Welcome to the good life. There’s really no other way to describe what living in San Diego is all about. The weather is darn near perfect, going from coastal Mediterranean to desert warmth. Pacific Ocean vistas grace the waterfront, providing fantastic surfing and refreshing dips in shimmering emerald seas. Beach parks with lazy sea lions lounging and snorkeling opportunities in kelp beds. A foodie scene that runs the gambit from borderinfluenced Mexican cuisine to the rich trove of pasta in Little Italy. Funky neighborhoods like Pacific Beach and Hillcrest offer unique refuges from the normal everyday diversions. Great schools, strong job market, unbeatable arts and entertainment, fantastic transportation hubs and within driving distance of both Los Angeles and Baja California — yes, it’s a very good life here.

And there’s really only one thing that could make things even better: making your house look and feel exactly the way you want it to. Doing a little renovation or remodeling project can make your abode into the castle of your dreams. Coming home to an environment just as stimulating and rewarding as San Diego itself can only enhance the experience of living in this part of the country. But before you jump into your project with both feet, take a moment or two to understand what the local requirements may throw into the process. Getting to know everything from zoning issues to architectural trends will make the whole undertaking more enjoyable and successful in the end. Here are a few things to think about to get you started.

Everything Under the Sun

First thing to keep in mind is where exactly you are living. This is San Diego. There isn’t exactly a whole heck of a lot of rain here, nor does it get unbearably cold. Those basic realities will help give you an idea of where things all start here. First, let’s take a look at the outside of the house. Landscaping projects may want to look at drought-tolerant designs. Trading green grass for native local succulents and desert wildflowers will not only help conserve water in this thirsty region, but also add the sort of pizzazz that increases curb appeal in spectacular fashion, not to mention a great reduction in maintenance tasks. Of course, any additions or alterations to your exterior will need a proper inspection of your grounds. Is your soil sandier close to shore? Are you living in terraced hills? These sorts of considerations will come into play into both practical and official matters — things like local permits and fees. A good contractor will be able to guide you through this.

Local Design

As for exterior aesthetics, yes, your eyes aren’t fooling you. There’s plenty of Spanish-tiled roofs out there. This prevalent local aesthetic is a legacy of the colonial period that saw building trends that mirrored homes in Spain. Clay tiles like this not only look pretty, but also offer insulation, longevity and durability. That’s not to say that modern designs aren’t just as common here as well; you’ll find SoCal caters to many varied designs. Closer to the sea, one may want wood shingles instead of stucco. Practical applications of solar paneling help you go greener, save on energy costs and earn you tax credits. There’s always a tradeoff between what’s pleasing to the eye and what makes the most sense, so again, work closely with your architect.

The Fun Part

When it comes to interior alterations, whether you’re looking at remodeling the kitchen or adding an addition to the living room, big dreams can come true with some prior legwork. There are a tremendous number of architects in San Diego. Take the time to research what work they’re doing and check out their galleries. The competition is fierce, so expect great website experiences to guide you. Start with folks who have either worked in your neighborhood or the same type of home you already lived in. Once you’ve identified the right design partner, put them to work to sketch out the plans to your specifications, always heeding their suggestions. Remember: San Diego isn’t your average American area. Rambling hills, loads of sunshine and marine influences all require special knowledge. Dream big, but let the professionals help you dream smart.

Conforming to Code

Once you’ve worked through your design ideas, be sure that both your architect and contractors are aware of the local codes that, in most cases, are put in place to protect your interests. San Diego includes construction specifications to deal with local conditions like wildfires and earthquakes. Ensuring you are taking preventative steps is simply prudent to protect your interests. Besides, inspectors may well end up reviewing both plans and the final building (depending on the project’s scope), so you’ll want to be sure you’re in compliance in any case.

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