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December 2008

New Life: A Sherman Heights Victorian is Reborn

By Phyliss Van Doren

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How did a state-of-the-art papaya-green Italian kitchen wind up in a trashed-out 110-year-old gingerbread cottage in Sherman Heights? The answer to that intriguing question involves a woman who loves the concept of second chances and a former National Football League running back who took his wife’s daring idea and ran with it.


Gaggenau SteamJoAnn Jaffe and Andre Hardy met in the non-profit world and since marrying have remained actively committed to good deeds, including inspiring neighborhoods in need of a boost to a more hopeful future. Hardy says it was his wife’s idea to move from La Jolla to Sherman Heights and restore a debris-filled 1898 stick-style Victorian with Carpenter-Gothic influence. At the time of its construction, the residence was regarded as an elaborate middle-class home in downtown San Diego’s first suburb.

Jaffe is the development director for Second Chance, a non-profit organization devoted to help homeless and chronically unemployed find jobs, housing and life skills. Hardy became director of sales and marketing for Vista’s Optelec International after leaving his non-profit position.

“Once I knew she really wanted to, I welcomed the idea to move to this area,” Hardy says. “However, it took five and a half dumpsters of trash to clean out the place before we could even start to work. Despite the filth we could see the potential.”

The historic home, with views of San Diego Bay, was built by George Wade for Emma and Benjamin Lake about a block from the Jesse Shepard Villa Montezuma, the famous 1887 showplace that is now run by the San Diego Historical Society as a Victorian house museum.

When Jaffe and Hardy found the home, it had been divided into three rental units. It took them six months to find the original footprint of the house. After three and a half years of restoration, the footprint now is mostly as it was in 1898.

More beams have been added to the living room and the charcoal-burning fireplace was converted to wood. All original moldings and windows had to be replaced and porches and exterior millwork redone. Plaster was removed from the walls because of lead content. Floors throughout are hand-scraped, pre-finished teak found by the clients at Lumber Liquidators.

Because the house now is a designated San Diego Historical Site, the exterior palette complies with its history. Once the exterior restoration was complete, the neighborhood graffiti subsided.

Interior designer Larry Borgen had known Jaffe for years at her La Jolla home and she enlisted him to help them with this project. “I frankly was surprised she’d live there. It’s a new chapter in her life,” says Borgen. “She definitely didn’t want a cookie-cutter Victorian interior.”

Borgen broke up the entry visually with a stone and glass tile design reminiscent of an Oriental rug. There is restored vintage lighting overhead from Gibson & Gibson, both here and in several other rooms.

The bold colors of the living room rug Jaffe brought with her inspired Borgen’s fabric choices. He found a Nobilis striped velvet fabric to upholster a sofa bought at a garage sale. The frame is restored with a gold-leaf finish. Jaffe’s 20-year-old cocktail table of brass inlaid with stars and moons was perfect for the Bohemian mood of the room, capped off by a spectacular red antique chandelier originally from a Southern plantation. Bright new tiles set off the period mantel from Architectural Salvage that is painted a satin black.

“I used wood blinds here and throughout the house for that plantation shutter look,” Borgen says.

Gaggenau SteamThe media/music room is meant for laid-back comfort and has a wing back chair and chaise found at a yard sale. The chair is reupholstered in caramel leather from Designers Gallery and the chaise in a Brunschwig & Fils velvet stripe with Kravet bullion trim. Hardy’s extensive jazz record collection is displayed and enjoyed here.

For some pow in the powder room, Borgen did over-the-top black and white with octagonal floor tiles that match the laundry room floor, harlequin field tiles and jewel-like glass mosaics. An Osborne & Little black-and-white floral wall covering and restored 1960’s globe light fixtures finish it off.

Jaffe’s college-age daughter uses a bedroom and bath on the first floor when she visits. The bathroom was redone with pale sage-green walls, green glass mosaic tile and white fixtures. Its claw-foot tub is new.

Gaggenau SteamOriginally Borgen had a kitchen design more in tone with the architecture, but when one weekend the homeowners happened on the yellow-green kitchen in a San Francisco showroom, they decided they simply had to have it. A call to Lisa Wilson-Wirth of the San Diego Arclinea showroom made it all happen, and so it became the centerpiece of the restoration project. For all its sleekness, the kitchen also uses recycled materials for its construction and water-based finishes.

The cooking stations include a Gaggenau Teppan Yaki griddle, built-in espresso machine and a combination steam and convection ovens. The Papaya Gaillo cabinets are paired with etched glass pantry units.

Chairs are reused from a former Jaffe home; Arclinea table is custom with CaesarStone top. A Victorian crystal chandelier, dressed up with additional green glass drops is a nice counterpoint to the contemporary design. This kitchen has won a Grand Award for Remodeling Design from the remodeling industry. A surprise view from the kitchen is into the tomato-red laundry room. Color is not in short supply in this house.

A contemporary railing of stainless steel and glass leads upstairs to the master suite with views past Villa Montezuma to downtown. Hardy had a French provincial sofa of his mother’s restored with white paint and teal leather upholstery. The hand-painted silk vintage light fixture and contemporary art and modern lighting from Urban Lighting give this sitting room a unique character.

The master bathroom, which had been the kitchen of one of the rental units, is redone for calmness and serenity. “I started the design with two custom cabinets in a rich mahogany topped with Crema Marfil marble,” Borgen says. “Walls are off-white and pale sage green. Then JoAnn found a picture of a lady on a mythical rooster and we had it re-created in stone and marble mosaics as the focal point of the space.”

Wall tiles are a crackled glaze with green glass rope tiles for accent. Separate bath and shower areas are done in Crema Marfil tumbled “rubble” tile.

Still in a stage of maturing, the garden spaces were designed by Howard Associates as a series of garden rooms with a Victorian aspect. An urban patio for entertaining takes in the northwesterly view and a “secret garden” with water fountains sit on the south side of the house where Jaffe and Hardy can dine alone or enjoy a fire on a cool night.

Three trellises are planted with wisteria to enhance the Victorian architecture. “Lady Banks” rose, sea lavender, jasmine and two tabebuia trees that bloom bright pink in the spring add color, while rosemary, creeping thyme and dwarf citrus are fragrant and useful in the kitchen.

“The neighborhood has given us wonderful support for the project,” says Hardy. “We love cities and are finding that we are reinventing an urban lifestyle here.”

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