Sweet Digs

Sweet DIGS: Italian Renaissance

Sweeping terraces and high-tone details set this unapologetically grand ocean-view villa apart.

Written by Constance Dunn
Photography by Paul Jonason
Offered by George Wong of Keller Williams
List price $8,750,000

462A2942In ancient Greece, porticos were built along the front of temples to communicate grandeur at first glance. These covered entrances, shored up by impressive columns, were effective then, and are today, as experienced by a recent visit to  a palm-fringed Mediterranean villa poised atop the highest reaches of Palos  Verdes Estates.

While the property may sport the area’s compulsory red-tile roofing, it distinguishes itself from the more casual Mediterranean-style homes that are so plentiful in this area by sporting the earmarks of a classic Italian Renaissance country home, starting with a flat roofline and elaborate entrance. The portico greets guests with decorative twin columns that meld into a half-moon archway and span the height of the home’s second floor. Jumbo steel-and-glass doors swing open and an airy front entrance carries through on the promise set up by the home’s exterior.

“The attention to detail in this home is phenomenal,” notes realtor George Wong, pointing out a heavy crystal chandelier hanging in the rotunda foyer, a space that glows from a subdued constellation of recessed LED lighting. “It’s full of custom features and high-end finishes.” Beneath, heavy tile flooring forms the shape of a wily burnt-orange sunburst and a burnished handrail of curving petals follows the gently curved staircase up to the second floor, where it splits off to wrap around the landing.

It’s on this floor where nearly all of the home’s eight bedrooms are housed, most of them gifted with dainty balustraded balconies that lend visual harmony and the Italian Renaissance flavor to the exterior of the house. Attached to the second-floor master suite is an all-out living porch, recessed from the elements and overlooking the hills and ocean—a friendly spot to warm to the day over a cup of coffee.


Constructed in 2005 and just under 10,000 square feet in size, this home follows a classic rectangular floor plan: there’s a central square on the first floor, hemmed in on three sides by columned archways, and two wings that encompass distinct living spaces. The west side includes a formal dining room, set well apart from a granite-island country kitchen with polished wood floors that adjoins everyday dining and lounging areas. On the east side, an elevated play area complete with billiards and a spacious wet bar, decorously carved in wood and home to a plentiful wine storage area that’s tucked behind a door of decorative art glass.

Rooms broad in scale feel open and spacious, but resist modern-day typecasting due to a persistent combination of traditional flooring—polished wood or glossy tile set in a classic pattern—in league with classically decorative ceilings, whether coffered or corniced.

“Usually in a house this size you can get lost,” says Wong. “But the floor plan is exceptional, and has a great flow.” That great flow is due in part to the integration of the home with the outdoors. No matter which part of the house you find yourself—east or west, front or rear—rows of floor-to ceiling-doors fling open to sunshine, palm trees and lots of blue ocean.


On the ground floor the doors open directly onto sitting and entertainment areas. These are smartly interspersed along an endless elevated terrace that presides over a free-wheeling expanse of green lawn, sloping hills and Pacific Ocean. The Italian Renaissance features are strong here, from tidy shrub landscaping and low-slung column fencing to a pool and spa, Double-Roman in shape, with rounded edges at each end.

Though thoroughly classic in its design, this home has a quirky outlier in the form of a subterranean man cave, complete with a private entrance that’s just steps from the three-car garage. The festive spot is a mod departure from the rest of the home, with a bar and group of flat-screen TVs set into a decorative, sandy-hued stone wall. There’s a powerful sound system, red pops of color and white-leather minimalist seating set along the walls.

As grand as the home is, its location—set along a wide stretch of Vía Zurita where it reaches its apex in the prestigious Monte Malaga neighborhood— put it in good company. “This is the best of areas,” Wong points out. Possibly  the most high-value neighborhood in one of the nation’s priciest ZIP  codes, Monte Malaga is home to a cluster of prime properties that have been  built in this high-elevation area, where homeowners enjoy free-flowing views  of gently sloping hills and panoramic Pacific Ocean views. Perched along the  south corner of a quiet residential square bordering George Allen Field, a park named after the famed football coach that’s primarily used for local youth baseball games, this home’s leisured design turns out to be a natural match for its surroundings.


“The grand entrance, the unique design and layout of the house make this property different from others in the area,” notes Wong. He’s right. The South Bay is chock-full of homes that reflect its beach-casual lifestyle and aesthetic, complete with clever floor plans to maximize all available square footage.  This Italian Renaissance home, though, with its plucky grand scale and  ornamental details, manages to take a refreshing U-turn back to a traditional architectural style that enjoys great precedent when it comes to the art of fine, fresh-air living.



South Bay Mediterranean

Communal spaces, peaceful surroundings and super-sized dimensions create a perfect habitat for today’s family.

Offered by Brett Zebrowski of Palm Realty Boutique  |  List price: $2,950,000

“We’ve had many gatherings here,” says the homeowner, ushering me into the soaring foyer and voluminous hallway of her five-bedroom Mediterranean home on a quiet street in Redondo Beach.

