It was the last undeveloped ocean view lot on La Mesa’s Panorama Drive, and the view was what made artist/designer Mel Taylor bite. The 7000+ square-foot home he nestled against the steep slope features decks and views from nearly every room, including the master bath, which lets you look across the Mexican border from your tub.
His wife found the site online, at a price that made Taylor wonder if the listing might be a bit of undeleted internet detritus. Who finds half an acre for just $105,000 (down from its original list price of $209,000)? Recalls Taylor, “What I was told by the neighbors was that the previous owner was an older gentleman who used it as his private park. He had all these trees — I tried my damnedest not to cut down too many — and he had a little shed, and he’d come here with a book on a Sunday and sit out here all day reading. I remember negotiating past the trees, trying to catch the view — the further out from the street you went, the more view you had.”
He designed the modern house quickly, as he has done with all 15 of the houses he’s built — “in about an hour. I like Modern because it’s the easiest to construct, less ornate. I did a Craftsman house in Pasadena” — currently, the Point Loma High grad splits time between Pasadena and downtown — “and they call it Craftsman for a reason. My idea was to make a house that looks like something you feel is too nice to mess up but is comfortable at the same time.” On a more personal note, “it was designed as a way to display my art; I conceived the main living space as a gallery.”
But he never conceived it being so big. “I never try to fight a lot,” he explains. “I let the site talk to me. You get a more interesting home that way.” He knew he’d have to refine it after meeting with the city’s building department. He had no idea how much. “The highest retaining wall I could build was three feet, and the maximum driveway grade was three percent. There were architects before me whose plans got shot down.” The very expensive solution: bridges from the street to the house, and a 60-foot rise from foundation to roofline. “The house probably gained 30 feet in height,” and once the couple found themselves forced to expand, they went all out. Because this was to be the family home: Mom, Dad, their mothers, and their daughter.
And then, for personal reasons, that became impossible; the home is currently on the market for just under $2.5 million. Before they staged it for sale, they held an open house for those who had watched the construction through the nearby windows of their rather less Modern homes. One of them sent a text at day’s end: “Mel and Maria, thank you for today. After all our years of living here, we finally got to meet a lot of our neighbors that we didn’t know, because you provided all of us an opportunity to get together.”