Plum Street Remodel

Plum Street Remodel

Contemporary Project | San Diego, California
Taking advantage of California's climate, capturing San Diego's skyline and providing an ideal setting for casual entertaining, this home renovation reflects a modern, coastal style inspired by the views available from its expansive windows and sliding patio doors.

Taking advantage of California's climate, capturing San Diego's skyline and providing an ideal setting for casual entertaining, this home renovation reflects a modern, coastal style inspired by the views available from its expansive windows and sliding patio doors.


The location and view from Plum Street first attracted the homeowners to this neighborhood near Point Loma. Accepting that the 1960s property would require considerable changes to meet their family's active lifestyle, they began seeking an architect who would listen to their wants and needs, and help create a new vision for their future home.

Talking with their trusted friends and business associates, the homeowners were introduced to Will & Fotsch Architects Inc. This personal connection was key as the California-based design firm only accepts new clients by referral. The homeowners and the architects quickly established a connection to confidently guide them through the planning, design and realization of this major renovation.

We wanted to keep as much of the existing structure as possible, while making the greatest positive impact.

"We met with the owners, measured their house and drew a floor plan. They were trusting and gave us creative license," said design firm principal Andy Fotsch. "This was one of the fastest projects I've ever been involved with. We went from designing a floor plan to permitting in three months."

Once the permit was issued, renovation, construction and interior finishes were completed in less than 12 months. The homeowners moved in August 2018.

To achieve the desired design functionality, aesthetic and value for Plum Street's renovation, there were two primary challenges according to Fotsch:

"Challenge one was to determine the best floor plan create a comfortable series of spaces for living and entertaining. We wanted keep as much of the existing structure as possible, while making the greatest positive impact.

"The second challenge was to determine a style that would update the house, yet work with the overall massing and structure. In San Diego, there's no consistent architectural style. The look of each home depends on when it was built and who built it. If someone from the East Coast was building a house in California, they may have built a Cape Cod style home. Someone from the Southwest may have built a ranch style home. Someone building more recently may choose a more contemporary look."


"The remodel was done as surgically as possible to frame views and provide a comfortable home for a life of casual entertaining," said Fotsch. "We really focused on opening it up and making it feel more connected."

Fotsch shared several examples of the design precision employed to renovate the 3,700-square-foot Plum Street home.

  • Flipping the kitchen and dining room – Originally, the kitchen was in the center of the house and disrupted the connection between the dining and the living room. By flipping the kitchen, the range wall of the kitchen hid the staircase to the master suite and allowed us to create the stone pillar of the fireplace in the great room.
  • Opening up the kitchen – Creating a more open, light and spacious kitchen, the upper level floor system was reframed so we could maximize the visual height of the doors taking them all the way to the ceiling. The extra 14 inches gained – from 6 feet 8 inches to 8 feet – dramatically increased the sky view and brought a lot more light into the space, and views of the harbor.
  • Converting the living and dining room – The wall between the previous living and dining room was removed for a more open floor plan. The old dining room was made into the blue-hued sitting nook, affectionally referred to as the "parlor." The original living room had a screened-in porch, which we removed and converted to one large deck. This now connects the kitchen and dining room to the great room, extending the living space into the outdoors and providing a vista that spans from city skyline to harbor shoreline.
  • Enhancing the entry – We kept the opening to the front courtyard and installed new French doors. Now, you have a strong connection from the front courtyard through the house. The flow is much improved, and you get this really sweet moment when you are in the new great room and can look all the way into the front courtyard.
  • Enlarging the great room – The roof above this part of the house was removed and raised for a taller 12-foot ceiling height and a better proportion within the room due to the expanded floor plan size. The extra height accommodates tall doors with transoms above them. In addition, this allowed us to install transom windows on both the front and back of the house letting in dramatically more daylight. The great room's increased height also helped the massing of the house by providing an intermediary height between the single-story height of the bedrooms and the two-story height of the master suite.
  • Expanding the master suite – The master suite was too small for the homeowners' comfort. Their suite was expanded and now includes a bathroom, which features glass walls and doors to enter the shower room and continue out to its own deck. The interior teak-clad wall extends to the exterior providing a unified visual and physical connection. This extra space also improved the massing of the residence as viewed from the street.
  • Excavating and adding a lower level – Due to the slope of the site, there was a very large crawl space with areas that were more than 9 feet tall. We cut a hole in the floor of the great room and added a staircase down to the new lower level, which was excavated from the existing crawl space. A new game room, pool bath and exercise room were added to this new, lower level.
  • Engaging the pool area – The existing pool was incredibly disconnected from the house, essentially two complete stories below the living area of the house. To better match the modern, coastal entertaining lifestyle of the new homeowners, we demolished the existing pool and raised it 6 feet out of the ground.