“It’s a very family friendly home.”

While bringing her son to a nearby Tai Kwon Do class over a decade ago, she discovered this tucked-away yet centrally situated neighborhood, and took an instant shine to it. “I would walk around and I liked the location, being so secluded on a corner,” she recalls. “We found the lot first, before the houses were built.” The family purchased the property and proposed home, and have lived here ever since. Occupying a peaceful corner of a wide street filled with graceful single-family residences, this home manages to reconcile the paradox of hiding in plain sight.

A convenient half-mile from the beach, and just five minutes by car from the leisurely shops and dining spots of Riviera Village, the property is also a quick minute from two thoroughfares, Torrance Boulevard and Pacific Coast Highway. Four schools—Alta Vista Elementary School, Parras Middle School and two high schools, Redondo Union and Bishop Montgomery—are within a five-minute drive. “You have schools, parks and the beach,” says the homeowner. “Everything. Yet in this house you feel isolated, and have all this space. Like a little island.”

She continues: “I liked the privacy—and definitely the size.” Walking the ground floor of the 5,400-square foot home, it’s easy to see why. One big gathering space leads to another, finally reaching the secluded backyard, a mix of smooth flooring and healthy grass that’s lined with exotic foliage and willowy old-growth trees. Plus there’s the neighbors, or their lack. The front of the house is nicely set back from the street by a tidy, gently sloping lawn. Next door, there’s a grassy double lot, unoccupied save a small historic building owned by the city. In short, you have to take a little walk to reach other human beings, despite being in the midst of the South Bay.

Standing in the kitchen, a jumbo-sized room with high ceilings and an oversized travertine island that adjoins a large, fireplaced den, it’s easy to envision the countless gatherings that have taken place during the family’s tenure. “This place is always filled with food and music,” says the homeowner. “Our kids were in middle school and high school, and we had all the team parties here, all the birthday parties and get-togethers after school. They would all be here.”

We head along the grand staircase to the top floor, a plushy carpeted sprawl of four bedrooms joined by a wide, ambling hallway. At its head is a sunny office with a wall of custom bookcases and a fresh-air balcony. It’s pointed out that the room, big enough to accommodate at least a trio of desks, has functioned as a study for the children and, when needed, as a spare sleep-over space during large gatherings. A window-sized swatch of the interior wall is conveniently cut-away, exposing stairs and foyer and making it easy for work-at-home parents to keep eyes and ears on the activities of children and teenagers below.

At the other end of the hall is the master suite, complete with a fireplace and balcony, plus a walk-in closet with rows of rack hangers that rivals a retailer’s stockroom in its sheer size. Likewise, the master bathroom is a grand space equipped with a raised tub and endless counter space. “I light my candles and put my music on, and it feels like I’m in a spa,” she remarks. Windows allow for lots of sunlight while an exterior curtain of green trees peeks in, enhancing the calm, private feel of the room.

The scale of the house—big rooms and raised ceilings—is consistent throughout. The bulk of the ground floor, for instance, is an unfenced playroom of sorts, spanning a living room, another gathering space outfitted with a pool table and finally, a formal dining area. A caterer’s dream that could easily hold a hundred people, with no nooks and crannies to cramp the user-friendliness of the place. There are wide windows that peer out onto greenery and sleek granite floors throughout. “We built the home to be enjoyed,” she points out. “Not to worry about anything being stepped on or stained. Anything that drops on the floor can be cleaned.”

While space is synonymous with “family home,” so is storage. There’s a large mudroom near the entrance of the home where kids can tuck away their daily mass of shoes, backpacks and other accoutrements. At the rear of the property there sits an unattached four-car garage with rich possibilities for use as a storage unit or additional living space. “In this area you don’t have homes with a four-car garage,” she says. “For us it’s been a huge plus.” She points out an adjacent parking space, large enough to tuck an RV, and the plethora of street parking, which makes for easy logistics during parties and family gatherings.

Standing on the tranquil street, with its fragrant trees and uncluttered sidewalks, it’s hard to believe we’re just a stone’s throw from the buzz of beach city life. I imagine the home ideal for those who yearn for an uncomplicated, family friendly oasis within the thick of things, while being able to quickly dash out for groceries, dining and school runs. Or, stay home and host the party of the year.

“I just love being here,” says her teenage daughter. “It’s going to be hard moving away.”

“The most beautiful memories we’ve had here,” adds the homeowner.

Isn’t that, more than anything, what makes a home?

Photography by Paul Jonason

Sweet DIGS: Mid-Century Modern

A Pierre Koenig original—carefully revised for the  21st century—creates a private utopia atop the ocean.



