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San Diego Magazine - July 2003
Capturing the View - A sensational La Jolla hillside remodel now matches the site with the scenery
by Tomas Shess

La Jolla RemodelWhen Larry and Robin Gitman saw the Hillside Drive house, it was love at first sight. But the couple (he's a San Diego State University professor and author; she's a real estate agent with Willis Allen & Company) were amazed the home they were about to purchase didn't capitalize on the available view of La Jolla Shores, Torrey Pines Mesa and the Pacific Ocean.

So after buying the house, the two started a search for a remodeling design team. A San Diego Magazine layout featuring the residence of designer Michael Kreiss caught the Gitmans' attention-and that's who they brought about to reinvent the interior and exterior of their dream home.

"Michael had us look at his home because he felt that ours had some basic similarities-although ours is significantly smaller, with a panoramic ocean view, rather than a Rancho Santa Fe property where one had to create a view," says Robin. "Many of the finishes we chose were the same ones that he used in his home, where they worked so well and achieved the tranquility he strived for."

La Jolla RemodelShe points out the house already had good bones-with high ceilings and a decent on-level floor plan. "Nonetheless, it was almost completely demolished in order to open it up and bring the outside in."

"We began by eliminating all features that blocked the views," says Kreiss. "We took out all nonbearing walls in the living area, the den and the kitchen."

About 600 square feet of decking was added to create more indoor/outdoor flow. The expanded balcony had to be anchored by five cement caissons that were hand-dug to a depth of 20 feet (because large drilling equipment couldn't manage the steep slope or navigate narrow Hillside Drive ).

French doors were added, as well as a new electrical system, plumbing, appliances, cabinetry, sound sys- tem and lighting. Also installed: new windows, doors, skylights, numerous built-ins and floor coverings.

La Jolla RemodelKreiss and the Gitmans agreed on 24-by-24-inch Turkish walnut Noce travertine marble throughout the main living areas and all the way through the extended balcony, giving the upper level the appearance of greater space and continuity.

"MICHAEL KEPT EMPHASIZING that less is best," says Robin. "We agreed to eliminate any sense of clutter in order to concentrate on the tranquil feeling found both inside and outside of the house."

A home office was critical. Larry Gitman is one of the leading national authors of college texts on finance and management. "We changed the extra main-level bed- room into an office," says Larry. "As empty-nesters, we live only on the upper level and use the new downstairs for guests. The office still could serve as a bedroom with its own bathroom and closet."

The master suite was converted from an ordinary bedroom with a small closet and dysfunctional bath- room into a stunning master retreat with French doors accessing the deck, lots of built-ins, a fireplace and a bathroom with functionality - and sex appeal.

The Gitmans' color scheme was inspired by the view of La Jolla Shores beach. "The travertine marble represents sand, the sky and ocean blue and the green of the surrounding hills," says Kreiss. "The neutral palette and neutral backgrounds were not to detract from the hero, which is the view."

La Jolla RemodelKreiss says the furniture is a mixture of California and neoclassic looks- " California , to add casual beach-like texture, and neoclassic for the simplicity of lines. All of the bigger pieces of furniture were built-in against the wall so maximum attention would be toward space and view. The big pieces were in neutral-textured materials."

The entire home was painted in Dunn Edwards' Travertine, a lighter version of the floor color. "We did that so that the entire space would feel as one," says Kreiss.

The kitchen was cleaned and opened so it would be part of the upper-level great room and could service the outdoor area as well. An unfinished basement became two guest suites, adding 1,700 square feet. Combined with the new basement area and the expanded upper deck, the new total square footage of the home became 4,950, up from the original 2,650.

(Kreiss, president/CEO of Kreiss Enterprises, also heads Kreiss Design and produces the Kreiss Collection of furniture, fabrics and accessories. He and Tricia Wilson from Kreiss Design oversaw the remodel. General contractor was Doug Dewhurst of Dewhurst & Associates, with Steve Schrell as the project superintendent.)

Sunset from the balcony captures a certain sense of awe. Now, the Gitmans' finished California modem home soars effortlessly over the hillside - as if it were a glider permanently exploring the view below.

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