Yosemite Modern in Southern California

Fallbrook, California

When Lori and Bill Atkins went hunting for the perfect house, they instead found the perfect land. Exploring the only remaining lot on one of the highest hills in Fallbrook, rising 1,700 feet from the coast, they fell in love with its stunning views of southern California.

“We were immediately enraptured with the property. From our vantage point, we can see the ocean, the boats, even the city lights,” says Lori. “It’s just beautiful, especially at night.”

This lush estate boasts a 4-acre avocado grove and three gardens: a rose garden showcases multi-hued roses, and hydrangea and gardenia gardens add vibrant color. Tend to your own landscape with our efficient Garden Tools.

Lori and Bill knew right away that they wanted to construct their dream home here. The only catch? Every builder they contacted turned them down. Given the steepness of the hill and the rocky terrain, the Atkins’ new lot proved challenging at best. Many contractors claimed it would be impossible to build a home there. In fact, it would be eight long years before construction would finally commence.

Bill, a physical therapist, mentioned their predicament to one of his clients, Jeff Brand. A general contractor, Brand asked to see the lot. “He looked at our property and said, ‘I can do this!’ No one else would touch it,” Lori says. “And Jeff used to build dams and bridges, so we knew our house would really be fortified if we went with him.”

Lori and Bill were already familiar with Brand’s work – he previously built the Riverview Evangelical Free Church in neighboring Bonsall, which the Atkins family used to attend.”

In addition to the steepness of the property, red clay and scattered boulders made the land even more difficult to work with. Brand’s construction team had to use dynamite to remove several large boulders on the property. Then they drilled holes to put in a solid foundation, consisting of 8-feet-by-4-feet steel-reinforced concrete footings anchored into the rock. Two 40-foot structural steel brace frames in the front of the house had to be pre-fabricated and set into place by a crane. These frames ensure the home’s sturdiness, as do the all-wood frames in the living and Great Rooms.

The Atkinses also worked with Don Sprankles, a leading southern California design engineer, to bring their vision to life. Once the construction team finished solidifying the foundation, building proceeded according to plan. The family was able to move into their brand-new home in July of 2000, less than two years after starting the project.

A substantial hearth constructed of river rock and select Douglas fir beams feature prominently in the Great Room. Update your fireplace with elegant Hearth Essentials.


Lori and Bill’s previous house was also in Fallbrook, just a few miles away from their new land. With three growing children (Andrew, 19; Aaron, 16; and Lauren, 7), they’d found themselves on the lookout for a bigger space, and saw possibilities in the hilltop lot they’d so quickly come to adore. During the several years it took to find a construction team willing to build on their land, Bill would often come to visit the property, exploring the acreage and contemplating what style of home would best suit his family.

“My husband would sit on the property and envision how we wanted our house to be,” says Lori. “The layout of the land seemed to perfectly prescribe a home in the style we finally chose.”

It didn’t take Bill long to determine the type of home that would serve the family’s needs while meshing well with the terrain. Lori describes their chosen style as “Yosemite Modern” with a touch of Tahoe. It is mainly constructed of cedar wood and river rock – smooth, round stones that look as if they were honed at the bottom of a riverbed. The exterior of the Atkins’ home features a European Auburn roof, tiled in a mix of light gray, dark gray, and light black. The front of the home is covered in cedar siding, and the back, which faces west, is stucco. Other outdoor charms include a river rock chimney and a 700-foot-long driveway constructed of concrete with exposed aggregate accents.

Since the Atkins family lived right down the street from the building site, the couple would often stop by to watch the progress on their new house. Lori maintains the building process was exciting, but is quick to stress the importance of having a firm grasp on exactly what you want.

“As you’re going in [to the building process], you’ll get asked a lot of questions that you need to be prepared to answer for every little detail,” Lori warns. “You can’t make it up as you go.” She flipped through magazines and tore out pictures to get ideas while Bill claimed to have the grand plan “all in his head.”

“Laying in bed at night, we can see the twinkling lights of Fallbrook,” says Lori. “It’s a beautiful way to end each day.” Explore more plush boudoir accessories and bedroom linens in our deluxe collection of Bed & Bath Essentials.


The Atkinses describe their completed floor plan as a tranquil, cliffside retreat. The open entry features hardwood floors that impart a modern elegance. Nearby on the main level, the Atkins’ master suite boasts a grand vaulted coffered ceiling. The room’s perimeter lighting was designed to be both reflected and concealed, so at night the ceiling takes on a glowing aurora. This warm indoor illumination is controlled by a dimmer, which creates a beautiful effect, Lori says.

An intimate seating alcove tucked off to the side of Bill and Lori’s bedroom boasts large windows that oversee the city lights of Fallbrook. “I didn’t have to hang many pictures in our master bedroom – the great view is enough,” Lori points out. An oversized walk-in closet provides ample space for clothes and accessories.

In the travertine bathroom, the Atkinses installed a Jacuzzi™ bathtub and, in a nod to modern design, a doorless shower, intelligently configured so that the shower walls stop the water spray without requiring fixed doors.

