Karen and Lee Bren call their San Luis Obispo condominium “California modern.”
As warm and laid-back as the Golden State itself, its style mirrors the easygoing lifestyle the couple was hoping for when they relocated from the Bay Area.
The home is one of five San Luis Obispo homes that will be featured May 20 on the American Institute of Architects California Central Coast Home Tour.
Open shelving stands in for upper cabinets in the kitchen of Karen and Lee Bren’s condominium, making the space feel larger.
The Brens purchased a lot in downtown San Luis Obispo in 2007, building a trio of three-story condominiums. They sold two of the condos and kept one, which is 2,400 square feet.
The Brens, who worked with architect Thom Brajkovich of Paragon Designs and Robbins/Reed Builders on the project, have studied plenty of modern homes.
“You see the very stiff lines, the ceilings that are generally flat – true minimalism,” Lee Bren said. “This (condo) doesn’t fit that mold.”
For one thing, the ceilings are so varied in height and pitch that nearly every room has a different ceiling style. The effect is subliminal, Bren said. “You can feel that something is different about each room, even if you don’t really know why.”
Bi-folding doors to the outside deck of Karen and Lee Bren’s moden San Luis Obispo condominium unite interior and exterior spaces.
Modern elements create an open and spacious feel throughout. All walls have stainless inset wall elements to give the appearance of “floating” two inches above the floor. The look is elegant and modern, and is also easier to clean than conventional baseboards.
Open shelving stands in for upper cabinets in the kitchen, making the space feel larger.
Bi-folding doors to the outside deck unite interior and exterior spaces. A ceiling window cupola in the living room floods the home with light.
The structure’s exterior has a distinct historical flavor that complements a neighboring 1941 fire station. Period-appropriate details in the condo include a brick fascia, corbels, concrete window surrounds and a belly band that runs around the building’s midsection.
The dining room of Karen and Lee Bren’s San Luis Obispo condominium is traditional with intricate inlays.
Warmth permeates the interior through the use of wood. The three condos feature a wide array of woods including oak, elm, walnut, mahogany and olive.
Each homeowner in the complex chose their own finish materials, a complex situation handled expertly by Robbins/Reed and Casagrande Woodworks.
The one material all three units have in common is reclaimed oak flooring which has a unique, tight grain. The Brens ultimately sourced the wood from Germany and had the flooring finished in Ohio.
“It was very expensive,” Lee Bren said. “And it cost almost as much to install it.”
The living room of Karen and Lee Bren’s San Luis Obispo condominium features furniture with strong, simple lines.
The Brens furnished the home in the same warm and relaxed style. Their living room sofa is a modern piece by Rolf Benz with strong, simple lines and a tactile blend of wool and leather upholstery.
In contrast, their dining room is traditional with intricate inlays. “It breaks the traditional of modern completely,” Bren said. “But we liked the wood in that part of the house, and we think it fits fine.”
Seven years elapsed between the time the Brens bought their property and their move-in date. The project was rife with challenges, but the couple feels the finished home was worth the effort.
The warm and welcoming space has hosted friends, family and neighbors, reinforcing the true purpose of good architecture — “creating home environments that nurture families and friendships,” Bren said.
Karen and Lee Bren’s modern San Luis Obispo condominium has an open, spacious feel.
AIACCC Home Tour
You can meet local builders and design professionals for each home during the American Institute of Architects California Central Coast Home Tour, Sunday, May 20, from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Tickets are $30 in advance (or $50 for two) and $40 on the day of the tour; they can be purchased at aiacentralcoast.org. Proceeds benefit local art and architecture education programs.
The other four homes on the 2018 AIACCC Home Tour are:
This newly build Craftsman home in San Luis Obispo uses the site’s topography to map out its multi-level living spaces.
Architect: Bill Isaman, Isaman Design
This newly-built Craftsman home uses the site’s topography to map out its multi-level living spaces. The home blends contemporary and traditional elements and has a natural flow between the main living area and a spacious covered patio surrounded by oaks.
Built in 1963, this San Luis Obispo home has preserved its original character thanks to homeowners who value its classic mid-century modern design.
Architect: John Bagley
Built in 1963, this classic mid-century modern home has preserved its original character thanks to a history of homeowners who have valued its original design. This example of post-war modernism features period detailing such as terrazzo floors, steel column-to-beam tectonics and indoor/outdoor living spaces that make the home feel larger than its 1,250 square feet.
Former San Luis Obispo mayor Ken Schwartz built this attractive mid-century modern home.
Architect: Ken Schwartz
Former San Luis Obispo City mayor Ken Schwartz and his family have lived in this home since its construction. Schwartz was the architect. His family contributed to its construction, with his daughter, just 14 at the time, acting as principal electrician. This attractive post-war classic is spacious, full of natural light, well-detailed and furnished with mid-century modern pieces.
This Shell Beach house is arranged around a two-story indoor entry court with access to an outdoor courtyard.
Shell Beach House
Architect: Tim Becher
This 2,307-square-foot, three-bedroom home was designed in 2006 by Timothy Becher and his team, and built by Jaime Akers. It is arranged around a two-story indoor entry court with access to an outdoor courtyard. The house features locally harvested and milled cypress wood finishes, concrete countertops and floors that are radiantly heated.
Karen and Lee Bren’s San Luis Obispo condominium has an open, spacious style that the couple calls “California modern.” Trevor Povah