the kitchen, living room and dining room to the deck. In the master bedroom, a long window that runs alongside the bed makes sleeping an outdoor-like experience, while another wall is composed of a glass-paned, garage-like door that lifts to open the entire room to the garden. The door to the actual garage is laminated glass that lets light filter into the only subterranean room in the house, the space where Gooding keeps his impressive surfboard collection.

Although Lombardi couldn’t expand the original footprint, he opened up the interiors to make the home feel more spacious. He removed the old living room ceiling, which was a mere 8 feet high; the new plane follows the gable of the roof, soaring to 11 feet at the highest point. He also demolished the walls separating the kitchen, dining room and living room, creating one open space. “If you look at the outside of the house, it’s basically the same envelope except for the tower,” says Lombardi. “We just took it down to the studs and wrapped it in a new skin.”

“I love to be able to see what holds a house up. There’s beauty in that,” says the architect, who exposed the I-beam and trusses, which are necessary to support the ceiling, and painted them a rusty orange hue similar to the iconic International Orange of the Golden Gate Bridge. The ceiling, cabinets and some walls are clad in Douglas fir, the same mat-erial used in the original framing. “We tried to use as many natural materials as possible, like wood, stone and metal,” says Lombardi. “We used very little drywall in this project.”

For Gooding, the satisfaction of finding a modern house masquerading as a ramshackle rental is matched by the joy of living near the water. “I’ve always loved surfing. It’s been my dream to have a beach house,” he says. “It is great to be able to grab a board and just walk out to the waves.”

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