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How we live

From miniature to massive, SLO residences reflect their owners’ lifestyles


Who we are is frequently reflected in how we live. From small, efficiency-like apartments to sprawling country estates, we try–within our budgets, of course–to create environments that match our personalities and lifestyles.

Some of us work with interior designers to help us turn our dreams into reality while others have to make do with our own sense of aesthetics, but we all have a common goal in mind: to meld comfort, functionality, and beauty into a space we’re happy to be in.

The bachelor pad

Photographer Barry Goyette’s living space is proof that good things can come in small packages. He bought a smallish downtown SLO house with a cramped add-on studio apartment, rented out the front house, and turned the studio into efficient, contemporary living quarters for the modern bachelor.

"It was terrible," said Goyette. "The kitchen was full of clunky oak cabinetry–classic ’70s–and it had a big refrigerator. It made the space really oppressive and closed off. The kitchen is small anyway, and three walkways converge into it: the loft staircase and two doorways."

Goyette wanted something with a more open feeling, so he stripped the kitchen area to the bare walls and, working with Cindy Collins of Cucina Kitchens & Baths, came up with an open-shelving system for dishes, as well as some very contemporary cabinets that feature 1920s-style bathroom privacy glass.

Next came a custom-made stainless steel sink. Instead of a drop-in sink, Goyette went to a restaurant fixture company and had made a one-piece sink and counter combo. A stainless stove continued the metal theme. Instead of a full-sized refrigerator, Goyette chose a stainless half-size.

"I went with a half-height because, though I can be a chef, I generally eat out a lot, and I’m not the kind of person who shops for a week’s worth of groceries. If I’m going to cook, the refrigerator has enough room for whatever I’ll need for a meal."

To give the room added openness, Goyette raised the ceiling and installed a skylight. The floor is concrete with embedded aggregate stones, which Goyette collected himself.

Other accents in Goyette’s bachelor pad include a platform bed handmade by Tony Hunt, a master woodworker who’s made instruments such as a harpsichord. Hunt copied the bed design from an Italian catalog. Brain Sullivan, a metal worker, designed a shelving system to contain Goyette’s stereo components as well as his editing bay for his video work.

The room is elegant and simple yet highly functional, with spaces for cooking, eating, living, and sleeping. Sliding glass doors open onto a backyard area Goyette landscaped himself. A skylight and high window in the loft area provide lots of natural light.

"I wanted my living space to be uncluttered," said Goyette. "I have a big [photography] studio, and I’ve confined my mess to that."

An architect’s dream

When architect Bill Tickell looks at some of the grand old houses of downtown SLO, he sees past the dilapidation and cramped turn-of-the-century designs, instead seeing a problem waiting to be solved.

For the past 18 months, he’s been working to make creative living spaces full of natural light, clever design solutions, and master carpentry-work out of an 80-year-old cottage.

Tickell, a Cal Poly graduate with degrees in architectural engineering and architectural design, now works with his son, William, who’s in his last year in Cal Poly’s architecture program.

While the Tickells come up with the design, they employ another Cal Poly grad, master carpenter Bob Kile, who, along with his apprentice, Max Wilson, makes the Tickells’ designs a reality.

"Bill’s the real genius," said Kile. "I just follow his designs."

In the small kitchen of the front unit of his remodel, Tickell Sr. has designed what used to be called a "garage." It’s basically a cupboard with a long horizontal door that pulls down, coming to rest on the drawers that pull out beneath it. Inside the cupboard are a series of electric outlets.

"This is where you’d keep the appliances," said Tickell, "which are completely hidden when not in use."

Tickell’s design aesthetic is a mix of practical solutions and a love of fine woodworking. In a bedroom loft area, the room is ringed with cabinets with work surfaces all around. About every three feet there’s an outlet–perfect for computer stations and entertainment units. Also from this loft is a stunning view of Cerro San Luis.

Kile’s woodwork mixes different-colored woods. The pieces are screwed together for strength, and the screw holes are countersunk and filled with handmade plugs before finishing to a high gloss.

The floor in the back unit is concrete, stained to a rich patina and concealing a radiant-heat source below.

"Can you feel that?" asked Tickell, holding his hands at knee level. "I wouldn’t use concrete with out it."

