Beach Cities Developer Thomas Shin Debuts Two New Contemporary Manhattan Beach Homes Designed by Michael Lee
In the midst of the Sand Section in Manhattan Beach, one finds one of the most majestic scenes in the South Bay. The rolling tiers of manicured green grass and old-growth trees of Bruce’s Beach form a splendid setting. Add the contrast of white-tipped waves rolling onto the sand and an endless azure sky, and the site is inspired, whether looking at it for the first or millionth time.
That’s what high-end residential developer Thomas Shin of Balios Capital thought when he set about acquiring an expansive double lot that bordered the park. Not just any lot; perhaps the most plum of all, situated in the center position along the highest vantage point along the park.
“This corridor, from Highland to Crest, has the highest views in Manhattan Beach,” explains real estate agent Shawn Dugan. “It’s a sweet spot of elevated, panoramic views that are unique in the Sand Section.”
Looking for a design to make the most of this rare lot, Thomas Shin selected Manhattan Beach-based Michael Lee to function as both architect and builder on the project.
“I wanted to bring a different type of product to the area,” says Thomas Shin, “one that isn’t seen too often.”
The result, freshly complete, are two sleek townhomes—one located along Highland Avenue and another tucked right behind it, on Crest Avenue. The home on Highland spans about 2,700 square feet and includes an elevator, while the Crest Avenue property is a bit larger, measuring approximately 2,850 square feet. Both include four bedrooms and four-and-a-half bathrooms, and architecturally, are beach contemporary to the core.
Notable is the balance of Michael Lee’s user-friendly pragmatism with his distinctive visual style: an urbane yet unstarched elegance that’s warm and welcoming by way of carefully selected organic materials and a master’s command of natural light, honed over his 200-plus project career that’s been primarily focused in the Beach Cities.
“The units are designed to maximize the experience of the beach,” says Michael Lee.
That, and the rich stock of ocean and sky that’s been optimized by a plethora of oversized windows and floor-to-ceiling Fleetwood doors. The islands in the distance are part of the scene too, as are the vibrant shifts of natural light that cast both interiors with a soft glow in the morning, painted sunsets by afternoon, and starlit skies at night.
In the Highland home, unobstructed ocean views are experienced on all three levels, including an airy master bedroom featuring a glass wall that slides open to expose leafy treetops and the glowing horizon, where sky touches ocean. (Here, Michael Lee smartly installed etched glass along the balcony’s guardrails to block out views of the street below.)
“The ocean views are framed in green grass and trees, which otherwise doesn’t exist in Manhattan Beach,” says Shawn Dugan of the Highland home.
At the Crest house, ocean views are just as prize-worthy, albeit less green park-driven and more elevated due to the home’s higher position on the hill: It’s an epic command of sea and sky found exclusively on the uppermost floor, and exploited to the max by way of a grand deck that extends from the great room.
The result is an everyday living experience that erases distinctions between being indoors and outdoors. One can be in the kitchen, a gallery-like space sculpted in Calacatta marble and streamlined cabinetry, or lounging in the fireplaced living room, and feel as connected to this only in California splendor as if one’s gathered around the deck’s fire-pit, neatly sheltered by the sandy-hued planks of the deck’s tongue-and-groove ceiling.
“We went out of our way to capture every inch of the view,” says Michael Lee of the design.
Note that this sweetly unblocked panorama—stretching to Santa Monica and Malibu looking north, and including Palos Verdes and Catalina Island to the south—is forever due to the home’s park-adjacent location.
Both homes have exceptional views in common but are unique in respective floor plans, materials and atmosphere. “The owner, Thomas, wanted the units to be distinctive,” Michael Lee notes. So think of the two homes as cousins versus twins, with the aesthetic hands of Thomas Shin and Michael Lee in both.
“These houses and this location,” says Thomas Shin, “they don’t come around very often.”
That said, each home is tailored to its unique position on the hill: The Highland house is imbued with what Lee describes as a “soft, urban look,” with an exterior that balances glass and light-hued brick against wood and dark metal. Inside, a roomy stairwell connects each floor, creating an airy and sunlit connection between each.
By contrast, the Crest property offers a more box-like, horizontal silhouette wrapped in suede-like stucco. Inside contrasts are subtle and elegant, from pale oak floors and cabinetry to softly gleaming accents in polished chrome and satin-finish brass. In both homes, master bathrooms are high notes—luxurious retreats with walk-in spa showers and freestanding white tubs and generously dressed in thick slabs of veiny marble.
“I spent an inordinate amount of money on slabs,” says Michael Lee with a laugh.
It was a desire to create elevated markers of Manhattan Beach living that drove this project, with the end result being two new homes that add up to a next chapter of luxury along the border of this beachside park.
“We wanted the rooms to feel good,” Michael Lee says simply of his work, which is focused on a studied and uncluttered design, along with the positive exploitation of light, air and materials. That, and a thorough embrace of this rare environment.
“I’m very happy with the composition of the two of them together,” says Michael Lee.
“I think they look fantastic.”
Shawn Dugan | 310.265.3428 | DRE 01749343
Dave Caskey | 310.200.1960 | DRE 01198999
Strand Hill | Christie’s International Real Estate
List Price: 2612 Highland $5,699,000 | 2613 Crest $6,299,000
Photographs by Paul Jonason
Interior Designed By Joe Lucas Of Interior Design Firm – Lucas Studio Inc.