Architect John Ike Designs A Site Perfect ADU In Southern California


Nestled on a lush, terraced hillside, rich with citrus and olive trees, architect John Ike designed a modern Accessible Dwelling Unit for his property in San Diego. The ADU was planned to serve as a standalone complement to the circa 1947 main house that rests at the top of the sloped landscape.

A partner at Ike Kligerman Barkley, Ike designed the 800-square-foot unit to function as a complete living space consisting of a central living and dining area flanked by two pavilions – one for the kitchen and laundry and a second for the bedroom and bath. Originally planned as a covered outdoor space, the architect decided during construction that enclosing it would create a more year-round residence. The addition of locally fabricated, large sliding aluminum doors to the structure brought that vision to reality.


As with the main house, the doors to the ADU slide wide open rendering the outdoor space a natural continuation of the indoor space. In fact, the bamboo flooring that grounds the interior continues unbroken outside to the deck, one of the architect’s favorite spots to enjoy. “It’s so great to gaze up to that hillside above with the citrus trees and the olives,” Ike says of the peaceful outdoor seating area. “The climate is so great, and there’s fantastic bird life. You have a kind of natural soundtrack that’s really terrific.”

Interior details in both the architecture and the assortment of furnishings reflect the main house as well, with Scandinavian modern influences prevalent throughout. The central living and dining space enjoys a higher ceiling than the rooms to either side of it, which Ike notes lends the space a grander sensibility. “Architecturally, there’s a hierarchy between the subservient boxes and the main space they service,” he explains, noting the raised ceiling in the main area not only adds to the enjoyment of the space but renders it better proportioned within the overall structure as well.


From every angle, the ADU is at one with its surroundings, a nod to both the ethos of modernism and the beauty of the property itself. Pale blue ceilings mimic the sky, transom windows and sliding doors usher in sunlight and fresh air, organic materials and forms complement the enveloping natural environment, and a green roof allows the unit to blend in with the hillside, leaving the view from above unblemished.

“It’s a magical place,” Ike says of the property overall, noting when people walk in the front door of the main house, they’re drawn “like moths to the light” through the home and out to the deck, the terraced hillside, and the sweeping view. “It’s all very episodic in its unveiling,” the architect explains. “And it just keeps going. There’s the property and then there’s downtown San Diego beyond. On clear days you can see Tijuana and on clearer days, you see the mountain range to the east. In the winter, you can see snow on the mountains when it’s 60 degrees at the house. It’s just magical.”

Photography by Richard Powers.

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