Meet the on-the-verge architects who are bringing modern to North County and sexy to—yes—Coronado
There are two kinds of architects: the hot shots and the geeks. Well, these guys are the technocrats, the kind who get excited about a tricked-out house without a single wire in sight. But we’re hip to their undercover cool, because the result of what they do is pure chic. And their Little Italy-based Opera architecture firm is on the verge: just take its new Coronado project—the sprawling new locale for Candelas, that candle-lit Gaslamp joint that brought nouveau Mexican to S.D. back when Downtown was Burrito Central. In place of the existing Bay Beach Café, expect massive floor-to-ceiling windows, a beach bar, and a stylish, L.A.-type lounge. “It’ll update Coronado, and it’s going to bring in a different crowd,” says founding partner and principal Gregory Marx De Peña. “When you go out in S.D., you don’t say, ‘Let’s go to Coronado,’ but this might start to change that.” And with The Del adding a new terrace pool and wine bar, we might just say Coronado will soon be hot. Alums of Ronchetti Design with Nissan and Puma on their résumés, De Peña and fellow founding partner and principal Nathan Lee Colkitt recently completed a contemporary overhaul of a craftsman in North County, where, believe it or not, they say modern is on the up. So long, Tuscan Beige! Still, they count hot burg Barrio Logan as the nabe of choice. “I like the eclectic, vernacular look of it,” Colkitt says. “It’s untouched by developers trying to contrive what a neighborhood should be. It’s organic. It’s mixed-use. It has potential to remain a local cultural center.” You could say their high-tech ethos starts at home. De Peña’s award winning redesign of his own condo allows for space-filling sound from a seemingly invisible source, with media components ingeniously hidden behind speaker cloth. Kind of makes us wish we’d joined the A.V. club when we had the chance.

Written by Chantal Gordon
Photography by Cheryl Ramsay