These two new units are right next to a 100-year-old duplex Tickell already remodeled, which also features his unique light-filled, open designs. All four units share an open yard area, giving the homes a real sense of community.

"When they’re done, I envision these two units being perfect for two couples," said Tickell.

The whole enchilada

Priscilla Beadle loves color–big, bold, gorgeous color–and that love is reflected in her stunning Edna Valley home, which sits snugly among vineyards on a gently sloping hill.

Beadle’s an artist, therefore her sense of design is already strong, but nonetheless she chose to work with a professional–Michele Murfin of The Design Collaborative–to create a living space that matched her love of art and design.

The initial impact upon entering the Beadle home is awesome. Large glass doors open into the high-ceilinged foyer, and the first thing you see is a bright-chartreuse wall through the glass partition of the library straight ahead.

"I wanted everything to feel open, which is why there’s a partial glass wall enclosing the library," said Beadle. "It took eight guys to get the glass wall in there."

Beadle’s husband, Don, worked for National Semiconductors for more than three decades, and he saved computer chips during his career, which Murfin embedded into the entryway staircase.

"Since Don worked there so long, I always say this is the house that National Semiconductors built," joked Beadle, "so the embedded chips seems perfect."

The stairs lead up to the living room, dining room, and kitchen, all of which are in sight from the foyer.

And there is art. Everywhere.

"Don left most of the design decisions in my hands," said Beadle, "but we did put together a three-ring binder of magazine clippings. We had ideas for each room in the house, and I think the book was a big help to Michele [Murfin]. The only stipulation was that Don got to design his office, closet, and the garage."

Because the house and interior are very contemporary, the Beadles decided to avoid contemporary furniture, instead going with traditional accouterments. Many of the design accents, however, are very contemporary, such as the master suite’s custom tile fireplace designed by Tres Feltman of Hands Gallery.

Metalworkers Allen Root and Ron Knowles created countertops and handrails. Local tile artist Peter Ladochy created a floor mosaic in a breakfast nook. Murfin designed a metallic tile fireplace in the living room that sits side-by-side with a 52-inch TV.

"Another of Don’s requirements was that the fireplace and TV shared the same wall," said Beadle. "Michele worked on that for a long time, but I really think it came out beautifully."

Murfin, an award-winning designer who’s been in business in SLO for 12 years (a Cal Poly grad, she worked in San Francisco for eight years after receiving her degree), sees her work regularly featured in design magazines. But even though she’s considered something of a hotshot, it’s still all about the clients. In Beadle, she found the ideal person.

"You get pretty intuitive in this business," said Murfin, "and you work so closely with your clients that you sometimes learn things you really didn’t want to know about them!

"We often joke around the office that it’s good that we’re located in a building that’s full of therapists, because sometimes it seems like we need a marriage-and-family-counseling degree, especially when people get indecisive."

Working with Beadle held little peril, however, because she was just as experimental as Murfin.

"Working with a client, I soon discover whether they’re the kind of person who can handle pushing the edge, and with Priscilla, I could tell she wanted me to push beyond the edge. When we were gathering ideas for her, we’d be talking in the office, ‘Do you think this’ll make her scream?’ When she saw something she liked, she’d just scream in delight."

Beadle, too, found Murfin a pleasure to work with, but that’s not always the case with client and designer. Murfin has found herself in the uncomfortable position of having to tell clients their ideas simply don’t look good.

"Sometimes you just have to subtly tell a client that something looks bad," said Murfin. "I try to break it to them softly–or not so softly depending on their personality."

Luckily, Beadle and Murfin saw eye to eye.

"Like anything in life, it’s a negotiation," said Beadle. "We had our three-ring binder and lots and lots of discussions. And Michele has such a friendly spirit! I didn’t have the same experience with everyone who worked on the house, though. One subcontractor who will remain nameless didn’t want to do what we wanted. He seemed to forget we were the ones who were going to live here, and we were the ones paying the bills."

Though it looks like the sky was the limit on the Beadle home, in truth the budget was tight, and Beadle praised Murfin for staying within it.

And that, according to Beadle, is what a good interior designer does. She comes up with innovative solutions and makes inexpensive things look like they cost a fortune. Æ

Glen Starkey lives in a garage–a very nice garage.

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