Nicholas Severais

As a boy I wanted to be an architect. My mother can be blamed for this. She was an artist and a teacher. I remember when we’d be driving home from school or the store, if she saw a house under construction she’d pull over, stop, and we would get out and ramble around the site. There were always a lot of books in our house and among them I remember some on Frank Lloyd Wright and on Architecture in general. We moved into the Highlands in 1957. So, I am one of the early colonists of this plateau. Back then Ticonderoga stopped at Allegheny. Lexington and the courts along it were built as were Yorktown, Monticello, Newport and Bunker Hill. Forge and the other streets along that side were in and houses being built, but the area where Ticonderoga, New Brunswick, Cobblehill, and those streets are now, was, at first a wilderness where we ran free in the fields and later a construction site which gave me my X-Ray vision into how an Eichler is put together. I became very comfortable on construction sites.

For my 10th Christmas I received a drafting table (child size), T square, triangle, pencils and a fat Grumbacher eraser. I spent hours drawing buildings. It was my passion from which I could only be diverted by an opportunity to run through the fields and woods surrounding our, at that time, isolated island in the sky. Highway 92 wasn’t there, Safeway wasn’t there. The nearest shopping was the Lee Brothers Mkt at Carlmont. All of this just fostered the sense of community which is still in evidence.

My downfall was Rock ‘n’ Roll. At the age of 12 I heard Del Shannon sing “Little Runaway”. I didn’t want to be an architect anymore. I wanted to play music. I eventually dropped out of High School, went to London and spent several years in England, Europe and the Middle East.

Realizing that, contrary to all the evidence, some talent is required to be a Rock musician, and having had my fill of the harsh realities of the music industry, I packed it in, came back here and started looking for something else to do. I stumbled backwards into construction. After a very short time I realized two important things: I enjoyed it and I was good at it. I worked on other people’s projects for a year and then I built a spec house on a piece of property which my mother had bought for a song when I was about 4 years old. That led to building custom houses for a couple of other people and then another spec house next door to the first.

I was a builder. I enjoyed it, and I was good at it.

From that point on there was no viable escape route. I was a builder. I got my contractor’s license and just went at it. I did commercial buildings such as Liberty Court next to the Post Office in “downtown” El Granada. I did a lot of restaurants, from the Miramar Beach Inn to several Popeye’s Fried Chicken shops in San Francisco. The Niantic Oyster Bar was one of the most creative and enjoyable projects of that sort. I also did Doctor’s offices, Lawyer’s office’s, Bookstores, Ice Cream parlors, and other types of tenant improvement projects.

I have always loved the mid-century modern aesthetic. It is very natural to me in part I suppose from having grown up in them. However, many years of studying architecture on my own, building and interacting with architects and designers on both a professional and friendship basis has only confirmed my bias towards a California style of modernism. I began to design my projects when I was doing tenant improvement work. Over the following years I balanced between building from the designs of others, (often with alterations on my part after discussion with the clients), and building from my own designs. I now design almost every project which I build. My focus is on Mid-Century Moderns. I have remodeled Eichlers here in the Highlands, Foster City, Stanford, Palo Alto, Los Altos, etc.

After getting married in 1982 my wife and I lived in El Granada 4 years. Once we decided to buy a house and start a family coming back to the Highlands was a logical choice. We bought our current home in 1986. I’ve been fussing with it ever since. Give me a call and I’ll fuss with yours too.

For my 10th Christmas I received a drafting table, T-square, triangle, pencils and a fat Grumbacher eraser. I spent hours drawing buildings. It was my passion from which I could only be diverted by an opportunity to run through the fields and woods surrounding our, at that time, isolated island in the sky.
My focus is on Mid-Century Modern