Historic Coronado Home Renovation Integrates Architectural Lighting While Preserving its 1920s Character

September 19, 2022 Rachael J Richards

One of the most famous homes in Coronado Island, California, was expanded and restored, with particular attention paid to its historical past.  

Paul Schatz, principal at IDI Design Team of Interior Design Imports, was hired as interior architect and interior designer of the massive remodel for his expertise in historic restorations. The current interior did not suit the owners’ lifestyles, and they were looking for a complete transformation. However, local ordinances dictated that the exterior of this 1920s residence had to be preserved. Both Schatz and the homeowners were concerned about a potential disconnect with the house’s history as one moves from outdoors in. 

“Our principal objective was to have the house feel that everything we did, including lighting, was in the original construction," said Schatz.  

Lighting was a critical element in the project. Traditional Mediterranean-style homes tend to be dark, with the need to light many rooms during the day. While it was straightforward to introduce decorative light fixtures that suited the space, architectural lighting was not available in the 1920s.  

"It was essential that the architectural lighting didn't modernize the house," Schatz said. "It needed to be therewithout being there – with absolutely no light pollution.” 

Schatz utilized Aculux® 2” (AX2) and Aculux 3” (AX3) adjustable downlights throughout the home. The luminaires seamlessly blend with the designs of the historic Spanish colonial decorative fixtures specifically fabricated for the project. It was this integration of old and new that contributed to the success of the overall lighting design. 

The main floor includes sections of the original home and new additions. The entry foyer, for example, was kept intact, except for the new architectural lighting. AX2 adjustable pinhole luminaires provide ambient lighting in the space, and the flangeless fixture is a minimal presence in the solid wood ceiling. An adjacent dining room, one of the new additions to the house, features a ceiling recreated to match the foyer, also with AX2 downlights. 

One of the more unusual additions to the home was the creation of a 7,000 sq. ft. basement, extremely rare for a beach-adjacent property. Schatz explained that the space is essentially below sea level, so it is designed like a boat to be tightly sealed.  

The ceilings in the new basement are works of art unto themselves. A central lounge area appears to have a brick ceiling. However, the "bricks" were cut from reclaimed roof tiles sourced from England. AX2 fixtures in this space are also flangeless to ensure they do not detract from this extraordinary surface. 

One of the showpiece spaces in the basement is the new home theater. The homeowner is a Star Wars fan, so the theater showcases his collection of replica characters and helmets and various props from movie sets. The ceiling in this space is fascinating, covered in fabric panels that are hand-painted or hand-screened.  

“We wanted a minimum amount of lighting coming out of the ceiling,” Schatz said. “The flangeless AX2 downlights provide excellent ambient illumination, yet they are hidden and unassuming. At no point do they interrupt the ceiling or the architecture.” 

The full-sized characters’ niches are primarily lit with integrated LED tape lights. Additionally, adjacent AX2 pinhole fixtures in the soffit are adjusted to provide additional illumination down to the base of each niche. 

The home's second floor was completely overhauled, with rooms re-arranged or expanded. In one instance, a garden-view bedroom and ocean-view bathroom were reversed. Utilizing the former attic space, Schatz and his team were able to raise or re-shape the ceilings in most rooms. With new heights ranging from 12 feet to 16 feet, bedrooms and bathrooms on this level are illuminated with Aculux AX3 3" adjustable flanged downlights.  

An original garage on the property was converted to a guesthouse. Flanged AX3 3” slot pinhole downlights provide ambient illumination in all rooms.  

Higher ceilings were one of the factors that prompted Schatz to select AX3 downlights in these areas. Greater lumen output and precise beam distribution options for these high-performing luminaires meant fewer fixtures were required to effectively illuminate each space. 

All Aculux downlights in the renovated home were specified to have a color temperature of 3000K. Schatz explained that this was different from the standard 2700K he would typically select for a residential setting. However, the homeowner requested a slightly whiter light in areas showcasing his artwork, so Schatz used 3000K throughout the home to maintain consistency. 

Schatz is very enthusiastic about the final lighting design. He is working with his client on another home and anticipates that Aculux downlights will also be selected for this project. 

"I find with Aculux that you get less light pollution from its architectural downlights, which results in very quiet ceilings,” concluded Schatz. “And the fixtures have a higher degree of adjustability than other luminaires. This is really important when you design the original plan for fixture locations and again when you are making final adjustments onsite. It just streamlines the process for everyone, including the electricians. 

Project Name: Private Residence 
Location: Coronado Island, California, USA 
Interior Architecture/Interior Design/Lighting Design: Interior Design Imports 
Agent: San Diego Lighting Associates 
Completed: 2020 
Photographer: Damon Casarez

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