At Home With Jeffrey Strauss
Posted January 31, 2013
The massive stainless steel-and-glass-door to Jeffrey Strauss’ hilltop home swings wide, and one is immediately captivated by the sweeping view of the North County coastline: the San Elijo lagoon and, just beyond, the beaches of Cardiff-by-the-Sea. The sun glints off the surf on this crisp winter’s day, as a red-tailed hawk soars lazily overhead. Pointing out the scenery, Strauss, the executive chef and owner of Pamplemousse Grille in Solana Beach, is clearly excited about his home, transformed after a seven-month renovation that maximized the views and re-shaped the floor plan. “This is the collaboration,” he says, “of a lot of friends.”
When Strauss bought the house eight years ago, the master bedroom was just off the entryway, and guests had to climb a flight of stairs to reach the second floor living room and kitchen — not the most efficient arrangement. With the help of Patrick Edinger of edingerArchitects, John Salbato of Pacific Coast Builders, and Paul Elston Masonry, Strauss gutted every room but his beloved wine cellar by Vintage Cellars. Now the foyer leads to a welcoming great room with 11-foot-high ceilings, rustic reclaimed teak wood floors, and a ledge stone quartzite wall. Kathryn Edwards, wife of retired football player Donnie Edwards (the couple are Strauss’ friends) helped with interior design. Over the dining room table, and throughout the house, are larger-than-life works by Sonoma County artist Rod Knutson, whose paintings of farm animals also hang in Pamplemousse. Strauss’ home is a veritable menagerie of Knutson’s art, including a two-story-tall giraffe in the foyer, monkeys, and an ostrich (along with some mean-looking Hells Angels.)
The adjoining kitchen has striking red custom cabinetry by Edinger’s son Jimmy — Strauss nixed beige as: “Too boring. I wanted it to pop.” Counters are topped with textured black “leather” granite, the sink is hammered copper, and a goose (the Pamplemousse logo) is etched in the stainless steel backsplash over the range. “I have three kitchens,” says Strauss with bemusement. “But I never cook at home.” Indeed, take a peek inside his refrigerator, and you’ll find nothing solid, but plenty of liquid refreshments: microbrews, soda, and other beverages for friends who drop in frequently to watch Sunday football games and other sporting events on one of the three screens in his TV room. “I love football,” he explains. “I can’t commit to one game.” In the freezer, Strauss has a stash of foie gras and icy cold vodka, what you’d expect from an accomplished chef, and something you wouldn’t: a carton of Eggo waffles left behind by friends. In truth, Strauss does cook at home: but it’s a communal effort — friends pitching in together.
The house is the perfect place for entertaining: the great room opens, through stacking bi-fold doors, onto a multi-level deck paved with slate. On the first level, there’s a dining pavilion. Steps lead to the main terrace, with a curved marble-topped bar housing an outdoor kitchen with a barbeque and pizza oven. Down a few more steps you’ll find a lounging area with a sectional piled with pillows, and a fire pit flanked by comfortable chairs. In the “powder” room, guests can watch cheeky video clips, starring Strauss’s friends, via a motion-activated TV that plays a loop of pre-recorded videos.
Upstairs, the master bedroom also takes advantage of the view through French doors that open onto a deck with a hot tub. The suite is furnished with end tables from Restoration Hardware and rustic finds from Strauss’ travels. In the master bath, a two-way mirror over the custom walnut cabinets conceals a 40-inch LED TV. With the press of a remote, Strauss “conjures” up a television show that appears, as if by magic, in the mirror. (The system was designed and installed by Michael Milot and James Perrott of CES, Consumer Electronics Specialists.) A study adjoining the bedroom is filled with mementos and photos of friends: Drew Brees, Donnie Edwards, Sugar Ray Leonard, jockeys Chris McCarron and Alex Solis. There’s also a photo of the late Ronald Reagan, one of the seven presidents for whom Strauss has cooked.
Strauss, known for his generous support of many philanthropic causes including Casa de Amparo, the San Diego Humane Society, Salk Institute, and Walden Family Services, to name just a few, feels fortunate to be able to give back. “People come to me and thank me for what I’ve done for the community,” says Strauss, “but at the end of the day, it’s the community that has done so much for me. Andrea Naversen
Photography by Vincent Knakal