Presented by architectureforsale.com
Represented by Gerard Bisignano of Vista Sotheby’s & Crosby Doe of Crosby Doe Associates Inc.
List price $3,875,000

The year was 1966. Lyndon B. Johnson was in the White House, the Ford Mustang convertible was selling like hotcakes, and the Beatles recorded 19 songs, including “Paperback Writer” and “Penny Lane.” And, on a mellow residential street in Rancho Palos Verdes, the finishing touches were being put on a flat-level home designed by prominent architect of the day, Pierre Koenig.

Best-known for his Case Study House No. 22 (aka Stahl House), an icon of West Coast Modernism built in 1959 that still stands, perched above the city in Hollywood Hills, Koenig transferred his leitmotif—exposed steel and glass—to a plot of land in the South Bay on Crest Road, which the Henbest family would call home for decades to come.

462A0999Flash forward to 2011, and the house came on the market, catching the eye of entrepreneur and South Bay dweller, Stephen Birkett, who has a thing for homes, and Mid-Century Moderns, in particular. “They’re timeless,” states Birkett, referring to this post-war architectural style characterized by lots of glass, slightly pitched rooflines and floor plans that erode the distinctions between indoor and outdoor living. “The floor plans of these homes and the way they opened up to the outdoors—they were decades ahead of their time,” he notes.

After a bit of wrangling, Birkett closed on the property and embarked on what would be a 16-month project to bring the home into the 21st century, employing designer Robert Sweet to helm the project. “Robert Sweet did an amazing job,” says Birkett, recounting the young architect’s commitment to the project, which included “a ton of research. He even talked with Pierre Koenig’s wife.” [Pierre Koenig passed away from leukemia in 2004.]

“For the most part, this is the layout of the original house,” Birkett relays as we stand in the kitchen, located smack-dab in the center of the home. He points to a Koenig signature: a thick, meaty beam grounding the airy white interior. “These are original beams. All we did was clean them up and paint them.” Ditto for the globe lights dangling from the ceiling, which Birkett stowed away until after construction was complete, then meticulously polished and re-hung.

The home’s update was largely a technical one, designed to keep Koenig’s vision and aesthetic footprint intact. There was a thorough plumbing and electrical overhaul, and a spanking-new radiant heat system installed beneath the poured-concrete floors. Each of the rooms is now equipped with its own climate zone, so temperatures can be adjusted to suit individual tastes.

462A0986“About 80-percent of this home is glass,” notes Birkett. This too, remains the same, though the original glass walls that lined the home—acting as sole curtain to separate the indoors from that endless supply of fresh California air and sunshine—were single-paned and stubborn to retract. All were updated to sturdy, custom models manufactured by upmarket window-maker Fleetwood, and they roll open and shut with well-oiled ease, no matter how light your hands.

The home’s floor plan remains fundamentally unaltered from the original, though walls that once reined in the kitchen were knocked back. This successfully merges the space more prominently with open-floor dining and living spaces on either side, and allows more Pacific Ocean light to circulate throughout the home. The garage, formerly a standalone structure, is now one with the home, and connected via a newly constructed guest bed and bath suite that brings the total number of bedrooms to four.

Smartly, Sweet and Birkett didn’t touch that which—aside from Koenig’s stark beams—is the home’s calling card: a ribbon roof line consisting of a series of low-peaked pitches. It’s distinctive for a Koenig house, since the lion’s share of the architect’s residential designs sport flat roofs, yet serves a site-specific purpose in this case. It smoothly interrupts the rectangularity of the home while optimizing ocean views and the shifting positions of the sun, which bring in a kaleidoscope of mellow West Coast light throughout the day.

Arguably, the greatest re-shaping of the property occurred in the outdoor living area facing the street, which is now hemmed in from the world by a handsome wall of rock-hard Brazilian ipe wood.

“The front yard was a huge area that had tremendous potential. Problem is, there was overgrown bamboo and rock beds that had been placed there 40, 50 years ago,” says Birkitt. “The huge Japanese tea house with a bridge and a 50-foot koi pond—not part of the original design—looked dated and took up tons of space.”

Birkett journeyed to the Getty Center to peruse Koenig’s original plans, and discovered that the architect had planned a pool for the front of the house. Sweet created the pool faithfully from Koenig’s blueprints, “in the exact spot, and with the exact dimensions,” notes Birkett. 

The home’s front entrance was also re-worked to include a clever water feature. A shallow reflecting pool, its floor studded with flat river rocks, leads you along a concrete pathway to the front door, as if one is strolling along a stream.

“This really is the quintessential California indoor-outdoor home,” states Birkett. “It’s not a huge home, it’s around 3,300 square feet. But it lives like a 7,000- or 8,000-square-foot home.”


Indeed. And it has everything to do with the plethora of well-defined spaces that hide out in plain sight. Some are forged by careful interior design—like the fresh-air dining space that sits atop an elevated mahogany platform near the pool, dressed in a stark-white table and chairs, that practically begs for a candle-lit dinner party. Or the quiet corner perch tucked beneath a nest of green foliage that may be the best place in Los Angeles to sit with a cup of morning coffee and plot day. Inside? Outside? One forgets which is which, and it ceases to matter.

