In the first episode of Ten Seventy Architecture's Design Rewind series, principal architect Sean Canning shares one of his earliest projects, the Sarah Mesa residence.
Facing a unique challenge with the property's steep hillside and awkwardly angled, pie-shaped lot, Sean managed to design an innovative 499-square-foot addition to the front of the house, avoiding school fees and adhering to the city's zoning restrictions. The project included a master suite, his and hers closets, and a remodeled master bathroom, while maintaining the original bedroom count. Although the clients ultimately moved out of state and the project was never built, the experience laid the foundation for Sean's career in architecture and the formation of Ten Seventy Architecture.
Hi, I'm Sean Canning, principal Architect at Ten Seventy Architecture, and today I wanna kick off our Design Rewind series. This is a video series where I basically turn back the clock and talk about some of my earliest projects. Some of these projects are before I even started Ten Seventy Architecture, but most of them are about 10 to 12 years old.
So in each of these projects, we're going to take a look at a client brief. A design breakdown where we really get into the nitty gritty of why the design ended up coming out the way it did. And finally, I'm gonna give you a conclusion and let you know how the project came out and what my relationship with the clients are today.
So let's kick it off. This is one of my first projects, one of my favorite projects, the Sarah Mesa residence.
This is the home situated right here. You can tell it's kind of on a slope right over a highway and it's also at a dead end. Now, the scope of work here was an additional partial interior remodel for master suite. And as part of that we were gonna make an entry foyer. So the project was single family zoning and a couple challenges on this project.
You can, you're gonna be able to tell when I show you the site plan that the lot was actually very awkwardly angled. So it's kind of like a pie shaped lot. And the second challenge, which was not really a challenge of mine, but more of a challenge of the clients. They'd initially hired another designer to create this design and due to the steep hillside that you can kind of see here, the lot was flagged as a steep hillside lot, and their proposal was denied at permitting.
So the, at the, at the permit office, they told my client that they would accept the design if they had basically designed an addition in the front yard, but anything towards the back towards that hillside was going to be rejected. Now, at the time I didn't really know what a steep hillside was. A steep hillside flagged lot in San Diego, but it didn't really matter because my scope of work was limited to an addition towards the front of the project.
So here's the site plan. The street is over here and the steep hillside is kind of back here. And what you can see here is that the angle. That little area in the front, basically right about here, doesn't really create a lot of opportunity for standard design. So we had to think outside the box. This was ultimately the area where we basically decided to do the addition.
So you can kind of see it here in light gray. I'll highlight it for you here. And that was the additional square foot that we added to the, to the house. I believe we did this at 499 square feet, which is the maximum threshold to avoid school fees. So we saved the client a couple thousand dollars by keeping it under 500 square feet.
This is the existing floor plan here, so it's a very typical ranch in San Diego. Let's just spend a moment and break this down so you can tell right here that we have bedroom one, bedroom two. And bedroom three. This is the bathroom that is used by that bedroom, and this is the bathroom that is used by your guests.
So basically this would be considered the private area of the home. This is the informal entry to the house here where basically homeowners would enter the home and all of your guests would enter through here where we have the living room next to the fireplace. So you can see that we have a very.
Classic breakdown of public and private spaces here, and it's a three bedroom, two bath. Now this was the addition we came up with. So you can see we're introducing some new angles to the design which are gonna be a little bit difficult to control when we, when we take those angles up onto the roof.
But I'll explain how I handled that circumstance. So this was the existing wall right here. Now that wall has been removed. You can see the demo layer here,
and this became the addition
right up to there. And now this, I'm gonna highlight the entire master bedroom.
So that area is the master bedroom. So let's explain how this worked. Here. You enter here into this new foyer and you could continue to progress into the home. Just like before. We reserved this bathroom here for guests, just like before. So your guests still use that bathroom, and we still have these two bedrooms over here.
So we didn't reduce the bedroom count of the home. But with the addition that we have here, we basically set this up as a his. And hers closet, and then the master bathroom here, which was a remodeled bathroom of the previous bathroom, which is much smaller. You enter this master wing over here rather than coming down the hallway where the old entrance was.
So this area here, this new master bedroom, actually app operates kind of like its own suite in comparison to these bedrooms.
Now a couple other things I wanna point out here. When you enter the bathroom here, you do have a private, private toilet room here. So two people can use this part of the bathroom in comfort. Here you were able to walk into the shower and we had a sink here with a skylight above. And then one of the closets has a full circulation loop.
Right there. And I think that provides a lot of efficiency when you're getting ready in the morning because you can circle back into the bathroom without reentering the bedroom area. So if somebody is gonna stay in sleeping late, you don't necessarily have to wake them up or bother them while you're preparing for work.
And one more thing I wanna point out. As part of the design requirements for my clients, there was gonna be a jacuzzi here. This serves as an entrance area for that private jacuzzi area. And then you can come in here and use the shower.
So this was the existing elevation. It was a very traditional style home, I guess. Traditional style ranch. And when I look at something like this, I think about. How to create balance in a new elevation. And I would say this area here is currently creating a little bit of imbalance. It really weighs heavy.
