503 el cortez

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Sasha Favelukis (Partner of Sequoian Hard Money Lenders) came to DBRDS in late 2012 with a project in the Historic El Cortez building in downtown San Diego. Sasha had recently purchased a 600+sqft 1 bedroom + 1 bathroom condominium located on the north-west corner of the building on the 5th floor. With fantastic views across downtown towards the San Diego bay & an overwhelming ‘beige on beige’ existing color scheme we set about measuring the space for the redesign – you can see below the photos of the space as it was when we first saw it.



Built in 1927 the El Cortez building was originally designed as an ‘apartment hotel’ containing 85 hotel rooms & 32 apartments. It was designed by Architects Albert R. Walker and Percy Eisen & was the tallest building in San Diego at the time & over the years it has accommodated some pretty prestigious guests from U.S. Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, Lyndon B. Johnson, & Gerald Ford, as well as singers Bing Crosby & Elvis Presley.


In the 90’s as local developers began to plan the run down buildings renovations, this particular condo was created by combining 2 hotel rooms into 1 & this is the configuration in which we had to work with. As with most interior remodels in condominium buildings we were limited to maintaing the existing plumbing locations (kitchen & bathroom) & so from a planning view we simply removed a couple of walls to increase the feeling of space in this efficiently planned unit & to open up the bedroom to the living space a little better improving the flow of areas, sharing of natural light & cross-flow ventilation.



Our philosophy for this redesign was very simple; we wanted to

  • improve the flow of the space – we achieve this by demolishing the interior non-loadbearing kitchen side wall & by relocating the entry into the bedroom to align off the entry
  • brighten the condo by introducing white as a base color with some textural elements – we achieve this by contrasting a dark stain bamboo flooring with a white oak kitchen & linear bench element, and by adding softness to the space through shear draperies
  • to maximize storage – we achieve this by designing a 3′ deep kitchen which allows for double the length of cabinet & drawer space to compensate for the efficient ‘Australian style’ kitchen design, as well as designing a custom linear bench which runs the length of the kitchen, dining & living space for additional storage & seating. These were built by the Pacific Design & Construction carpentry team with everything being overseen by site manager Dave

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Above is a photo also of the project team with Ivan & myself on the left, Sasha (client) on the back right & Alan Loghman of Pacific Design & Construction at the front right.

Always wanting to collaborate with other local creatives, we engaged Mike McAllister & team from HOLD IT HOME to provide the appropriate furnishings & they did a great job as always! We also collaborated with local Gaslamp Quarter lighting experts Tim & the team at Urban Lighting to source our lighting selections, as well as Pacific Drapery from North Park for the window furnishings.

This condo has now been placed on the market – for enquiries you can contact Brian Wood with the Damico Realty Group who can be contacted here should you wish to learn about the sale.

Last but not least, we again engaged our great friend Darren Bradley to photograph the space for us as only he can, I think you will agree he did a fantastic job capturing the remodel, especially with the help of our IT geek & model, Ms Heather Eves (principal of I.T. Heroes).

All photographs of the final product are © Darren Bradley Photography & DBRDS

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  1. ed

    i’m impressed with the floors, very nice look…the low counter is great, the little notch at the end with the mirror gives the impression of more space…the space is efficient & bright…

  2. Very nice! You’ve made the space feel much larger than just 600 SF. The color and material palettes are very handsome. It will be a special home for some fortunate Cortez Hillian.

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