Birkett points out that the home’s glass walls are open almost every day. “It’s not a museum,” he insists. “This is a home. Our kids run around in here. They ride their bikes in here. Mid-Century Modern homes were meant to be lived in.”

Though ready to move on—the home is currently listed with Gerard Bisignano of Vista Sotheby’s as well as Crosby Doe of Crosby Doe Associates—Birkett describes his time spent working on and living in the Koenig home with energy, detail and purpose. “We really did our homework to renovate this home the right way,” says Birkett of the most satisfying part of the journey. “Everything was thought out to the nth degree. Every single surface, every material.” 

Because of this, he continues, “[The] house is now alive for 50 more years.”


Sweet DIGS: California Contemporary

Family-friendly design and graceful aesthetics makes for a beautiful utility in Palos Verdes Estates.


LIST PRICE $6,500,000

While motoring around the highest perches of Palos Verdes Peninsula, you may have passed Via Rincon, a quiet residential street that ambles off Via Del Monte, the area’s winding thoroughfare. Drive down this mellow street and you’ll reach a grand home settled on a manicured green lawn, a property that’s distinctive for its capture of an elusive goal in local real estate: the marriage of dignified style with a design structured purposefully around modern family living—privacy and world-class views, too.

“We sell many homes that are extraordinary, very distinctive,” points out John Corrales of Forbes Corrales Coastal Properties, a division of Coldwell Banker Previews. “But at the end of the day they’re not practical for families who need to fit their lives into a property. This is a true family home.”


Family-friendly credentials include lots of bedrooms—seven total—plus a theater and a grassy pool and spa zone. Its practicality, though, is powered by its layout: five of the bedrooms and a central study are clustered on the top floor, so parents are not left scrambling between floors to tend to little ones.

A bachelor or couple, though, could just as easily envision the bedrooms—each decked with a private bathroom, custom cabinetry and nuanced details setting one apart from the other—as a dream roster of separate havens. A yoga or dance studio perhaps, or a library, gym and music room.

It doesn’t hurt that nearly all the bedrooms are outfitted with private balconies and fresh-air views, and the suite that’s farthest in distance from the ocean-view master bedroom opens directly onto a private green courtyard. Quiet and flanked with foliage, it comes off as the ideal spot to book a privacy-minded guest or long-term family visitor, particularly as the elevator stops just steps away, and an independent staircase leads down to the sunny pool and spa.

Each of the home’s three stories offers a different take on its star attraction: the views. “We specialize in view properties,” notes Corrales. “And there haven’t been many view properties on market lately that are newer like this in terms of construction.”

Completed in 2010, this home affords equal opportunity views of city, mountains and ocean. Straight ahead is the city of Los Angeles, stretching eastbound to what very well might be Pasadena. To the left is the ocean, bordered by a meandering line of South Bay beachfront. On Fourth of July, you’re treated to a front-row show of fireworks bursting down along the coast from Malibu, and clear inland through the city.

The homeowners say that each night the home’s sunny views are traded for a blanket of twinkling lights. “I’ve lived in the area for 20 years,” says the husband. “And as I looked around the area I found that this [Via Rincon location] is one of the few streets where you have a really dramatic view, especially of the Queen’s Necklace.” Referring to a shapely visage of South Bay coastline that, at night, glistens with lights (à la diamond jewels), the Queen’s Necklace is a sight that, apparently, never gets old.

At 5,616 square feet, the home is space-abundant, yet feels warm and connected. Floors are linked via a central staircase swirling from top to ground floor in a graceful treble clef shape. This feature—elegant and easy to navigate—exemplifies a central virtue of this home: its remarkable ease of accessibility, whether one is  young, old or somewhere in between.


This virtue, though, is aesthetically kept under wraps, shrouded by a smart floor plan the homeowner mapped out in tandem with the architect, and spent four years bringing to fruition. “A lot of homeowners would like a home that doesn’t have a lot of stairs,” he points out. “So all three levels are pretty much flat. And there is wheelchair access if you have any guests or parents who have a disability.”

He continues, “But I didn’t want it to be obvious, such as having rails everywhere. So I made it where if someone is wheelchair-bound, they can get around the house. The elevator stops at every floor, and when you pull into the garage, it’s easy to enter the house.”

For all this talk about utility, there’s much to say about the well-tempered style of the home. “I wanted to design a home that was contemporary, but not so formal where you feel like you’re going to break something, or that you can’t sit down and relax,” says the homeowner. “I want people to feel comfortable.”

It works. Much of the ground floor is given over to a theater and social area, where walnut floors glow from mellow lights tucked into the recessed ceiling above. An arch of French doors opens onto a leisured front lawn that’s home to an elegant pool and spa. Though bordered with palms and a slender fence, this recreation area is kept private by its perch, elevated just enough to shroud activities from passers-by.

Glide up to the middle floor, which intermediates between the bedroom floor above and the entertainment space below. This is the heart of the home. It includes a formal dining room and a living room that are subtly set apart from the day-today living area, which spans a family room and up-to-date kitchen anchored with a granite island at its center.


