How an Architect Build an Entire House for One Man’s Porsche Collection
10 months ago
Most people think of the garage as a mundane necessity. Very few would consider it as important as the house itself, but Joerg Ineichen, a family therapist in San Diego and a collector of vintage Porsches, had a compelling reason for thinking just that. He likes to drive what he collects—fast, sporty cars—and “the idea of having them close is very special,” says Ineichen. To realize this idea, he turned to an architect who really got his obsession.
“I’ve always wanted to design a little house with a big garage,” Steven Harris says of the two-story home he created for Ineichen. At 2,500 square feet, it’s modest by today’s standards, though the garages (yes, that’s plural) are anything but; they, too, total 2,500 square feet. The project was particularly close to the New York–based architect’s heart because, like Ineichen, he’s a collector of vintage Porsches. He has about 30, stashed in cities from Denver to Dubrovnik. “I don’t like renting cars,” he says, only half in jest. Harris has driven a 50-year-old Porsche in a Beijing-to-Paris rally, and he recently drove a 356 coupe from Rio to Patagonia. Not surprisingly, it was at a car show that he met Ineichen, an encounter that ultimately produced this auto-centric house.
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In addition to the usual streetfront garage, which houses Ineichen’s “everyday” wheels (a 2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro and a 2006 Jeep Wrangler), a much larger garage one level below the house (reached from the street by a car elevator) acts as a kind of secret storeroom for his collection of pulse-stirring Porsches, including a blue 1957 Speedster, a 1992 964 RS in an eye-popping Rubystone red, and a silver 2004 Carrera GT. This garage— which has a back wall dotted with round windows that offer both copious daylight and a view of the city beyond—is as sleek as the house that sits above it and, for that matter, the classic cars within it.
But the cars, of course, are not the whole story. Ineichen wanted a house where he could entertain friends and family, and where he could take advantage of San Diego’s indoor-outdoor lifestyle. From the street, all you see is a stucco wall, spanning the width of the lot, punctuated by a simple entrance gate. The house (with the larger garage beneath it) sits at the back of the property, separated from the gate by a garden that has a 75-foot lap pool along one side. “You have to walk through the garden to get to the house, so you can’t help but see it,” says Harris, who designed it as an outdoor living space. Ineichen eats breakfast and dinner outdoors beneath one of two catalpa trees, and his home office overlooks the pool, in which he swims regularly—sometimes with his dogs, a Weimaraner and a pit bull.
The front door is meant to blend invisibly into the house’s stucco exterior, but when it’s open, you can see from the street right through the house to the city and the blue Pacific beyond. Streamlined aluminum louvers wrap around the second floor, ensuring privacy without blocking sunlight.
Inside, the living room, dining room, and open kitchen make up one large space that gets full benefit of the view out the back of the house. Each of the three bedrooms upstairs has its own bathroom and is small but comfortable.
“The house had to be understated. It’s my Swiss roots,” says Ineichen, who was raised in Lucerne and came to the U. S. 20 years ago. He wanted the living areas to seem spacious without being big, and modern but warm. The interiors were designed by Lucien Rees Roberts, who runs his own interior- and landscape-design firm in tandem with Harris’s business (the two are married). David Kelly, a partner in Rees Roberts’s firm, designed the garden. Ineichen was so in tune with Rees Roberts’s vision that the only change he made to the designer’s midcentury-modern-accented contemporary scheme, which included a cool color palette and a vintage Italian chandelier above the dining table, was to request a deeper sofa in the living room.
Harris’s projects range from the personal (such as his renovation of the A. Conger Goodyear House, a modernist landmark on Long Island, for the real estate developer Aby Rosen) to the public (the overhaul of Barneys stores in New York and Beverly Hills). But this was “a relative labor of love,” says the architect, who finally got to design a house in which the garage is the centerpiece, and for a client who shares his particular passion. “Like me,” Harris says of Ineichen, “he has only one car with four doors.”
This article appears in the F/W ’17 Big Black Book from Esquire. BUY IT!