When Chad Arendsen discovered the tiny home in an older neighborhood of Solana Beach, he knew he and his wife, Amber, had finally found the home they had been waiting for.
The house and its street had a special family resonance: the entire land had once belonged to Amber’s family. Her great-grandparents had lived in the little pink house that was still directly across from their new home.
The community, west of Interstate 5, was home to many farm and day workers employed by large Rancho Santa Fe and Escondido spreads, Arendsen explained.
“Most owners [in the small community] the land was donated by the previous owners,” he said.
Amber’s great-grandfather was given the entire street in the early 20th century. He divided it among his eight children, who in turn divided it for their children.
“Most of the original families here have similar histories, multi-generational families who have passed down the land and their homes,” he explained.
In the 1970s, the neighborhood began to deteriorate and Amber’s father chose to raise his family elsewhere in San Diego.
When the Arendsens, who own Solana Beach-based COAT Design and Remodel, bought the property in April 2017, the area began to gentrify and has accelerated in recent years. The enclave offered other advantages: walking distance to shops, services, restaurants and a gym, as well as easy access to the freeway.
The 650-square-foot home plus basement, built circa 1936, stood on a nearly 8,000-square-foot lot and was billed as demolition that was “barely habitable.” Arendsen knew he had to gut the structure, but he wanted to preserve and reuse as much of the original material as possible, for both sentimental and practical reasons.
On the final tour with the vendors, who also come from a multi-generational family of owners, they discovered that the home’s staircase was not original, but had been built by Amber’s grandfather in the 1970s. To preserve some of the home’s history, the Arendsens decided to save and reuse the stair materials, reusing the stringers, steps and even the nails to create a treasured coffee table for their great room.
Arendsen gladly accepted this challenge. He founded COAT as a craftsman and gradually expanded it into larger construction and conversion projects. Both he and Amber come from families with generations of experience in the construction industry and instinctively knew how to use their creativity and knowledge to manage the project with maximum speed and efficiency.
“The schedule and the budget were the most important,” he explained.
In purchasing the property and planning the remodeling, the couple’s key criteria were to create additional functional spaces for their family of six – including three sons, 19, 10 and 7, and a daughter, 17 – while maintaining affordability and speed of construction. They knew they could speed up their project by planning within local building codes and building codes.
They were able to complete most of the planning for their 2,600-square-foot remodel during the 40-day escrow process and completed construction within seven months in November 2017. They have since tackled other projects around the property including adding a pool, deck and landscaping which was completed about three months ago.
“If you ask Amber, it’s all a work in progress. I never stop adding,” said Arendsen. But the initial renovation and construction of the house had a strict schedule.
“We designed backwards from the constraining factors,” such as building height limitations, Arendsen said. Because of this, the ceiling heights of the house vary from 16 feet in her daughter’s bedroom, which has a sleeping loft, to 9.5 feet, with most being around 12 feet.
They designed the exterior to blend into the neighborhood’s Mexican-Mediterranean ambiance by embedding colorful hand-painted Mexican tiles into the risers of the home’s new main entrance staircase.
When remodeling the home, they chose an “additions sandwich” design to build a home that would meet their family’s needs. After taking the original home down onto its lofts, they sandwiched it between a 7,000-square-foot front annex and a 1,200-square-foot rear annex.
The original upper section was converted into bedrooms for the children, divided by a corridor leading to a laundry/dirt room and a staircase leading down to the original basement, now an office, which connects to the new front section.
The 650 square foot front annex includes a two car garage and a flexible ground floor suite with separate access that includes a living room/kitchen that can be rented as a granny flat or vacation spot.
The 1,200 square foot rear annex includes the great room/kitchen and master suite, both of which open onto an expansive deck with an outdoor kitchen and bar seating. The bar was also built using reclaimed timber from the original rafters.
The pair designed the interior themselves and could quickly switch to secondary options when needed due to material shortages.
They installed white oak floors and ceiling fans throughout, marble counters in the bathrooms, and custom kitchen cabinets.
The older children helped design their own rooms, choosing the color palette and tiles for their bathrooms. Her daughter chose a sleeping loft with a work area below for her personal space, while her eldest son’s bedroom opens onto the front balcony of the original house where he entertains friends.
For the master suite, which includes a large walk-in closet, the Arendsens found a reclaimed rustic double entry door, which they converted into a sliding door for their bathroom. The master bath features easy-care blue and white patterned ceramic tile floors, a double vanity with Calacatta marble countertops, a travertine-tiled shower with rainfall shower head, and access directly from the patio for easy rinsing off after surfing or using the pool.
Their goal was to build a home with at least four bedrooms and four bathrooms, but with creative design they achieved five bedrooms and six bathrooms.
When COVID-19 broke out, the Arendsens appreciated the flexibility of their new home as they converted the garage into a gym and temporarily converted the granny flat into an entertainment space. Then they shifted their focus outside.
To make Amber’s vision of a pool a reality, Arendsen consulted his friend Brooks Crawford of Carlsbad’s Brookside Landscape Design, who leveled their sloping backyard and installed a shipping container-built pool on the deck, complete with an underwater window.
Crawford’s wife, Jenny of Branch Out Landscape Design, also in Carlsbad, added drought-tolerant plants to complete the home and patio, including red bougainvillea, plumeria, lomandra, asparagus foxtail ferns, agaves, and Pittosporum crassifolium.
Now the fourth and fifth generations have settled in and are enjoying their family’s legacy with the added potential of an income generating additional unit.
Nicole Sours Larson is a freelance writer.