In a skillful compromise between a traditional layout (where discrete rooms are set apart by doors) and a wide-open floor plan, these living spaces are defined by open entranceways framed in slender white casing. “All of these areas are connected,” explains the homeowner. “But just set apart a bit. I didn’t want a lot of walls, but I needed separation between different rooms.”

Generous French doors border the floor’s perimeter, opening onto palatial patios where guests can stretch out at dining tables or congregate on the sofa and lounge chairs. From here, it’s just a short flight of stairs to the pool’s edge. In the end, the layout feels completely modern while carrying a welcome tinge of upstanding formality.

“These days, we’re seeing a lot of five-person families, and that doesn’t include the dog,” remarks Corrales with a grin. “Families are the main buyers of the larger homes in this area.”

The challenge, I learn, is finding an up-to-date South Bay property that checks off even a few of the most-desired boxes in upmarket family homes, from size and layout to neighborhood and views. As the homeowner tells it: “Let’s say you want a big home. Something for a family, with a pool, and a yard. And views. You can’t find everything in one home.”

That is, until now.





Sweet DIGS: Spanish Revival


A Sprawling Hilltop Hacienda, with Top-of-the-World Views and Plenty of Places to Play, is Pure Pleasure — Palos Verdes Style



In the early 1980’s, a prospective buyer, with the last name Richards, went searching for a spacious house with generous city and ocean views in Palos Verdes Estates. At the time, the residential community was still a lightly populated area of modest-sized homes. Not finding any properties to his liking, he purchased a lot atop the highest curve of Via Del Monte.

Back then, “there wasn’t much to choose from,” Richards recalls. “It was very new. Most of the homes had small windows and small rooms, so I decided to go ahead and build.” So after hauling away an unfinished house built by the sellers, Richards built a meandering, custom spread: a 5-bedroom, approximately 9,853-square-feet Spanish Colonial Revival home, packed with luxe features and Mediterranean-inspired recesses and perches.

“It took about two and a half years to do it,” notes Richards of the substantial undertaking. “A guy by the name of Arthur Valdes, he did all the Red Onion Mexican restaurants back then, and is well-known in Newport Beach; he came up with a lot of great design ideas for the house.”

Sitting on a 22,874-square-foot lot, the home has the familiar earmarks of a Palos Verdes Estates property, from a pitched red-tile roof to a creamy stucco exterior. But its unabridged views—sweeping across the city, ocean and mountains—and grand, leisurely layout combine to create a place of tastefully indulgent individuality.


“I tried to design a home that would have light and views in every room,” Richards reveals. “I had been in real estate for many years, and I decided that this house could be built like something in Beverly Hills. We had a big lot, a big 180-degree view and a lot of things we could do to be creative. I was the first in the area to build a big house.”

A big house with, fittingly, amply-sized spaces. Much of the top floor, for instance, is given over to the master suite, a grand space with vaulted wood ceilings that opens to twin balconies. From this high perch, one has the feeling of being suspended over the green hillside, open sky and blue waters of the Pacific. Back inside the suite, the sleeping area adjoins a plush sitting area—its scale more in line with a full-fledged living room—and windows stream fresh light at every turn.

“We always went for beauty and uniqueness,” Richards remarks. “And usually that meant having something of a pretty good size.”

Indeed. The master bathroom is jumbo-sized with a fireplace and raised soaking tub in its center. Smooth white walls contrast crisply against glossy black travertine and a tucked-away skylight casts a nice glow over the room.

When it’s pointed out that Richards has inhabited the house for a long time, he nods and says, “A lot of years. From 1988. And an interesting thing is that for all those years we had shoots for advertising firms and Hollywood stars.” Among his recollections is Salma Hayek being photographed for People Magazine and a modeling shoot featuring a then teenage Katherine Heigl in the indoor pool; actress Victoria Principal and tennis great Maria Sharapova have both filmed there—and the house was even site of the short-lived reality show Chains of Love.

As for Richards’ favorite space, he answers swiftly: “The family room. It has a nice fireplace and a great balcony. Wood floors and wood ceilings. And lots of light. You can come in almost any place in [the] house and see the ocean.”

The most pleasure-forward spot is arguably the aforementioned indoor pool—housed in an earthy, luxe room of greenery and Mexican sculpture—where a ceiling of rough-hewn wood plays against glassy turquoise water. A hot tub is tucked into the cozy, elevated lounge, while a stray door reveals a discreet steam room.

“It’s nice to have an indoor Jacuzzi and pool,” Richards points out. “If people bring their kids over they’ll be entertained, even if it’s cold outside. The pool is only 4-feet deep, so kids can stand up under the waterfall and be in that Jacuzzi.”

The ocean-facing pool deck, meanwhile, flanked by towering Canary Island Date Palms, is another space made for entertaining. The adjoining bar and barbecue space, an oversized area amply covered from the elements and decked in cheerful Mexican tile, amplifies the feeling.