Through the lower level's multi-slide doors, the back steps lead into a series of small flights with landing areas to better connect the house to the pool. You take two or three steps to reach the grill, another set of short steps to the deck chairs, another set to the pool. A 5-foot waterfall also connects the upper landing to the pool. With an entire new series of decks and terraces, the pool now provides an engaging, energetic atmosphere with access to the new lower level.

Describing the Plum Street home's large, open, uninterrupted panorama from its position in Point Loma, Fotsch said, "It overlooks an international airport, the downtown San Diego city skyline, an active military base complete with fighter jets and aircraft carriers, the Coronado Bay bridge, the ocean and the marina – all set against a backdrop of the hills of Mexico."

(We) dramatically increased the sky view and brought a lot more light into the space, and views of the harbor.

He continued, "It's one of my favorite views from any project that I've worked on. This project is all about the views. Framing these views also was super critical."

Thinking of the best window and door products for the project, Fotsch turned to Kolbe. Early in his career, he had participated in one of Kolbe's "Voice of the Architect" discussions in Wisconsin. Since that time, he designed projects featuring three of Kolbe's product lines: Ultra Series windows and doors, Heritage Series windows and doors, and now, the VistaLuxe Collection.

For the Plum Street home, Fotsch selected products exclusively from Kolbe's VistaLuxe Collection. These include sliding windows, casements, direct sets, awnings, French doors, a swinging door, complementary sliding doors and complementary multi-slide doors.

Fotsch described Kolbe's VistaLuxe products as having a "simple square profile that minimized the frame" and do not distract from the critical views. Outlining each opening, the exterior of Kolbe's windows and doors features an extruded aluminum finished in black. On the interior wood framing, a dark ebony stain was specified throughout the house.

"The connection of the frame detail between the doors and the windows provides a consistency throughout the house. It gives the windows a distinctive look and feel, and I love the warmth that is provided by the wood interior," Fotsch emphasized. "When it is stained ebony, it adds to the warmth and dimension, and relates to the casual and coastal feel."

The Plum Street home's grandest, continuous views are presented through the two multi-slide doors on the deck that connect the great room to the dining room and kitchen. Each of the multi-slide doors are 8 feet tall and span six panels wide, opening in the center with three panels on each side. Fotsch elaborated, "The six panels are a nice proportion; when they're completely open, you have a physical opening that is two-thirds the size of the framed opening."

Everything can be open with the natural air flowing and the sun shining through the house.

To accommodate these expansive openings, "we reframed the headers in the dining room and kitchen area to get more height. With the 8-foot-high doors it feels even taller than it is," explained Fotsch. "Sliding doors allow for the largest opening and ease of use. Often, all the doors and windows are open, and the breeze through the house is wonderful. There are no bugs in San Diego so you don't need screens. Everything can be open with the natural air flowing and the sun shining through the house."


Along with optimizing daylight, views, ease of operation and natural ventilation, Kolbe's high-performing windows and doors also contributed to meeting California's stringent Title 24 Building Energy Efficiency Standards. The VistaLuxe Collection offers a range of glass choices and thermal spacers to manage solar heat gain in coastal climates. Demonstrating their energy-efficient performance, many products in the VistaLuxe Collection meet ENERGY STAR® qualifications.

The Plum Street's residence's modern, coastal design draws extensively from its surroundings. In addition to serving as the project's architects, Will & Fotsch also provide interior design guidance. This continuity of vision extended and connected many of the exterior details with those on the interior.

For example, Fotsch highlighted, "The stone you see in the front courtyard and in the great room has a windblown sand-washed finish, which brings in a nod to the natural stone and sand of the coastline. The great room's fireplace and stair wall mirror as pillars – bringing the outdoor earthy feel inside. These pillars draw your eye upward emphasizing the ceiling height in the great room and serving as the structural tectonic supports."


The interior doors' hardware complements the matte black, rectangular, lever handles on Kolbe's swinging doors. "There is a lot of straight line geometry through the house," observed Fotsch. Beyond the windows, doors and hardware, this is especially evident in the great room's and game room's custom ceiling beams.


"The game room is a total derivation," acknowledges Fotsch. "The homeowners wanted a nightclub vibe with framed views of the city nighttime lights."

In addition to city views, nautical themes largely inspired the color and material selection. Fotsch expanded on this saying, "Navy is the main color accent throughout the residence. Navy is a thread that connects throughout the house. The island cabinet color is called ‘In the Navy.' Brass plumbing fixtures and lighting throughout the house is a nod to nautical elements. The girls' bath harkens back to the Portuguese fisherman tradition of the neighborhood. The master suite's bathroom design is reminiscent of a ship crow's nest and its teak shower walls extend to the exterior deck. The blue in the wallpaper also ties in well with the blue of the Coronado Bay Bridge."


Throughout the home, Fotsch pointed to organic materials mixed with "a neutral palette of blues and grays with punches of levity mixed in – pops of orange and yellow, the homeowners' favorite colors." The front gate was painted plum, referencing the street name of Plum Street and providing a memorable detail for guests to this distinctive home.