Occupying the next room is a home office, used by all family members as a secluded space for working and studying. Further down the hall, a separate guest suite accommodates a steady flow of visiting friends and family.

But it’s the kitchen and neighboring sunken Great Room that are the focal points of this floor. In these high-traffic rooms, the family gathers to celebrate holidays and occasions, to watch television, and to enjoy one another’s company. “We have a really big island in the kitchen and the Great Room is right there. I wanted one big room: I like everyone to be together,” Lori says.

At the heart of the space is a substantial hearth constructed of river rock. The walls are hand-plastered in a Santa Barbara finish, which features an irregular textured look reminiscent of Spanish adobe-style buildings found in the historic areas of Santa Barbara.

With its 18-foot-high, cathedral-style ceilings, the Great Room makes exceptional use of open-beam construction. The lofty beams, a generous 18 inches wide, are made of select Douglas fir that has been sandblasted to highlight the grain in the wood and deepen the texture of the sturdy beams. The soaring ceiling heights are one reason Lori loves Frontgate’s telescoping duster set. “Since I have 18-foot ceilings, the telescoping duster makes it easy to clean all my ceilings, window frames, ceiling fans… everything.”

Floor-to-ceiling windows are another focal point of this room, which faces west so the family can enjoy stunning sunsets and other spectacular sights. “You can see storms blow in and out, while you’re safe inside. At night, we watch the falling stars. In the morning we watch the fog roll in from the ocean – and since we’re above it, it looks like snow.”

The Grand Dining Room features an oversized bay window jutting out over the mountainside. Discover luxurious furniture, lighting, and more in our Furnishings & Décor collection.

The family can also enjoy these majestic views from the Grand Dining Room, which features an oversized bay window jutting out over the mountainside. Some of Lori’s cherished pieces in the Great Room and dining room include a Story & Clark black baby grand piano and an 18th-century Girandole, an old-fashioned, 35″-high crystal chandelier that gracefully rests on the dining room table instead of hanging from the ceiling. “I actually got that off eBay, and it came from Uruguay. You can’t find them anywhere, and I love it.”

She also has three other hanging crystal chandeliers: over the entryway, in the dining room, and crowning a spiral staircase. An oversized King’s Chair, designed by renowned California-based interior designer Marge Carson, reigns in the family room. In the same lavish room, an inlaid coffee table is topped with glass to showcase the intricate ironwork below.

A collector of floral oil paintings and jeweled picture frames, Lori is continually hanging and relocating wall décor. For this purpose, one of her favorite Frontgate products is the 12-foot Aluminum Safety Ladder. “It’s so light that I can carry it myself around the house. I use it to hang my picture frames and also to decorate my Christmas tree.”

The state-of-the-art, four-car garage is a favorite space of Bill and son Andrew. Both die-hard automobile enthusiasts, they spend much of their time making small car repairs and larger renovations in this high-tech haven. A few years ago, the pair completely rebuilt a 1967 Mustang.

When planning the garage’s layout, Bill insisted on 12-foot-high ceilings to accommodate an Auto Lift system, which raises vehicles up to 10,000 pounds. The machine is the same as those used in professional auto shops, and makes it easier for hobbyists like Bill and Andrew to access the underside of their automobiles. After years of having to roll underneath cars to assess problems or make repairs, Bill now has his dream garage.


In the Great Room, a grand spiral staircase leads to the kids’ area of the home. The main playroom has a ping-pong table, television, Xbox gaming system, and plenty of other indoor recreational games and activities to keep the children busy during rainy days.

“I like to have the kids close by, and we love having all their friends over. The downstairs is the kids’ area, so we’re accessible but not right in the middle of what they’re doing.”

“I like to have the kids close by, and we love having all their friends over.”

Flanking the playroom are the children’s bedrooms and attached baths. Andrew and Aaron share one extra-large room; their beds are on either side, and they each have their own closet. A bookshelf and desk stand in the center. Lauren has her own bedroom on the opposite side, complete with a private bathroom.

An attached gym — used by the entire family — holds free weights, treadmills, a LifeCycle®, and additional exercise equipment. A large sliding glass door separates the playroom from a deluxe spa, just steps away.


The Atkinses spend a great deal of time in their vanishing-edge pool. The 30,000-gallon, 40-feet-by-20-feet pool offers plenty of room for the kids and their friends to swim and enjoy water games. Another of Lori’s favorite Frontgate items is a poolside towel holder, which provides a handsome way to hang beach/pool towels up to dry.

She’s also looking forward to purchasing the Outdoor Column Wastecan, which she feels will coordinate better with her outdoor décor than a plastic trashcan ever could.

“That’s why I like Frontgate; they offer unusual items that you can’t find anywhere else, and they cater to homes with different needs. Frontgate gives you a look that keeps the richness of your home intact.”

