There's an Amazing Love Story Behind This San Diego Home

Rule-breaking designer meets big-name architect. Here’s what happens next...

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William Abranowicz
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McCormick at home
William Abranowicz

There’s nothing ordinary about the San Diego home of designer Kathleen McCormick. The windows alone cover such wide swaths of its exterior that, from a distance, the 2,600-square-foot structure appears to be made almost entirely of glass. It was intentional: Situated on what was once the side yard of a turn-of-the-20th-century Victorian property, the home—designed by McCormick herself—was meant to commingle with the towering eucalyptus trees and lush plant life of the surrounding hillside.

“I care so much about connectedness to nature,” says the designer. “From every space inside, I wanted to be able to see through the house to the garden.” Few would consider entire walls of glass a desirable feature in a home, but McCormick has built a life and career around defying convention. One of the earliest graduates of San Diego State University’s Environmental Design program, she founded a design consultancy in 1976 and met the architect Ted Smith not long after. She would later become his business partner at Smith and Others Architects. (Their latest project, a boutique hotel called ABpòpa Hillcrest, opens in September.)

The two would become life partners as well, though they have never married and prefer to live in different homes.

“We like living separately because we’re both artists, and we’re both sort of nuts,” McCormick says. “It’s wonderful. We always have things to talk about.” It was Smith who helped McCormick build the house once she completed a design plan. “It’s very personal to my needs,” she explains. A veranda-like main floor maximizes the flow of light from its many windows. And when she needs privacy, automatic shades descend: “You can see the shadows of the trees waving from inside,” McCormick says. The home has a single bedroom and two work rooms—one where she makes furniture and paintings (the piece beside the dining table is her own), and an office for working on architecture projects. Just don’t ask her to pick a favorite place in the house.

“I love all of them!” McCormick says. “When you design a home, all spaces should be good.”


Dining area

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William Abranowicz

McCormick and her partner, Ted Smith, built this African- mahogany dining table themselves.


Bedroom

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William Abranowicz

Wool carpeting and luxe textiles soften all the glass and steel. Headboard: Eloli, Manuel Canovas.


Office

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William Abranowicz

A vintage desk is used for McCormick’s work with Smith and Others Architects.


Living Room

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William Abranowicz

Custom sofas (designed by Kathleen McCormick and covered in Osborne & Little’s Skye linen) live alongside a TV table from the designer’s childhood, repurposed here as a coffee table.


Kitchen

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William Abranowicz

Nature is reflected in each carefully selected color: forest green cabinetry and sea blue frosted glass in the kitchen.


Exterior

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William Abranowicz

The cantilevered foundation and concrete steps are surrounded by Eucalyptus trees, Agave Attenuata, and jade plants.


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