About 35 miles northeast of San Diego, in the Santa Maria Valley, sits the unincorporated rural enclave known as Ramona. Along with a fair number of wineries and a town center that dates back to the 1880s, the out-of-the-way community also boasts a few interesting examples of late-midcentury-modernist architecture — probably none more interesting than this singular creation designed by architect Sim Bruce Richards in 1980.
Born in Talequah, Oklahoma, in 1908, Richards started his formal architectural training at U.C. Berkeley’s School of Architecture, but lasted only a few weeks before switching his focus to fine art and textiles. With his roommate and another friend, Richards began making rugs out of scraps of cloth salvaged from such items as old corduroy bathrobes purchased at Goodwill. These humble scraps of fabric would prove to be instrumental to Richards’ architectural career: several rugs they were woven into wound up being purchased by a high-end San Francisco interior designer, who hosted a tea for Frank Lloyd Wright when he came to San Francisco to deliver a lecture. Upon seeing the rugs, Wright asked to meet the artists behind them. The meeting ultimately led to an invitation to Wright’s revered Taliesin communes, and a two-year apprenticeship.
Following his Taliesin experience, Richards moved to San Diego, where he operated a solo architectural practice for four decades, building more than 300 single-family residences, mostly composed of wood. Many of these projects were designed in collaboration with noted San Diego sculptor James Hubbell and celebrated ceramist Rhoda LeBlanc Lopez, including this Ramona residence.
Located at the end of a private road in the San Diego Country Estates planned community, the house was commissioned by Lewis Weinberg, a Chicago-born art collector and businessman who made his fortune manufacturing gaskets, and blew some of his gasket$$ on a 50-acre sculpture garden in Ramona called Sho-En that was open to the public between 1990 and 1994.
Like the rugs that caught Frank Lloyd Wright’s eye, the Weinberg residence is a bespoke tapestry of materials and influences, masterfully interwoven to create something unique. Sited atop a ridge, it features a roofline that echoes the ridgetop’s peaks and valleys. An artsy vibe reminiscent of Big Sur is established at the elaborately carved front gates, continuing with the elaborately carved front door with dramatic sculptural handle, and further reinforced by the colorful mosaic tile and stained-glass panels and light fixtures scattered throughout the 3,257-square-foot home.
Counterbalancing the more whimsical flourishes are plain-spoken, solidly built features typically seen in a Pasadena Arts & Crafts bungalow, combined with the open-plan, lofty beamed ceilings, skylights and ample glass walls favored by midcentury modernists.
Among the four-bedroom, three-bath home’s exterior amenities are a swimming pool with spa, a sculpture garden designed by acclaimed landscape architect Frank Koge featuring a multitude of Japanese black pines, and a stocked koi pond. Per online marketing material, the 1.52-acre property has a natural spring that supplies both drinking water and irrigation, rooftop solar panels, and on-site propane.