For nighttime soirées, a built-in firepit within the family’s 800-square-foot deck provides warmth against chilly, hilltop winds. “We do a lot of entertaining with the kids, their friends, and friends’ parents,” Lori points out. “My husband coaches football, so we’ll often have the team over for barbecues.” The entertainment deck surrounds the top floor, serving as a wonderful place to unwind after a hectic day, appreciate the view, and enjoy a sunset dinner. A built-in grill island, which includes two pot burners, a high-quality fridge, and kitchen sink, stands near the pool to make it easy for the family to prepare crowd-pleasing outdoor dinners.

Active visitors can enjoy the poolside putting green and basketball court. “We really created this house for the kids. It’s great to have a home where all of their friends can come over and have lots of things to do.”

Lori planned the landscaping around her favorite color, purple. Flowers include Lantana, Plumbago, and Geraniums. One retaining wall doubles as a planter, which she filled with purple cascading shrub roses. The grounds also feature three gardens: a rose garden showcases lush, multi-hued roses, and hydrangea and gardenia gardens add vibrant color.

“Don't be surprised if building takes longer than you think, but enjoy the process - when it's all over, you will love your home.”

The family also planted 400 avocado trees in an intimate grove on their land. Being the avocado capital of the world, Fallbrook’s coastal environment is especially conducive to growing these lush trees. Plus, Bill grew up on a nursery that sold plants and avocadoes, so he knows the ins and outs of growing the fruit.

“This is the second year we’ve had the trees, and Bill says we might be able to harvest them this year,” says Lori. “We might get up to 10,000 avocadoes this season.” The family plans to sell the avocadoes to a packing company for wholesale re-selling.

Another unique feature of the house is a deluxe, 2,000-square-foot dog house, designed exclusively for the family’s two American Bulldogs. Featuring a concrete floor and its own spacious dirt-and-gravel backyard, this plush pet home is enclosed with a chain link fence and topped with Quick Covers to keep the dogs dry in inclement weather. “It’s built like a house; it’s a great place for them to live, and is very safe. They’re great guard dogs, and also good family dogs.” Lori plans to breed the dogs later this summer.

The Atkinses thoroughly enjoy their home with its beautiful views, and take full advantage of the sunny, southern California weather by spending most of their time outdoors. “We really enjoy being outside. Our home is high on the hill and very tranquil. Before every dance, the kids always come here to take pictures. We often have our friends over in the spa, and I recently threw a 50th birthday party for my husband, at sunset.”

Overall, Lori reflects back on the building process with fondness. She concedes that “everything was overboard because of the property,” noting that the family was charged extra fees to accomplish many tasks. For instance, “the trucks carrying concrete for the house’s foundation had to drive backwards up the last mile of the driveway to avoid slipping down the hill.”

Also, many building materials were simply dropped off at the bottom of the hill and hauled up by hand, or with the help of heavy equipment. It was feared some heavy equipment would topple over, and the extremely steep grade presented danger from falling rocks. But through all the hardships, Lori agrees it was well worth it.

She advises, “Don’t be surprised if building takes longer than you think, but enjoy the process – when it’s all over, even through many headaches, you will love your home.”

At the end of building, the Atkinses went on vacation. Brand worked hard to finalize the home so they could move in immediately upon return. The day they were due back, Brand turned all the lights on in the home to create a sparkling effect.

“It felt like one of the greatest moments in our life. From the bottom of the hill, the house looked spectacular – we couldn’t believe we were going to go live in it.”

As for furnishing the new home, Lori says it’s an exciting process, and one that’s ongoing. Most of their old furniture was sold with the previous house, so she got to work with an almost-clean slate. She planned a new color scheme and picked a few pieces for specific rooms in the new house, and says there are still some ideas she’s working on. She says this house has “a different feel all together” from their previous home.

And now that the Atkinses are living in their custom-built home, they appreciate all they have on a daily basis. “Laying in bed at night, we can see the twinkling lights of Fallbrook,” says Lori. “It’s a beautiful way to end each day.”

Home Highlights

COMPLETED: November 1998 to July 2000

HOME SITE: 5 acres atop one of the highest hills in Fallbrook, CA, the Avocado Capital of the World. Fallbrook is nestled between Los Angeles and San Diego, 10 miles from the Pacific Ocean.

STYLE: In what the homeowner dubs a “Yosemite Modern” style, the home emanates a warm and inviting mountainside persona with cedar wood and rock construction throughout.

LIVING SPACE: 4,900 square feet indoors including a great room, kitchen and master suite on the second floor, and three separate bedrooms downstairs; plus 3,000 square feet of outdoor living space including an 800-square-foot deck with a deluxe firepit, a built-in grill island near the vanishing edge pool, a putting green and a half basketball court that is 30 feet wide by 40 feet long, totaling 1,200 square feet

UNIQUE FEATURES: Floor-to-ceiling windows in the Great Room; a spiral staircase connecting the two floors; a putting green, basketball court, cliffside vanishing pool, and the family’s 4-acre avocado grove with 400 avocado trees.