It pops out on the elevation. So to balance that, and right now, I guess you could summarize this design as something similar to this
sort of has an imbalance. The composition is not balanced, but. If we were to add something here,
maybe we could restore some of that balance. And I'm not saying to make something perfectly symmetrical because you don't have to have symmetry and balance at the same time. And that's why I drew this with a circle versus this Gable Ridge here. But this is ultimately what I came up with. So you can see now I have tried to restore some balance with these ridges here.
You also can't really connect those ridges like you would think would be more intuitive like this because then you create a draining ISS drainage issue. So we did have to kind of flatten that out in between. Otherwise you would just end up with some complicated detailing over here. So let's take another look.
You'll also notice I changed the colors to update them a little bit more, but we now have this component counterbalanced by this component, and we're entering in between. I, I set it up with these trapezoidal windows, which I think is something, sometimes a little amateurish coming out of architecture college.
We would use designs like that, but in the real world, usually I, I try to stray away from those types of trapezoidal windows. But sometimes there is a place, and maybe this design was the place for it, but I guess what I'm trying to say is I don't really go for that design too often these days. I'm also showing a big standing sea metal roof, which I think is a really easy way to upgrade a design from a traditional design to a modern design, even if the bones or the massing of the design is still very traditional.
And this was the section so sliced through the front structure. And you can see I have a vaulted ceiling in here. We have a. A little bit of a vault condition in here, and I remember the my client's the, the wife and the couple wanted a sort of arched. Entry at the foyer. So we created that area there, and then there was gonna be like a downlight fixture here because for one reason or another I just couldn't resolve that arch all the way over.
So we created a little bit of a an art niche over there. And if I remember correctly, this beam right here supported the previous existing wall because that was, that exterior wall was a load bearing wall. And if I know myself well, I probably did this to sort of show some sort of, Respect to the existing location of that existing the, the previous home,
this was the, this is an early set of construction documents, so this is probably the first set of construction documents I ever created in the city of San Diego. And over here you can see the site plan and the area where I had proposed that addition was here. Here I actually have my very old title block where I would actually stamp the drawings right here.
We have a foundation plan, construction plan. If I just zoom in on this, you can kind of see the detailing I put into this at the time. So it's, you have the demo plan overlaid with the construction plan. This is the ridge above. So the vaulted area of the house would've basically been this area here.
All this was new, so that was our opportunity to change the ceiling. The ceiling in this area back here was still gonna be that eight foot ceiling.
And here we have the structural floor plan, which basically shows the beams and on the right side over here we have the roof framing plan.
And in the roof framing plan, we can really see how we were going to support that roof with basically bringing in an. An angled gable roof to match this roof. So that was the balance I was talking about earlier. And in this design I had actually proposed to re-pitch all of this roof with a California fill.
And if I was gonna do that, if I was gonna do the same design today, I would probably just propose to re-pitch some of the, this area here to save the cost. Save the client some money on this. So I think that would be a more cost effective solution, although I don't think it would quite look as good on the elevation.
So it's a little bit of a compromise. I think the whole process of architecture is kind of a series of compromises. You have to pick one thing or another, and there's a series of pros and cons between each. There's never a clear black and white option. Okay, so here I have some electrical drawings, lighting drawings, and there's my elevations.
So we have a front elevation, we have a right elevation, and here we have some sections. You can see a section. This is the vaulted ceiling area here. So the ceiling would basically be like this. In this space here. I think this is the wall, and we have the bed shown here. So headboard. Bed here and a little person shown here for a skill.
So we've been in a really interesting space if you were inside the space, certainly. We even have a little detail of the closet here and a little skylight detail to show how to get the light down into that bathroom right over the right over the sink area where you want that natural light. And then back then I used to do a quite a lot of redrawing over my drawings.
So for some reason I would take the drawings that I'd already gotten a permit for, or the drawings that I'd on a finished project and I would just redraw them. Trying to, I guess, use different graphical skills, graphic skills. So here I have a little bit of a watercolor that was a medium I used to use quite a lot early in my career.
I don't really do that anymore. We just don't have the time to do that. And then underneath the, here you're seeing kind of that setback that I was talking about and how that affected the entire design. So I've actually rotated the floor plan in respect of that setback. Here's a, a before and after of your elevations.
So there's a before and there's an after. And you can see how we've really just kind of updated the whole project here in terms of curb appeal. There's that watercolor again.
And. This is the last slide. So in conclusion, this was actually the study model I built at the time, and I actually had this circled because you can see, I was really trying to emphasize the balance we were gonna restore to this design to this home. So how did this project end? Well, for my first project in San Diego, unfortunately this one never got built.
I'd actually met the clients at a sustainable design. Seminar. So we already had a lot of things in common, similar interests, and they actually convinced me to start this business. So before I started this project, I did not have a license, but by the time I had finished this design, I was a licensed architect in California.
And at the time, I think I was 28 years old, so I was probably one of the youngest licensed architects in the entire state. After I finished the design and got the permit including all the structural engineering. The clients decided that they wanted to move outta state. They ended up moving to Tennessee.
They invested in a bunch of properties and I think they made a bunch of money too. At least I hope they did. So they come back to San Diego once in a while because now their, their son lives in this house and when they come back we go out and talk about the projects and just catch up on things.
So they ended up becoming good friends and they actually referred me to my second project, which You'll also see in, in this video series. So if you like this video comment below. Let me know what you liked about this video. Of course like and subscribe. You can find us on YouTube or Instagram.