Charles Miller and Tina Gulotta-Miller’s San Miguel home is a beautiful set of contradictions.
Modern in function, its inspiration emerged from the shaded arcade and frescoed chapel of Mission San Miguel Arcangel.
It was here that the couple’s modern mission style coalesced. It’s a seamless blend of “future-forward spaces and features” with “hacienda-style Spanish architecture,” Miller said.
The couple purchased their 6.5-acre property in December 2013 while living in Orange County, and spent seven years planning, assembling materials and planting trees.
During most of that time, Gulotta-Miller lived in an Airstream trailer onsite to get a feel for the land, with Miller making frequent visits.
Creativity runs deep in both. Miller is executive director of Studios on the Park in Paso Robles and Gulotta-Miller is an artist.
They won an award from the Highland Park Heritage Trust for the restoration of their previous 1905 Craftsman home.
Top priorities for their new home in San Miguel included creating a sense of place and a respect for history and the land.
Also involved were landscape architect Richard Delahanty of Templeton and structural engineer Michel Kalin of Morro Bay.
Gulotta-Miller took the lead on the interior design, assisted by Kohn who facilitated color and material selections.
Inspired by their visits to California missions as well as the Dana Adobe in Nipomo, their 2,750-square-foot home is situated around a center courtyard with a great room reminiscent of a mission hall and two wings.
One wing contains the master suite, and the other, three guest suites: one for personal guests, and two that can be used as vacation rentals.
The rental suites have private entries and can be locked off from the main house.
Mission architecture, with its single-level construction, means that the couple can age in place.
Other accessible features include kitchen storage that emphasizes lower cabinets and drawers, a roll-in shower in the master bathroom, and console bathroom sinks rather than enclosed cabinetry.
Sustainability was another priority. The house has solar panels, as well as 8-inch-thick exterior walls for insulation against the wide temperature swings of North County. A greywater system provides irrigation for their water-conscious landscaping.
Gulatta-Miller put her own spin on California Romantica, which blends California mission and Spanish colonial styles. Her interpretation combines European antiques with Western elements to invoke a sense of place.
Nearly two-thirds of the of furniture is antique or upcycled, most of it purchased exclusively for this home.
Gulotta-Miller is a resourceful antiques enthusiast who is as comfortable sourcing pieces on Craigslist and at garage sales as she is working with high-end dealers.
Her finds were stored in shipping containers onsite, which Kohn and Gulotta-Miller would routinely sift through.
“Every time we met, it felt like going on a treasure hunt,” Kohn said. “It was really fun to see how everything has fallen into place.”
The couple went to great lengths to assimilate those finds.
They purchased a large gilt mirror that once belonged to the Hotel del Coronado in San Diego and built their fireplace wall to accommodate it.
They fell in love with five antique earthenware sinks on VictorianDepot.com that were salvaged from a shuttered hotel in upstate New York. Undeterred by damage to the sinks’ original legs, they had new legs crafted from marble and incorporated them into all of their bathrooms.
Western elements are used sparingly, and with an updated sensibility.
Elk horns gifted from a friend were mounted by Central Coast Taxidermy in Bradley atop a resin skull replica and displayed in their great room.
The result is more aesthetically pleasing than simply mounting antlers on a wall, Gulotta-Miller said. “As a painter, it reminds me of a Georgia O’Keeffe.”
The romantic side of California Romantica is expressed in ornate pieces such as the Louis XIV bed in the guest suite and the 17th-century daybed in the living room, which is English but Spanish in style.
These lavish elements are tempered by interior architecture that is surprisingly modern, lacking moldings, casings and other embellishments.
Walls are a clean white and ceilings a soft gray. Windows are covered simply or not at all.
“If you remove the furniture, the home is contemporary and would work with any style,” Miller said.
The focal point of the interior is, in fact, not even inside the house. “We framed the house around the view,” Miller said.
The back of the structure is encased in 28 feet of glass. A set of pocket doors slide out of sight, creating a seamless transition to outdoor living spaces and bringing in sweeping views of the Estrella River, farmland and vineyards.
It is purposefully aligned with the windowed front doors so that the view is the first thing that greets every visitor.
Landscaping at the property began early.
The couple started planting native and Mediterranean-climate trees as early as 2014, including California sycamores and mature olive trees that give the landscaping “a sense of permanence,” Miller said.
Other trees, such as mature Arizona cypress, were planted by a previous property owner in the 1980s.
At the rear of the home, Blue Heron Pools of Paso Robles designed and installed an 18- by 34-foot swimming pool with resort-like features such as a tanning ledge with underwater umbrella insert, a cabana shade and a full-length ledge for swimmers to lounge on while taking in the view.
The landscaping is Tuscan in feel with an emphasis on water-wise, hardy plants that can survive North County temperature swings such as Mexican sage, rosemary, California lilac, paprika yarrow, California poppies and English and French lavender.
Even outdoors, antique and upcycled elements bring age and character to the home.
Circa-1920s Egyptian gates serve as privacy screens on a guest veranda.
Columns purchased on Craigslist add vertical interest to a guest pathway and driveway gates. The pool changing shed was built from live-edge lumber milled from fallen local cypress trees.
Construction on the home took 13 months, wrapping up in July 2021. The couple moved in immediately and began renting two of their guest suites via Airbnb in February.
The finished home is not just functional and efficient, but also a sensory delight for these two artists.
“We are enjoying how our new home integrates so well with our surroundings,” Miller said. “The changing light on the landscape, and play of light and shadow in our home makes each day feel like we are in a living painting.”
Be smart with materials. The Milers spent months researching materials and discovered that matching wall heights to standard lumber lengths reduced labor costs. They also purchased many materials at the start of construction to avoid supply chain issues.
Take your time. If possible, spend time on the property during multiple seasons before designing and building. Your final design will better match the needs of your location.
Enjoy the hunt. Great antiques can be found at antique stores, estate sales, consignment stores and even garage sales. If you take your time, you’ll find what you need and stay within your budget.