(Photo by Randy Tunnell Photography)
SOMETIMES, ONE LITTLE THING about a house can lead to an entire project. At least, that was the spark for one recent home makeover in Carmel Valley.

The starting point for this transformation was a leaking roof, but after roof and floor repairs were under way, it seemed to be the ideal time to do something completely different.

The home, built in the late 1980s with a rustic interior of wood and stone, now looks nothing like what it once was. Thanks to the genius of local artisans and craftspeople, it's become a contemporary creation accented with metal, crystal and dark, rich tones throughout.

The renovation took more than a year, but it was a satisfying journey for contractor Robert Lee, owner of Benchmark Construction, who worked closely with the homeowners throughout the project.

(Photo by Randy Tunnell Photography)

"There's a lot more talent around here on the Central Coast than most people realize," said Lee, who counted on a number of gifted builders and fabricators to complete the extensive remodel.

Just about everything for the remodeling project was made to the owners' specifications, down to the door handles and metallic accents. The modern look, however, is personalized with the owners' collections of contemporary art and Asian artifacts, which can be found throughout the4,000-square-foot home.

Because the homeowners entertain frequently, the garage does double duty as a caterer's kitchen, complete with a large refrigerator/freezer, wine cooler, sink and dishwasher, with easy access both to the kitchen/family room and to outdoor dining areas.


A dark epoxy finish on the floor helps mask spills and makes cleanup easier.

One of the other unusual touches to this garage is a wall sculpture by Los Angeles artist Randall Andrews, which includes a variety of castoff and found objects arranged in a fascinating frieze. Andrews also created another wall sculpture for the guest bedroom that includes everything from starfish to doorknobs to elk antlers, as well as pieces of John Steinbeck's fence from Pacific Grove.

(Photo by Randy Tunnell Photography)

Cabinetry throughout the home was crafted by Schmitz Woodworks of Watsonville, with some unusual styling in the kitchen. Typically, Lee said, the grain of the wood is vertical on cabinet doors and horizontal on drawers; in this kitchen, the grains were reversed for a fresh, contemporary feel.

Dark woods and warm tones in the kitchen and family room make the areas flow together, with an informal dining area between.

The family room is lined with shelves to display the owners' collection of Asian artifacts, sculpture and glass vases, as well as provide a handy space for books. Here, also, is one of three fireplaces made by Fred Saunders of Sculpture Works in Seaside, with steel used as the predominant material.

(Photo by Randy Tunnell Photography)

Doors throughout the home were fashioned by Steve Neff of Neff Mill & Cabinet of Marina, of quarter-sawn oak finished with a dark walnut stain, many embellished with handles made of lead crystal surrounding crushed glass, crafted by Zietta Clara of Los Angeles.

One unusual feature throughout this area as well as in other parts of the house are the square recessed ceiling lights, energy-saving fluorescents made by Iris.

"It's a new type of fluorescent light," noted Lee, who said it's not easy to find square recessed lighting. It works well, however, with the contemporary feel of the home.

Pendant lights over one end of the kitchen were made by Los Angeles glass artisan Alison Berger.

(Photo by Randy Tunnell Photography)
Clever cabinetry hides appliances and the microwave, and the Sub-Zero refrigerator and freezer are under-cabinet models, making them accessible but without blocking anyone's view to the living room area.

Setting off the rich browns are metallic accents created by Gustavo Torres, a Monterey Peninsula sculptor who crafted sconces and a wall sculpture for the home. Accenting the U-shaped kitchen are custom countertops made by Mark Concrete of Moss Landing, with one15 feet long, which required special reinforcement.

One important — and rather unique — consideration during remodeling was preserving the live fiddle leaf fig tree growing in the entryway. The two-story-tall tree, sustained by an overhead skylight, had to be covered to keep debris off.

(Photo by Randy Tunnell Photography)
 Happily, it survived the process.

Beyond the tree, a living room with another geometric fireplace by Saunders also is the resting place for another Asian and glass collection in a large Chinese cabinet. The room is enhanced by window coverings made of a light-colored Jack Lenore Larson fabric.

Abstract artworks, including a painting by Salinas artist Janet Roberts, also lend a grace note to the space. Just around the corner is a comfortable guest suite with bedroom, bathroom and den, more havens for the owner's Asian artworks and another Roberts artwork.

A curving staircase leads to a landing that overlooks the living room area, giving guests a good look at some of the homeowners' Asian antiques, such as the warriors' vests on top of the Chinese cabinet.

Beyond the landing is the master bedroom suite behind double doors made by Neff. Here, as in the rest of the residence, the contemporary feel is softened by Asian-inspired fabrics and objets d'art; bathroom cabinetry here and downstairs was crafted by Schmitz, and sinks and vanities made by Mark Concrete.

Many of the mirrored and glass surfaces throughout the home were created by Icon Studios of Marina, a specialist in these materials. Icon Studios created a custom-made coffee table for the living room as well as mirrored doors leading to the master bath and other items.

Finding all these artisans fell to Robert Lee, and working with them turned out to be a pleasant and efficient experience, Lee said.

"Most of them I knew, and the others I got acquainted with because of the specialty items that were needed," he said. "I couldn't have pulled it off without these local guys to help us. It really was a team effort."

Local builders, fabricators and artisans who worked on this home:

Benchmark Construction, Robert Lee
Gustavo Torres Studios, wall plaque
Icon Studios, Andrew, glass and mirrors
Orientations, fabrics and art
Mark Concrete, countertops and sinks
Fred Saunders, sculpture ironworks
Randall Andrews, bedroom wall
Neff Mill & Cabinets, Steve Neff
Schmitz Woodworks, Dave Schmitz, kitchen & bookcase
Zietta Clara, knobs & pulls