The palatial new La Jolla estate of Texas magnate Darwin Deason and his wife, Katerina, brings the South of France to the edge of the Pacific.
“We wanted it to feel like the French Riviera, like the Hôtel du Cap,” says Los Angeles-based designer Timothy Corrigan of the La Jolla residence he recently completed for Katerina and Darwin Deason. The couple, who call a four-story Dallas penthouse home, bought the property to be closer to Katerina’s mother, but they also wanted a spectacular, meticulously crafted California compound for their family—including Darwin’s grown children and grandchildren. The nearly 16,000-square-foot property is composed of the completely remodeled 12,000-square-foot main house, an entertaining pavilion with eight guest rooms (a teardown on the neighboring lot was purchased to make room), a marble-clad mosaic pool with his and hers changing rooms, terraces, an original 1920s boathouse-turned-bar and two private beaches. It was a monumental undertaking.
“The project was an evolution, and figuring out how to join the two sites was the greatest challenge,” recalls Drexel Patterson of San Diego’s Island Architects, who led the six-year effort with assistant and project manager Lisa Kriedeman (the team also recently completed Ann and Mitt Romney’s nearby home). “It’s one of the most encumbered properties on the coast of California—we were under incredible scrutiny,” he continues, explaining that the team faced environmental hurdles from the California Coastal Commission, and also wanted to be sensitive to the Kumeyaay Native American tribal community, who searched for burial sites and artifacts on the land for upward of a year.
About a year-and-a-half into the project, Patterson suggested the Deasons meet with Corrigan to discuss the interiors. “I was amazed he said yes,” says Katerina, who grew up in La Jolla. “I thought, ‘I’ve finally got this amazing designer to help me!’” Both Katerina and Darwin, the founder of Affiliated Computer Services (which was purchased by Xerox for $6.4 billion in 2010), were closely involved in all aspects of the decoration, right down to curtain measurements and the tiny Thassos marble tiles that line the pool. “I was interested in the look of Palm Beach mansions,” Katerina continues. “I showed Tim what I wanted and he said, ‘I can do that,’ but he took it to a whole other level.”
Newly christened Villa Pelagia (though locals call it the Sand Castle House because of its imposing size and beige facade), the estate is resplendent with Corrigan’s thoughtful touches: 18th-century carved dolphin sconces, clever wood paneling that balances asymmetrical rooms, and a coffered ceiling inset with hand-painted canvases depicting oceanic motifs. (The Deasons share an affinity for the sea and own a 205-foot luxury yacht.)
“It was always a well-known house,” says Corrigan of the historic property, but little did he know it would become a landmark. “Hundreds of people stop and take pictures!” adds Katerina. “Our blood, sweat and tears—and a whole lot of love—went into this house and we’re just so proud of it.”
“Giving a client the very best version of what they want is the ultimate success.”
“I feel lucky to work with people who cared so passionately,” says Corrigan, who is currently working on projects in London, Paris and the Middle East. “Giving a client the very best version of what they want is the ultimate success.”
Photography by ROGER DAVIES.
Written by MAILE PINGEL.