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Architect Puts Her Skills Into Bringing Clients’ Visions to Life

Fisher’s solution for a light-filled space in a home at 251 27th St. in Del Mar was to build a tall cantilevered entry with window that are automated to open to the sea breezes. Photo courtesy of Laurie C. Fisher Architect Inc.
The kitchen in a remodeled beach cottage at 251 27th St. in Del Mar.
Photo courtesy of Laurie C. Fisher Architect Inc.

One of the most beautiful beaches and prestigious residential areas in the county is the Del Mar Beach Colony. It’s that stretch of beach along the far northern end of Del Mar up to the border of Solana Beach. Home to movie stars, moguls and those prescient enough to have bought property there 20 years ago; it’s quintessential beach living.

It was 1997 when a Los Angeles couple with two young sons began looking for a summer getaway cottage. They were attracted to a modest 1950s beach bungalow at 251 27th St. in the Del Mar Beach Colony. In 2013, after the boys were grown, the couple decided it was time for a remodel that could accommodate friends and extended family and set about interviewing architects in a competitive process for the job.

San Diego-based architect Laurie Fisher won the job.

Fisher, who has been in the San Diego area for more than 20 years, also had a long history with the Del Mar Design Review Board, known for its exacting standards.

“That was one of the reasons I was hired; I know how to navigate it.” Fisher said. “But they liked my portfolio and concept, and the way I develop design with the clients as opposed to an architect-driven process dictating a style.”

Fisher didn’t always know she wanted to be an architect; she came to it organically after a childhood in Wisconsin surrounded by the legacy of Frank Lloyd Wright. She grew up playing in the woods of Wright’s “Wingspread,” an elaborate estate built for Herbert Fisk Johnson Jr., the then president of S.C. Johnson & Son.

“Both of my parents worked at S.C. Johnson & Son in Racine; Wright designed the headquarters,” Fisher said. “I was immersed in Frank Lloyd Wright literally since I was in the fourth grade.”

Fisher was an art student in college, but realized some years in that art wasn’t the right path for her. Circumstances landed her in Savannah, Georgia, where she found herself increasingly drawn to the buildings and layout of one of America’s oldest cities.

It was there that Fisher realized “architecture was it.” She moved back to Wisconsin and attended University of Wisconsin’s School of Architecture and Urban Planning in Milwaukee and spent her first year of graduate school as an exchange student in Paris and ended up staying for four years. She studied at the École Spèciale d’Architecture in Paris for two years and the École d’Architecture de Bretagne, Rennes, France, for two years. Fisher returned to the U.S., settled in California in 1998 and began her career as an architect. She worked for some of San Diego’s most prestigious companies, among them Dominy + Associates Architects and Tucker Sadler Architects Inc., before striking out on her own 13 years ago.

The Del Mar home on 27th Street is one among several projects the award-winning, LEED-certified Fisher has designed. Her website lists 12 recent residential projects, a medical center, a retail center, a French bistro and an 8-acre high school campus in El Salvador.

An example of one of the more creative and challenging projects was a residence in Bay Park dubbed “Solar Sail.” She was approached by a client who wanted his home to be a showcase for energy efficiency. The client loved the light, “floaty” look of fabric shade sails, but also the industrial aesthetic of COR-TEN or “weathering” steel, which eliminates the need for painting and takes on a rustlike appearance as it is exposed to the elements. Fisher designed a geometrically complicated, three-dimensional patio shade structure that incorporated contemporary design with a photovoltaic array. The home won the San Diego Home/Garden magazine’s Home of the Year — Green Award in 2007.

The home on 27th Street in Del Mar started with a pile of beach pebbles the owners had collected from many years of long walks on the beach. During a design theme meeting, the owner spread out a pile of the pebbles and said “all of these colors need to be in my home,” setting the overall color palette for the home.

The remodel was a challenge in that it was on a tiny, 5,212-foot-square-lot and was located in a flood plain. The owners originally felt they wanted a two-story home, but Fisher suggested a one-story with a cantilevered roof to let light into the entire space. The design incorporated a continuous, operable, set of clerestory windows that let in maximum light and take advantage of westerly and northerly winds to cool the home in summer.

The end result of the collaboration was a modern, open home with 2,000-square-feet of living space (including the garage) that can sleep six with two bedrooms, two baths, an office mezzanine, four outdoor patios that provide plenty of room for family and guests to relax and enjoy time at the beach.

The $1 million project included concept design, Del Mar review board process and approval, construction documents, permitting and construction administration, as well as the interior design in collaboration with the owners.

“It’s very important to me that my clients have their style; I’m just there to bring it all together,” Fisher said. “Each one of my projects — every single project is different — reflects the client’s style.”

Send luxury real estate items to sglidden@sdbj.com.

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