It’s hard to believe this gorgeous home was once a drug den for squatters


At the Avocado Acres house in Encinitas, you can see the palm trees through the clerestory windows, hinting at developer — and surfer — Steve Hoiles’ love affair with California.

It’s hard to believe the newly built modern home was once a dilapidated drug den.

When Hoiles purchased the 900-square-foot house, it was inhabited by drug-dealing squatters who refused to leave. After sheriff’s deputies eventually removed the tenants, the home was deconstructed, recycled and a new house was born.

At a time when many California real estate developers are demonized for overbuilding, the Encinitas-based builder says he is trying to create “sustainable modernist homes” similar to those championed by beloved midcentury developer and builder Joseph Eichler.

From the front, the geometric shed roof slopes to the north and downslopes to the west. But in back, the single slope roof is dissected by a curvilinear roof designed by San Diego architect Lloyd Russell. Looking at the house from above, it looks like someone took a huge bite out of the roof.

This sense of fun inspires Hoiles’ work — this is his eighth house — along with the midcentury architecture of Richard Neutra and the famed architectural experiments known as the Case Study houses.

“I am a student of history,” said Hoiles, who moved here from Vancouver five years ago. “The Avocado House was a reflection of that. It’s a nod to Eichler and the Case Study houses.”

In addition to the home’s striking geometry, Hoiles, working with Russell, tried to implement the best of Midcentury Modern design including clerestory windows, floor-to-ceiling glass and indoor-outdoor access.

The home is divided into three “pavilions” with easy access to a courtyard through sliding glass doors.

At 2,800 square feet, the house is a good size although Hoiles said it could have been larger.

“It was 1,000 square feet less than what was allowable,” said Hoiles. “If you are looking for a four- or five-bedroom house, you’re not going to buy it from me.”

Adds Hoiles: “I hope when people see my work, it changes their mind about developers.”

The new home is an example of what Hoiles calls “pragmatic modernism,” or, taking the principles of Midcentury Modernism and creating something new for the 21st century. Here’s how he did it:

The stunning before & after

(Before: Surfside Projects; After: Darren Bradley)

The original 900-square-foot house was a wreck. After squatters were removed by sheriff’s deputies, the home was deconstructed and repurposed. “The wood and concrete was recycled,” said Hoiles. “Whatever we could use we kept. I took out interior cedar boards to use for other applications. The laundry tub is now being used in my garage.”

A single shed roof connects the home’s three main living areas, called pavilions, and gives the home a simple, minimalist look. A concrete wall at the front of the house offers privacy from the street and “adds a little bit of strength and stability,” said Hoiles. “It gives the home a good foundation.”

Here’s a closer look at the project, and its highlights:

Flexible interiors

(Darren Bradley)

The 2,800-square-foot, three-bedroom, two-bathroom home was designed to be flexible with an L-shaped living room that opens to the kitchen, dining room and outdoors. “You can move the dining room table out to the deck because it is seamless,” Hoiles said. “People can be separate and together at the same time.”

Balancing glass and concrete

(Darren Bradley)

Clerestory windows wrap around the concrete walls, allowing light in. “The concrete gives you the muscle, the glass softens it,” said Hoiles.

Indoor-outdoor access

(Darren Bradley)

In a midcentury touch, the ceiling is lined with western hemlock. “If you have a lot of glass and concrete, you have to offset it with the warmth of natural wood,” said Hoiles. A multislide pocket glass door from Western Window Systems opens to a deck that extends the floor plan.

Curved shed roofline

(Darren Bradley)
(Darren Bradley)

Architect Lloyd Russell designed a curved shed roofline that unifies all of the rooms in the house. “That roofline adds so much interest because it contrasts with the geometry of the front,” said Hoiles.

Scandinavian influence

(Darren Bradley)

The open floor plan was designed with socializing in mind. White oak floors and white walls give the house a Scandinavian feel. Both the kitchen and master bathroom cabinets feature rosewood veneer that Hoiles found in a warehouse in National City. The 4-inch tile is by Fireclay Tile in San Francisco.

Statement tile

The master bathroom. (Darren Bradley)

Encaustic cement hexagonal tiles by Procomex, handmade in Monterey, Mexico, create a lively quilt effect on the bathroom floor.

Courtyard connection

The master bedroom (Darren Bradley)

The master bedroom includes a walk-in closet, bathroom and a floor-to-ceiling glass slider that opens to the courtyard and first pavilion. The exterior of the house is clad in durable, termite-resistant western red cedar. “It can handle all different kinds of elements,” Hoiles said.

Environmentally friendly for the 21st century

(Darren Bradley)

The home features a GreenPoint Rated label, which verifies that the home was built according to environmental standards. “It’s a badge of honor,” said Hoiles.

Galvalume standing seam roof

(Insight Photos)
(Insight Photos )

A Galvalume standing seam roof ties the house together. “Even the roof is green,” said Hoiles. “It’s recyclable metal. The light roof color reflects the heat.” And in a nod to California ranch homes, Hoiles limited the house to one story.

“I take a lot of pride in being a contrarian,” Hoiles said recently. “If you’re going to be a green builder then you have to be a little forward thinking.”

Twitter: @lisaboone19

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