The Carmel Pine Cone / IN YOUR DREAMS
PUBLISHED March 2, 2018
By LISA CRAWFORD WATSON
THIS IS the story of the house that had such wonderful possibilities as a remodel, that when builder John Lewis was brought in to take a look, he decided to buy it and renovate it himself.
The home, on Ladera Drive near the Carmel Mission, had fallen out of escrow three times, and the realtor who had the listing brought in Lewis to get his advice on what the sellers needed to do to get the house sold.
He studied the 1960s house with its mashup of architectural styles. He analyzed the foundation, realizing that one-third of the house had been set in sand and besides, the foundation had settled. He considered the mold issues and pest reports. He also took in the expansive views of Point Lobos and the Mission.
Walking through the house with the realtor, he slipped into what he calls “the zone,” as he began to redesign the place in his imagination, studying what was there and focusing on what could be.
“I read somewhere that only 2 percent of the population can visualize in 3D,” he said. “I’m among them.” Once he had his vision, he knew what he had to do.
I saw the opportunities,” Lewis said. “Give me a house in Carmel with foundation issues, mold problems, and that amazing view, and I’m in. This is what I do; I change spaces to change lives.”
In 2015, he closed escrow on the 2,600- square-foot, diamond-in-the-rough home at $1.8 million, planning to remodel it in keeping with its scale, its setting and its view, and then resell it. His intention was to knock down a couple of walls, relocate the kitchen and the two master suites, replace the roof, redesign the entrance, and bring the house back to a midcentury modern aesthetic he imagined at its roots.
During demolition, with each issue Lewis encountered and remediated, the project grew, until it took on a life of its own. “We knew we wanted to remodel the house when we bought it, but the demo went way beyond expectations, probably three-quarters of the house,” said Lewis.
The tidy, modern feeling entrance to this house on Ladera Drive in Carmel bears almost no resemblance to the condition it was in before it was renovated.
The remodel project became so significant, he left his family at their home in Paso Robles and moved into the guest unit on site. While the cottage always had running water, Lewis often went without heat or electricity.
Aging gracefully at homeHe redesigned the house to have an open floor plan and take advantage of the views. He executed the remodel with “aging in place concepts,” a niche for which his firm, Lewis Builders, is known.
“We don’t have to grow old to understand the value of designing space that allows us to age gracefully in our homes,” Lewis said. “We design homes to accommodate residents as they mature, creating a beautiful design, while making the home safe and accessible, not only for now, but for the future.”
To that end, Lewis installed numerous refinements, including curb-less showers with heated stone benches, door handles that are levers instead of knobs, and a lot of auxiliary lighting, including under counters and cabinets. The layout is uncomplicated and modern.
The kitchen, open to the living room, is faced with travertine stone walls relieved by expansive corner windows, which meet seamlessly to offer unobstructed views of Point Lobos, Carmel Mission and the sea. The counters are surfaced in a soft gray manufactured quartz, and the breakfast bar, in dramatic white marble.
The accent wall in the living room, also in travertine, houses a set-in television above a recessed fireplace, flanked by large niches with extended shelving.
Outside, a travertine path, lined with stone planters, is sheltered by a modern portico as it rolls smoothly past the front door, where horizontal glass panes are framed in vivid blue mahogany. The entry is perfectly level, with no stairs or elevation change. Inside, the floors are covered in smooth white-oak planks.
While Lewis was getting ready to sell what he thought would be a truly wonderful home, Mel and Diana Owens were thinking of moving away from their home near Carmel Beach to a quieter location — maybe someplace with a view of Monterey Bay, or overlooking a golf course and on out to the ocean. But after a year and a half of looking, they’d seen nothing that suited them.
“We’d come across nothing that would give us the charm of our house on San Antonio, except potential tear-downs,” said Mel. “Our realtor told us about the house on Ladera, but it wasn’t in the area we had in mind. Finally, I said to Diana, ‘Why don’t we go by and take a look?’”
As soon as they saw the newly remodeled 3- bedroom, 3-bath house with views, the Owenses had a feeling they were home. “We walked in, and went, ‘Wow.’ We were more impressed than we thought we were going to be with the area, the house, the landscape and the views,” said Diana. “We were probably there for two hours on that Friday, and we returned on Sunday to buy it.” A little more than a year after Lewis bought the house, it sold after just 10 days on the market,for $3.85 million.
The Owenses, who attend church at the Carmel Mission, enjoy hearing the ringing bells from their home — the only thing that disturbs the quiet there. “We feel blessed to be able to live in this beautiful area,” said Mel, “in such a beautiful home.”
Meanwhile, the Salinas-born Lewis decided to bring his family closer to the beautiful shores he loved. They now live in Monterey. And Lewis has a newfound passion. “The Ladera project really ignited my passion for the building business,” said Lewis. “I consider it my flagship, the house that brought me to back to the Carmel area, where I can be a disrupter through architecture. I love that I can preserve the character of Carmel while also bringing it forward.”