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Back to Cool
AnnaMaria Stephens | Photo: Robert Benson | April 23, 2013
A San Diego design guru stumbles on midcentury gold in old Del Mar. The result? A masterfully mod family HQ.
Call it destiny or just plain good luck. When the Gomez family set out to find a new place in old Del Mar, they stumbled upon the perfect ’50s ranch house. The only hitch? It was a vacation rental.
“We thought we’d have to move into something that didn’t match our style,” says Jose Gomez, who helms the ultrahip ad agency Shilo with his wife, Danielle.
The couple, who adore modern architecture, were living in a custom-built abode when they found out they were expecting. The surprise addition to their family of four meant moving out.
“It was not a baby-friendly home,” says Danielle. “It was all glass and angles and there wasn’t enough room.”
Hoping to stay in Del Mar, Danielle scoured real estate listings, to no avail. The Gomezes resigned themselves to renting temporarily, but were disappointed when they learned their dream rancher didn’t accept long-term tenants. And then something miraculous happened: It showed up on the market.
“We went to look at it that day and made an offer the next,” says Danielle.
Nestled in the lush hills overlooking the Del Mar Fairgrounds—an exclusive enclave where houses rarely go on sale—the midcentury-modern archetype remains in pristine condition after more than half a century.
“It has all the attributes,” says Jose. “The bones of the house are all original: the exposed wood-beam ceilings, the split-level layout, the huge stone fireplace.”
Even the various renovations, completed before the Gomezes moved in, meld seamlessly with the era’s open-space architecture. At 2,200 square feet, the house is on the small side for the family, but features private bedrooms for each of the three kids, Chloe, Devin and Sebastian. “We chose quality over quantity,” explains Jose.
Most impressive by far is what an ideal backdrop the home provides for the family’s belongings, from the multihued Eames chairs that surround the kitchen table to the contemporary art that offers pops of color and personality in every bright corner.
“We love design and we’ve started projects throughout the house,” says Danielle. “But a lot of it was ready to go already, which is appealing when you’re raising a family and running a company. It completely meets our aesthetic.”
The couple describes their decorating approach as collaborative.
“Danielle picked out most of the stuff, but I’m definitely the chair freak of the family,” says Jose, who has filled every room with low-slung classics, including a covetable Eames lounger and ottoman in creamy leather. “Our furniture is a holistic expression of who we are. Each piece is a work of art.”
“The beauty of modern is that it’s kid-friendly,” says Danielle. “We buy midcentury, but also are constantly exploring new designers.” Among their prized possessions: a super-comfy Polder sofa from Vitra that practically demands lounging around.
An artist and creative entrepreneur who got his start in the skateboard biz, Jose has amassed an eclectic art collection. Pieces range from an original Joe Soren sculpture—an eye-catcher cleverly placed against a cheery turquoise wall—to a small painting of eight people bought from a street vendor in New York, near Shilo’s offices in Tribeca, where the family rents an apartment every summer. “The artist charged $10 per person,” laughs Jose. “It was $80 well spent!”
Danielle, who manages the business side of Shilo, an Emmy Award-winning company with boldface clients such as Ford and Project Runway, has a keen eye for design that rivals her husband’s. “Modernism means minimalist, but we pack a punch with details,” she says.
Her go-to accent? Wallpaper, which enlivens every bedroom. For the Gomezes’ previous home and current one, Danielle worked with Encinitas-based firm Conscious Nest, whose cool-crowd clients include Tony Hawk.
“Danielle has amazing taste,” says designer Cindy Courson. “We helped her with the finishing touches.”
Nine-year-old Devin asked for the same wallcovering he had before, the black and white Aquatic by artist Geoff McFetridge, a dense mass of doodles with graphic panache. For 12-year-old Chloe, Danielle selected Petal Pusher from Oh Joy! for Hygge & West. The feminine blue floral print complements the room’s original hanging blue lights. Two-year-old Sebastian’s room features whimsical wall decals.
In the Gomezes’ master suite, Osborne & Little’s abstract Wilde Carnation in gold brings out the warm tones of the furnishings. To counter the fancy pattern, Jose flanked the custom bed with a pair of gold-plated gun lamps from Philippe Starck.
“I love little details that are off-kilter and unexpected,” says Jose. “Everything doesn’t have to be precious or austere.”
Playful touches abound throughout the house, like Jonathan Adler ceramics and a white, egg-shaped doghouse from pEi Pod, where the family’s Chihuahua, Jack, hangs out.
The property, which sits on nearly a half acre, seems secluded and rural, though it’s only two minutes from the beach and downtown Del Mar. Surrounded by untamed nature, it abuts a wide-open space where horses gallop past.
“It’s so private and peaceful and special,” says Danielle. “It really does feel like old Del Mar.”