Yet for every festive spot in the home, there is another offering quiet and solitude. Intimate courtyards, remote balconies and poetic sitting areas meet one at every turn.

A stone-tile inner courtyard that feels more like a plaza due to its sheer size and triple-decker water feature is bordered by a spacious office, which seems a world removed—in a good way—from the rest of the residence. The same is true of the guesthouse, a light-filled hideaway of more than 800 square feet that’s outfitted with dreamy blue walls, pale wood floors and big windows letting in eyefuls of the ocean.

As twilight sets in, the home transforms. The grounds, a wild and verdant stretch down the hill and to the street below, offer a peaceful buffer from the rest of the world. To the left, the peak of La Venta Inn’s charming Jazz Age tower glows softly as one of Palos Verdes Estates’ earliest big homes, its layers reaching into the sky and many balcony lights burning, looks every bit the oasis it was envisioned years ago.




Sweet Digs: New Horizons


Memories of a perfect Manhattan Beach abode



“We really try not to think about selling this house, because we love it,” Laurel D’Antoni confides, chatting from the rooftop deck of her Manhattan Beach home. “Every day I come up to the top of the stairs and I see the surfers and I think, ‘What are we doing?’”

But D’Antoni and her famous husband, former head coach for the Los Angeles Lakers, Mike D’Antoni—who led the celebrated NBA squad from 2012 to 2014, after filling the same role for five seasons with the Phoenix Suns and four more with the New York Knicks—are moving on.

“We move around a lot, that’s just the life of people in the sports business,” Laurel says with a hint of sadness in her voice. “You get fired, traded, waived or whatever the deal is.” And so, she adds, the couple looks for properties “we know we are going to have a really great time with” but that will sell too.

And usually, she continues, “I don’t get attached, he doesn’t get attached.” But this time, in Manhattan Beach, things are different. “This is the lifestyle I was born for,” Laurel shares of sitting on her patio, watching pelicans dive into the water, the surfers and volleyball players. “I love it here.”

This is no surprise, however, as the 5000-square-foot home on 25th Street is a real gem. One block off the Strand (but only 90 feet from the sand), and set on a 45-foot-wide corner lot with 60 feet of walk-street frontage, the four-story house boasts spectacular views, an airy, open-plan layout and the very thing that a high-profile couple needs—privacy.

“We had looked at different places right on the Strand; there were some beautiful properties there,” Laurel recalls. “But we wanted a tad more privacy, because on the Strand, people are looking right into your front window. That [is] why this [home] was really perfect for us. Because we feel like we have beachfront—the beach is right there—but without being quite so public.”



For the D’Antonis, it was love at first sight. Although in the process of bidding on another Manhattan Beach abode at the time, “We knew [this property] was the one when we walked in,” Laurel says. “We walked up the stairs, and I turned to my husband and said, ‘Okay, this is it.’” Because, as it turns out, sauntering up those stairs reveals a magnificent ocean view. “Once we saw it, we wrapped up the purchase in 24 hours!” she adds.

And no wonder. The house has 5 bedrooms and 4.5 baths, including a master bath with double sinks, a spa tub and steam shower. The master also boasts a fireplace and two walk-in closets. Also on the first floor with the master are three additional bedrooms, with a fifth bedroom on the ground floor, along with an office, two-car garage and a beach room, complete with an outdoor shower.

It’s the home’s second floor, however, that is so breathtakingly spectacular. Large windows with ocean views from the spacious living room open straight onto a comfortable south-facing balcony terrace, with the massive kitchen is an entertainer’s dream.

“It’s a good party house,” says D’Antoni reflecting on some really “wonderful” soirees celebrated there. “It’s an open-floor plan; the whole top floor is wide open, with a perfect flow for a party—and everything is a ‘view on the blue.’ I didn’t know what that meant, until we moved here.”

The possibilities for entertaining continue with a beautiful, temperature-controlled wine room. Located on the sub-basement level, it has the capacity to store 2000 bottles and features a lovely area to sit and sip. But as Laurel tells it, most of the couple’s wine drinking occurs while the sun sets.

“We love to have wine on the terrace as the sun is setting, watch all the colors that fill up the sky, then take a walk and have dinner at one of the fabulous restaurants in the neighborhood,” she elaborates.

There are rumors in the press that Mike D’Antoni may end up coaching the Denver Nuggets, but this spring the couple plans to reside in West Virginia along with most of the D’Antoni clan. But Laurel will not leave Manhattan Beach behind without regrets.

“I will be sad when we leave this house,” she confesses. “It’s just been a great house to live in. I will miss the sunsets!”

Listing Agent | Ed Kaminsky Listing Price | $9,800,000

Sweet Digs: Sportsman’s Paradise


The transformation of a Rolling Hills home into the ultimate playland



The fact that Guido Rietdyk set out to find a place to suit his sports-loving family to a T makes perfect sense. As founder and president of EVS Sports—the innovative company specializing in protective gear for extreme athletes and weekend jocks alike—he’s beset with athletics.

