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HOME IMPROVEMENT FROM PAGE 24 ELLWOOD


magician. Which can be a bit disillusioning. Fortunately, we still have his work. Spend some time amidst the fir and Redwood and glass, and a different picture of Craig Ellwood emerges. There is something undeniably great here, whether designed by a “con- struct” or a person. But what about those pesky stain colors? Somehow Keith and I came to a decision. I could say it had something to do with what Ellwood called the “shadow line,” a dark band around the wall panels that make them ap- pear to float. I could say it had to do with Ellwood’s drive to simplify and make things less expensive. I could say I was influenced by the garage, and the references to umber that I found in his biography, the deep brown color I found peering out from under the peeling paint beside the kitchen door, and the very similar umber color that remained on the bathroom doorframe even after two coats of stripper. But basically I had a feeling, and I followed it, and because Keith was acting a little nervous that I might forget that feeling, I wrote down the percentages I came up with—of raw umber, burnt umber, lamp black, gray paint, gel stain and acrylic polyurethane. In the end, it just felt right, although I have to admit I might have felt a cold shadow pass over me as I first climbed the ladder and wiped the oily concoction on one of the fir beams. Ellwood went through a


rough spot in the mid-seventies, what we today might call a mid-life crisis. He split up with his wife Gloria. He lost a big commission. He closed up his architecture office, after some of his lead architects announced they were venturing out on their own. He married a beauty queen, moved to Italy, took up painting and started restoring an ancient villa. The modernist architect had become an old house restorer, like the rest of us. Ellwood died in 1992, at the


age of 70. Once he’d died, wife number three claimed she had in fact done a lot of the work on his paintings. And as for his final project, the restoration of a neighbor’s house in Italy—he never lived to see it complete. His fourth and youngest wife finished it herself. And so Craig Ellwood’s final building plans, true to form, to bear her name, not his.u


San Diego Uptown News | Sept. 30–Oct.13, 2011


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Original owners Chuck and Gerry Bobertz, circa 1956.


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