At Home With Patty & Marc Brutten

Once known as the “Pink Lady,” the historic Canfield-Wright House was completed in 1912 for oil tycoon Charles A. Canfield. She now has a fresh coat of sunny yellow paint, marine blue awnings, and a new family in residence, Marc and Patty Brutten, real estate investors and philanthropists. “The timing was just right,” says Patty, speaking on their patio overlooking the Pacific. “We were becoming empty nesters. And our friend and real estate agent Lisa Schoelen said, ‘You know, there’s a cool house in Del Mar. You should look at it.’”

Patty and Marc Brutten

Patty and Marc Brutten

“Cool,” of course, was an understatement. The 10,000-square-foot house is on the National Register of Historic Places, and just steps from the village and beaches of Del Mar. “It was a blue day,” Patty recalls, upon seeing the house for the first time. “The views were so breathtaking.”

The backyard, with its brick-paved pool and expansive areas for entertaining, offers ocean views

The backyard, with its brick-paved pool and expansive areas for entertaining, offers ocean views

The Bruttens have spent the past two years updating the Mission/Revival house with the help of interior designer Warren Sheets, known for his work at the Fairmont Grand Del Mar, among other projects. “It’s more sophisticated than a beach cottage,” says Patty. “We tried to make it more casual and livable, but dressy, too.” They also wanted room for their contemporary art collection — mainly abstract expressionist works. (That proved to be challenging: the traditional wainscoted walls weren’t big enough for large format works.) “You would think we would pick a big, modern, contemporary house,” Patty reflects, “but this house is so warm and family-friendly and has so much character.” As if on cue, the couple’s two dogs chase each other around the pool: Mosley, a Greater Swiss mountain dog, and Snoopy, the Jack Russell “terrorist,” as they call him.
The Bruttens, who love to entertain, added a brick patio, limestone coping around the pool, and a poolside trellis for alfresco dining. A rock-lined fire pit on the terrace provides warmth on chilly summer nights. They also renovated the outdoor kitchen with white cabinets and a gray granite island, where the grill is big enough to cook for a crowd. There is also a garden off the morning room/kitchen with fruit trees, raised beds, and even chickens. The result of the Bruttens’ efforts is a fresh, modern look that stays true to the home’s historic roots.

The "fire terrace" is a favorite place to relax and entertain

The “fire terrace” is a favorite place to relax and entertain

Now more than a century old, the house was a second home for Canfield, who struck it very rich when he and business partner Edward L. Doheny drilled the first successful gusher in Los Angeles, and later, in Mexico. There was more money to be made in real estate. Canfield formed land development companies with such partners as Henry E. Huntingon, helping to establish not only Del Mar, but also Beverly Hills.
Architect John C. Austin designed Canfield’s hilltop mansion in Del Mar, as well as the Stratford Inn, which later became the Hotel Del Mar, a favorite for locals and Hollywood celebrities, now the site of L’Auberge Del Mar. Austin became famous for such iconic Los Angeles landmarks as City Hall, the Shrine Auditorium, and Griffith Observatory.

But Canfield died soon after the home was completed, and his estate later sold it to Los Angeles developer Gilbert Solomon Wright, who lived there for 18 years. A subsequent owner divided the house into rental apartments and painted it bright pink. By the turn of this century, the grand old house had fallen into disrepair; its once well-tended grounds were overgrown. The “Pink Lady,” despite her great architectural bones — was showing her age.

The home’s family room opens onto a tiled courtyard with a limestone fireplace and faux painting by artist Todd Howe

The home’s family room opens onto a tiled courtyard with a limestone fireplace and faux painting by artist Todd Howe

Developer Bill Davidson, who once lived across the street, saved the house from the wrecking ball, restoring it rather than tearing it down, as a new owner had proposed. When plans were submitted to demolish the down-at-the-heels property and build a more modern home, Del Mar residents James and Nancy Schibanoff led efforts to preserve a piece of the town’s architectural history. Davidson bought the house in 2002, and spent four years obtaining permits and restoring it with the help of architect Douglas Marshfield, in keeping with historic preservation guidelines. He subsequently sold it to developer Doug Allred and his wife, Ann, who made additional improvements.

Historic photo, date unknown

Historic photo, date unknown

The home had a recent coming out party of sorts, when the Bruttens provided the venue for Wine, Women and Shoes, the annual fundraiser to benefit Voices for Children. The nonprofit provides CASAs (court-appointed special advocates) and other services for foster children. The event, which featured a fashion show on the lawn and a wine tasting and boutiques by the pool, raised a record $300,000. “It’s been so great for the kids in foster care to have a mentor and someone outside the home to be an advocate for them,” says Patty. Voices is just one of the charities that the Bruttens have generously funded.

Called “iPod Patty” at San Pasqual Academy, Patty (and Marc) are known for giving annual techie gifts at Christmas to foster teens. Mark also loves “Secret Santa” ride-alongs with the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, providing unexpected presents to the needy. The Brutten Family Foundation focuses on children and the environment, and is now working with the San Diego Foundation on a Web site, “Take a Hike San Diego,” a guide to the county’s trail system.

The couple, who also own LuckyJack Farm, a 16-stall barn and training facility in Rancho Santa Fe, are accomplished equestrians and founding members of the San Diego Polo Club. Patty is now obsessed with the sport of hunters and jumpers, riding six days a week, while Marc, a black belt and former world jiu jitsu champion, continues to train.

“It’s glorious living here,” says Marc of the couple’s Del Mar home, where the old is new again, where the modern melds with history. “We made this older-feeling home fresh and crisp,” adds Patty. We can’t help but think that the former “Pink Lady” loves her makeover. ANDREA NAVERSEN

The historic Canfield-Wright House has a sunny new look, as well as new owners

The historic Canfield-Wright House has a sunny new look, as well as new owners

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