“When we saw the house on Pine Tree Lane, it was a little on the rustic side for our taste,” Rietdyk, a Netherlands native, recalls. “But the pool table down in the bar area was a pretty epic fixture that I really liked—it’s an authentic competition table. I had also played a lot of squash on a competitive level in Europe, so was really excited by the built-in racquetball court. And I was pretty amazed by the view, too.”

And so Rietdyk and his wife, Sophie, (president of international and licensing for BCBG Max Azria), having determined that the hilltop estate in Rolling Hills was the perfect spot for their growing family of three, purchased the property in 2007, then, with the aid of architect Criss C. Gunderson, spent a year changing it completely.

“It really was obvious that we could do a lot of surgery to this thing and make it really, really trendy and modern, which is what we like,” says Rietdyk.

Said “surgery” was extreme. “We removed every bit of drywall, all the plumbing, all the electrical, all the flooring, all the ceilings; we put in all new doors and windows. Everything,” Rietdyk remembers. “Most of the framing is the same, but we even replaced some of that.”


Given the scope of the overhaul, deciding just exactly how to revitalize its 12,500 square feet required a meeting of the minds, as Gunderson tells it. “I was given a building shell of [about] 7,000 square feet on the top and 5,500 on the bottom, and, basically, working with Guido and Sophie, we designed it,” he says. “The house is dramatically different than what it was, and for the better, I hope. I’m very proud of how the house feels now. I think we captured more of the views than the house ever had before.”

While the views really are spectacular, especially on a clear day, when, Rietdyk relays, “You can see from Malibu to almost Big Bear … 80 miles,” they weren’t always. “The focal point of the house, the place where people spend the most time, is the kitchen and family room. That area was actually horrible when we bought the house,” he continues. “Originally, the room was divided in half by a wall of kitchen cabinets, so if you were in the kitchen, you really didn’t get any of the view, which we thought was really odd. So we just gutted that whole room and threw it all out.”

“Now,” Rietdyk notes, “the most dramatic part of that room are the wide-open sliding glass doors,” added to where previously existed fixed windows forbidding outdoor entry. “We also built the patio,” as there wasn’t one, “so now the amount of light that comes into that room and the incredible views are just awesome. And when the doors are open, you just feel the flow from inside to outside.”

The Rietdyks also reconfigured the entrance to the home, removing all walls here for a “wide-open” space that, when entered, acts as “a TV room and a reading room,” Rietdyk says. And they created a master bedroom suite fit for a king and queen. “Along with Criss Gunderson, we designed our bedroom with massive walk-in closets and sauna and steam showers in the bath. It’s really comfortable,” he shares.


Interiors complete, the Rietdyks and Gunderson looked to the property’s exterior, where their vision of a sports playland encompasses the addition of an indoor-size soccer field, a paddle tennis court, basketball hoops, and a completely redone swimming pool and huge Jacuzzi—a heaven on Earth for sports enthusiasts, with crowds forming accordingly.

“We love to have parties, and when we do there are people in every room, indoor and outdoors, on all levels—people playing soccer, tennis, whatever. And then everyone gets into the Jacuzzi. It’s massive…Our requirement was that [it could fit] at least one soccer team,” chuckles Rietdyk.

But, despite having fashioned what by all accounts is a true dream house, the couple is ready to move on. “I love working with Criss, he’s going to work on my next house as well,” says Rietdyk. Next house? Why would anyone want to leave this sprawling hilltopper encompassing 2.63 acres and its own movie theater?

“For us, now is a good time to start thinking about selling. It’s a great place for a family, but my family is shrinking,” explains Rietdyk with a son already in college, and growing daughters ages 15 and 9. And yet, he adds, “If we don’t sell the house, we’ll gladly stay there for another 10 years. We don’t have a need to sell it. I’m just thinking that at this point, I’m in the mood for something new. And I really also have a seven-year itch to go and build another house!” laughs Rietdyk, who, on the precipice of turning 50 this year, eludes to a residence where he and Sophie will settle for good.

But don’t expect to go far to find the family in their new digs; if Rietdyk’s plans work out, they’ll put down roots on the same street. “I love it here!” he says.


SWEET DIGS: California Ranch Redux

Palos Verdes Designer Strategically Reboots a 70s-Era Home


Veteran designer Kathy Entessar tackles a ranch house in need of a refresh. The result of her year-long overhaul is a contemporary property that retains the best of its roots while being amply ready for its 21st-century close-up.


Perched on a leafy hilltop in Rolling Hills Estates is a meandering ranch house with a low-pitched roof and rambling facade, not unlike the legions of others that dot the horsey, north side of the Palos Verdes Peninsula.

This one, however, had changed hands and its new owners felt it was time for a remodel, particularly since the house was riddled with the most tell-tale signs of its 1970’s vintage. Decorative wagon wheels. Copious amounts of knotty pine and faux stone. There was even a clawfoot bathtub inexplicably marooned in a stray outdoor nook.

