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Clean-Lined and Classic Meet in a California Home

Designer Amy Meier joins past and present in a sophisticated yet comfortable new home

Written and produced by Jenny Bradley Pfeffer

From any perspective, David and Sonja Brockett’s La Jolla, California, home defies classification. Though newly built, it feels as if it’s been firmly planted on this magical plot of land for decades. Slyly beach bungalow in style, it flaunts details more often found in New England Colonials. Yet its formal tendencies are balanced with clear-cut casual moments. This is a home unerringly straightforward in its contradictions.

The cornerstone attitude of this home is innately old and new, beachy and traditional. The property on which it sits had long been home to La Jolla’s original (now relocated) train station—a storied structure from which David had run his family dental practice for 30 years. Hoping to convert the commercial space into their home upon retirement, the Brocketts discovered that, sadly, the building was no longer structurally sound.

Undeterred, they brought in designer Amy Meier and architect Endre Bartanyi to imagine a historically minded home that recalls the structure it replaced while starting its own unique story.

“The beach bungalow was really our jumping-off point because Hawaii is a very meaningful place for David and Sonja,” Meier says. “But they also craved a sense of history and the visual intrigue that one sees in Colonial and Federal-era homes.”

The balancing act begins with a floor plan that welcomingly throws its arms wide open as it also illuminates refined moments, such as custom millwork and gracious antiques. In the entry, unexpected elements with sentimental weight instill a sense of place and create a home that feels lived in and time honed. Against gray-white walls, antique sugar bins hold court under a photograph of the Brocketts’ Hawaii vacation home, which happens to be just down the road from a sugar mill. The bins are so cherished that the space was designed with their dimensions in mind.

“The sugar bins were just perfect, a manifestation of everything we wanted to create in the home,” Meier says.

Simultaneously formal and carefree, the living room boasts the same confident coastal palette as the entry. Slightly enigmatic, it evokes misty mornings and the merging of sand and sea. Reclaimed- wood floors, millwork wall panels, and a salvaged 19th-century cheminée add patina and depth. The curves of a baby grand -piano and two sleekly sculptural armchairs pair with a strictly clean-lined coffee table, organic plaster sconces, and unornamented linen draperies. It’s a sublimely cohesive room rich with contrasts.

The visual give-and-take continues to play out in the dining room, where antique chairs upholstered with a graphic fabric surround a more contemporary pedestal table. Textural hand-troweled plaster with a metallic tinge complements classic wainscoting. A white-painted cabinet interjects a fresh twist.

“We wanted a traditional feature that announces ‘This is the dining room,’ but we didn’t want it to be so formal that it seemed out of place,” Meier says. The solution was to build a custom cabinet in front of a wall of exterior windows—ensuring a lighthearted, airy version of the traditional built-in. Pottery in sand- and sea-inspired hues fills the ethereal shelves.

The mist, sea, and sand palette meanders into a kitchen that feels both contemporary and deeply rooted. A hand-painted tile backsplash in shades of blue and green shimmers against light cabinets and quartz countertops the color of shoreline fog. Striking bar stools upholstered with luscious mahogany-hue leather inject a sense of weightiness, balancing the light scheme. A contemporary sculpture punctuates the space with dramatic effect.

Similarly theatrical, a black-on-black painting by James Austin Murray elegantly juxtaposes off-white walls, reclaimed beams, and a mahogany four-poster in the master bedroom. Fabrics with subtle pattern and organic movement soften hard lines.

“I feel like the bedroom was a synergistic combination of everyone’s desires,” Meier says. “Sonja loves black and white, David wanted an interesting ceiling, and I wanted it to be cozy and inviting. The result is a kind of retreat. It feels warm, yet there is high contrast in materials and color.”

A serene extension of the bedroom, the master bath epitomizes a focus on quality versus quantity. A French drapier table topped with stone forms a vanity. Floor planks in a boxed mitered layout accentuate a pewter tub. Cognac-hue draperies meld with wood tones.

“Sometimes it’s simply about letting pieces speak for themselves,” Meier says. “If the pieces we choose are the right pieces, we don’t need to dress them up or shout them down. We just let them speak.” 

Photography by Shade Degges