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A view of Mexico from the bathtub

Mel Taylor's home on Panorama Drive lot

The expensive solution: bridges from the street to the house, and a 60-foot rise from foundation to roofline.
The expensive solution: bridges from the street to the house, and a 60-foot rise from foundation to roofline.

It was the last undeveloped ocean view lot on La Mesa’s Panorama Drive, and the view was what made artist/designer Mel Taylor bite. The 7000+ square-foot home he nestled against the steep slope features decks and views from nearly every room, including the master bath, which lets you look across the Mexican border from your tub.

Mel Taylor, the man behind the walls and what hangs on them in The Gallery House.

His wife found the site online, at a price that made Taylor wonder if the listing might be a bit of undeleted internet detritus. Who finds half an acre for just $105,000 (down from its original list price of $209,000)? Recalls Taylor, “What I was told by the neighbors was that the previous owner was an older gentleman who used it as his private park. He had all these trees — I tried my damnedest not to cut down too many — and he had a little shed, and he’d come here with a book on a Sunday and sit out here all day reading. I remember negotiating past the trees, trying to catch the view — the further out from the street you went, the more view you had.”

He designed the modern house quickly, as he has done with all 15 of the houses he’s built — “in about an hour. I like Modern because it’s the easiest to construct, less ornate. I did a Craftsman house in Pasadena” — currently, the Point Loma High grad splits time between Pasadena and downtown — “and they call it Craftsman for a reason. My idea was to make a house that looks like something you feel is too nice to mess up but is comfortable at the same time.” On a more personal note, “it was designed as a way to display my art; I conceived the main living space as a gallery.”

But he never conceived it being so big. “I never try to fight a lot,” he explains. “I let the site talk to me. You get a more interesting home that way.” He knew he’d have to refine it after meeting with the city’s building department. He had no idea how much. “The highest retaining wall I could build was three feet, and the maximum driveway grade was three percent. There were architects before me whose plans got shot down.” The very expensive solution: bridges from the street to the house, and a 60-foot rise from foundation to roofline. “The house probably gained 30 feet in height,” and once the couple found themselves forced to expand, they went all out. Because this was to be the family home: Mom, Dad, their mothers, and their daughter.

And then, for personal reasons, that became impossible; the home is currently on the market for just under $2.5 million. Before they staged it for sale, they held an open house for those who had watched the construction through the nearby windows of their rather less Modern homes. One of them sent a text at day’s end: “Mel and Maria, thank you for today. After all our years of living here, we finally got to meet a lot of our neighbors that we didn’t know, because you provided all of us an opportunity to get together.”

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The expensive solution: bridges from the street to the house, and a 60-foot rise from foundation to roofline.
The expensive solution: bridges from the street to the house, and a 60-foot rise from foundation to roofline.

It was the last undeveloped ocean view lot on La Mesa’s Panorama Drive, and the view was what made artist/designer Mel Taylor bite. The 7000+ square-foot home he nestled against the steep slope features decks and views from nearly every room, including the master bath, which lets you look across the Mexican border from your tub.

Mel Taylor, the man behind the walls and what hangs on them in The Gallery House.

His wife found the site online, at a price that made Taylor wonder if the listing might be a bit of undeleted internet detritus. Who finds half an acre for just $105,000 (down from its original list price of $209,000)? Recalls Taylor, “What I was told by the neighbors was that the previous owner was an older gentleman who used it as his private park. He had all these trees — I tried my damnedest not to cut down too many — and he had a little shed, and he’d come here with a book on a Sunday and sit out here all day reading. I remember negotiating past the trees, trying to catch the view — the further out from the street you went, the more view you had.”

He designed the modern house quickly, as he has done with all 15 of the houses he’s built — “in about an hour. I like Modern because it’s the easiest to construct, less ornate. I did a Craftsman house in Pasadena” — currently, the Point Loma High grad splits time between Pasadena and downtown — “and they call it Craftsman for a reason. My idea was to make a house that looks like something you feel is too nice to mess up but is comfortable at the same time.” On a more personal note, “it was designed as a way to display my art; I conceived the main living space as a gallery.”

But he never conceived it being so big. “I never try to fight a lot,” he explains. “I let the site talk to me. You get a more interesting home that way.” He knew he’d have to refine it after meeting with the city’s building department. He had no idea how much. “The highest retaining wall I could build was three feet, and the maximum driveway grade was three percent. There were architects before me whose plans got shot down.” The very expensive solution: bridges from the street to the house, and a 60-foot rise from foundation to roofline. “The house probably gained 30 feet in height,” and once the couple found themselves forced to expand, they went all out. Because this was to be the family home: Mom, Dad, their mothers, and their daughter.

And then, for personal reasons, that became impossible; the home is currently on the market for just under $2.5 million. Before they staged it for sale, they held an open house for those who had watched the construction through the nearby windows of their rather less Modern homes. One of them sent a text at day’s end: “Mel and Maria, thank you for today. After all our years of living here, we finally got to meet a lot of our neighbors that we didn’t know, because you provided all of us an opportunity to get together.”

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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