Chet Allen was a creative, yet very practical residential property designer. In his early career he designed the homes he built as a developer of small residential communities. He also designed many of the homes he lived in, including his last home. In designing entry level homes, he was always looking for ways to make the homes more affordable for young families. When designing a more luxurious home he permitted his imagination to soar. The home he designed for himself outside of Sutter Creek is described in Chet’s novel, Geneva Cove (see section on Author/Instructor). In the novel, he fictitiously describes the house as being built and still owned by his father. The following narrative is taken from the novel.
“My father built Summerhill soon after I joined the Marines. He had always wanted a Spanish house and when he found the perfect site, he spent the best part of a year designing and building Summerhill. Unable to locate real adobe he used adobe colored slump stone, but not the normal slump stone carried in building supply yards. That was too perfect. He went to the manufacturers and located one that still had some old worn-out molds, discarded because they were now producing imperfect slump stone, and he had them make a special run of imperfect product. Then he located the best mason in the county, a 74-year old craftsman who had retired, and told him of his dream house. He coaxed the old man out of retirement, and then had to convince him to make his work look sloppy. The combination of the imperfect slump stone and sloppy joints gave Summerhill the look dad wanted. It took four months just for the masonry work.”
Although Summerhill has a Sutter Creek address it is seven miles from town. The last mile, down narrow, tree and hedge lined, New Chicago Quartz Mountain Road reminds me of an English “lane”. Summerhill’s driveway climbs between several huge sugar pines and makes a left turn into a hilltop compound.
The compound consists of four buildings, all appearing to be adobe and each with a red tile roof. The first building, off to the right where the drive terminates, is a three car garage and shop building. Directly ahead, beyond the gate in the low adobe wall and across the juniper covered courtyard, dominated by three giant pines, stands the main house.
Fronting on the courtyard to the left is the “bunkhouse,” Summerhill’s guest house. Beyond the main house, still on the elongated hilltop, is the swimming pool and the fourth building which encloses the spa and sauna.
The main house has three wings, each at a 120 degree angle, and the front door is located at the center, where the wings meet.
The above description taken from Chet’s novel reveals Chet’s creativity and attention to detail that went into the Sutter Creek house that Chet actually built for himself.
In 2014, Chet and Virgil purchased three lots on Via Rancho Parkway in southern Escondido. The partners planned on building a single home on each of the large parcels. Chet designed each of the three homes to take full advantage of the sloping lots that have distant views of Lake Hodges. The partners hired a draftsman to create detail drawings of the homes and hired a graphics firm to create color renderings of the designs. However, before the homes were built, the partners accepted an offer to sell the lots to a local developer producing about the same total profit that would been realized had the partners gone through the construction and sales process.