“It looked like a saloon,” says Kathy Entessar with a laugh. Her interior and architectural firm, EIA & Company, was selected for the job after she showed off her 20-plus-year design chops in the master bathroom, where she smoothed a fussy jumble of veiny travertine into a sleek room of African Wenge wood and softly iridescent tile.

Existing Space Born Anew

It’s arguably easier to create perfect design from scratch than to go in and surgically reconfigure what already—often stubbornly—exists.

“It can be a challenge to work within a given space, especially when a lot of it doesn’t have a good flow,” notes Entessar. “And you might think, ‘Ah, I wish that corridor wasn’t there’ or ‘I wish such-and-such was here.’ But in the end you have to make it work with whatever is existing.”

A few areas, including a front swath of the house, were born anew. Pre-remodel, guests were greeted by a jumble of stacked stone, stray greenery and competing walkways, along with a dated picture window and tiny, cloistered-in porch. This was replaced by a low wall, smoothly stuccoed, that hems in a fresh-air patio with separate dining and conversation areas.

“The client wanted a front area where he could sit down, drink his morning coffee and read the paper,” explains Entessar. Heat lamps were tucked into the ceiling and slate tiles were arranged in a tidy Versailles pattern. A wall of French doors was created to connect the patio with the house, effectively carving out a spacious indoor/outdoor entertainment area while increasing the stores of natural light streaming through the house.

Worn, stamped-concrete walkways were replaced with neat landscaping and a welcome path of stone pavers. Entessar confesses to directing the workers to lay tiles in specific patterns, owing to the curvy visual flow that comes from a well-orchestrated contrast of shades and angles.

I chuckle, imagining the scene. “The entrance is so important,” she insists with a smile. “It sets the entire tone for the house.”



Harmony in Wood and Light

Stepping through the front door, it’s easy to see her point.

Rich hickory floors—handworked with a chisel and planer—establish a polished, earthy elegance that’s light years away from the generic terra cotta tiles that previously lined the floors. “Hickory is the toughest wood you can get,” Entessar points out. “They make baseball bats with it, and it’s hard to ding or scratch.”

Throughout the house, wood dominates, but carefully. From custom cabinetry to the dining room table—a walnut slab with curved edges sourced from Alabama artist Robin Wade—there’s al-ways an ebb and flow of lines to make it compelling. A chunky rosewood console and triangular floor pattern in the foyer create plenty of eye-pleasing dimension in this pivotal space, as does the starburst ceiling fixture designed by Entessar that casts a golden glow over the entrance, “as if it were a stage.”

“When I entertain, I always see three people over here, four people over there,” says Entessar. “So I’ve created little conversation vignettes, and eating vignettes.” These thematic spaces effectively carve out islands for people to converge on, and are a great idea in today’s Age of the Open Floor Plan.

Another way Entessar distinguishes this ranch house? “Conversation pieces that are slightly unexpected and enhance the integrity of the house,” she says.

Perhaps the most high-profile of these are twin walls of custom art glass perched on opposite ends of the central hallway. Replacing a pair of wagon wheels that look like they may have been snatched off a Ponderosa set, the idea of decorative glass was Entessar’s, who designed the tasteful harmony of vibrant, geometric shapes that subtly correspond to sunrise and sunset.

For Some Things, a Second Life

This remodel not being of the unlimited-budget variety (Entessar recounts a Texas project that had her making multiple trips to Paris), the designer was careful to earmark items that could be refreshed and reused. Among them were over 100 doors that were re-finished to an up-to-date taupe that effectively dialed down the Western knotty pine to the right level of rustic.

“I don’t like waste,” explains Entessar. “If I can reuse, I definitely will.”

In the kitchen, existing wood cabinets were refinished a dusty white, their edges glazed a bit darker to enrich depth. Throughout the room, tone on tone is used to distinguish spaces, create dimension and modernize. The medium-hued wood floor visually plays against a vaulted honey ceiling, and the central island sports a light sage finish that neatly twines together the room’s dominant colors.

When asked about architectural styles she favors, Entessar answers without skipping a beat: “My style is every style.”

Attention to light, lines and balance are fundamentals for any designer, yet Entessar’s training reaches back to a past in classical ballet. This exacting art shares a designer’s focus with visual absolutes, and it’s these she enjoys bringing into perfect harmony above all, no matter the genre.

“Design is like ballet in that there’s no room for error,” remarks Entessar. “There’s no such thing as ‘a little off.’ A ‘little off’ is ‘completely off.’

“When I see a house or a space, immediately in my head I see it complete. Perfect,” she pauses. “It’s a weird thing.”

Her approach makes sense, given that re-writing color and spatial composition figured so centrally in the skillful update of this peaceful hilltop ranch. Where there were wagon wheels and cramped rooms of terra cotta, the designer saw—and subsequently choreographed—a dance of glossy woods, ornamental art and soaring, open spaces.


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