Raju Chhabria’s love of Palos Verdes began on a fateful day in 1984. Recently moved to the South Bay from Bangalore, India, he headed up the hill to meet a man about an enticing real estate job he had seen in the paper. The job was bogus, but the location was anything but. “I was disappointed that the job ad was not what it seemed,” says Chhabria. “But I looked around me, and said, ‘This place is beautiful.’ I drove around and ended up on an oceanfront street—Paseo del Mar.”
“IN 1986 OR ‘87, I HAD A CLIENT THAT WANTED TO BUY A HOUSE FOR $5 MILLION IN PALOS VERDES, BUT EVERYTHING WAS SO OLD AND BEAT UP. I WAS KIND OF BUMMED THAT I COULDN’T SELL HIM A HOUSE. THAT’S WHERE IT STARTED. I DECIDED, I’M GOING TO START BUILDING HOUSES, ONE BY ONE.”
Over $3 billion in career sales
He was a top agent at Shorewood Realtors every year from 1995 to 2014 before starting his own brokerage
Chhabria has lived in Palos Verdes for nearly 30 years
Like many things in his life, Chhabria made it happen by a combination of iron will and work. He had already tasted success as a young entrepreneur in India when he took over an uncle’s flagging wholesale fabric firm after college, and managed a quick turnaround by implementing innovative new offerings, such as delivering products directly to clients, rather than have them schlep to the busy wholesale market to pick them up.
For Chhabria, it was love at first sight. “‘Someday, I want to own a house on this street,’” he told himself. Five years later, he did.
So the confidence was there when he embarked upon his new career in the United States, first attending real estate school, which he credits with providing key early mentorship. “My real estate teacher was agent Paul Allen from Century 21,” says Chhabria. “He taught A to Z about real estate. He was one of the best educators and teachers.” Armed with his license, Chhabria started selling homes successfully and, in 1989, purchased his Paseo del Mar dream home for $1.2 million.
A booster as well as a long-time resident of the area, Chhabria has raised his family in Palos Verdes with wife Philomina (sons Neil and Anand Chhabria are part of the business), and today, nearing 35 years in local real estate,
PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY OF RAJU CHHABRIA
Written by Constance Dunn | Photography by Paul Jonason
Presented by Raju Chhabria, Shorewood Realtors
List price $9,999,999
Tony Ashai is an architect well known in Los Angeles for designing lavish estates, and is increasingly famous in the United Arab Emirates for his grand towers and palatial spreads in Dubai. A few years ago, Ashai—also notable for his part in the renovation of New York’s Chrysler Building during the late 1980s through early 1990s while an architect at James Barclay and Associates—was hired to design a custom seaside home on a high bluff in Oceanfront Estates, a quiet, exclusive neighborhood along Palos Verdes Drive.
The result is this hyper-luxurious residence filled with details from classical antiquity, starting with an entrance portico accented by four columns, dramatic in Corinthian detailing and fashioned from natural limestone. “I’d say it’s the nicest home in Oceanfront Estates by far,” says Josh Herbst, whose Encinitas construction firm specializes in building estates, from Tuscan to contemporary, and who was called to the South Bay to build the detail-rich residence for his father in-law. (The bulk of the other homes in the development are project, or spec homes, versus this bespoke residence.)
In a time when new, high-end home construction in the South Bay is increasingly focused on Modernist design, all glass and light and streamlined in shape, this meticulously crafted residence, unapologetically lavish and filled with signposts of classical splendor, from marble floors and majestic columns to grand hallways lit with chandeliers, makes for a refreshing detour back to a traditional aesthetic.
“There was a lot of labor and thought and layout that went into the home,” says Herbst, citing the volume of intricate wrought iron found throughout the 8,000 plus square-foot home, as well as the grand interior columns and sweeping duo of staircases among the rigorous details that went into the home’s construction, a 12-month process that was completed in 2015.
The five-bedroom floorplan reconciles the elegance found in homes with such a grand scale with an upright coziness. Discrete wings and rooms, including a gym, wine storage and home theater, are positioned around a central gathering space—an open air, two-story living area that’s elaborately bordered by a run of columned archways. “The real challenge of this home had to do with its openness,” says Herbst, who adds that beneath the smooth limestone walls lies a vast network of structural steel to faithfully support the radically open core of the home. There are leagues of gleaming limestone utilized indoors and outdoors, a sage choice not only for the way the material suits the atmosphere of a classic estate (indoors, complementing creamy Italian marble floors), but for its maintenance and durability— after all, the Great Pyramids, built thousands of years ago, are constructed of the same material.
Susan Spath, an interior designer based in Solana Beach who is known for crafting classically sophisticated residences, has much to do with the atmosphere of the home, from the sumptuous furniture and rich drapes to the seamless mesh between its construction and design elements. It’s a seamlessness that owes to the regular collaboration between the designer and builder. “Susan Spath and I work together quite frequently,” says Herbst, crediting the construction-friendly designer with creating the home’s entire color palette, and even tweaking the floor plan. “I understand the direction she’s going in.”
“With our firm having a focus on full-scale design,” explains Spath, “we are in the unique position of being involved with homes on a level encompassing everything from plumbing to appliances, millwork, cabinetry design and finishes.” And, the creative linchpins that inspired the designer’s vision for this home? “In this project, I was drawn to the classic archways and the open feel of the residence,” says Spath. “It was the perfect opportunity to work with the stone, tile and iron elements that work so well in areas that have a strong indoor and outdoor living lifestyle.”
Speaking of, the interior and exterior are twined not only in the home’s fenestration—a cheerful vision of blue water and sunny skies meets you at every turn, thanks to oversized windows carefully positioned throughout the homes and dressed in Spath’s lush window treatments—but also on its many balconies and in a majestic series of arched doors that open onto a leisure-inducing lounging portico and manicured green yard that’s home to a pool, bubbling spa and grilling station. “This particular residence has a distinctly Moorish Mediterranean feel to it that plays so well here in Southern California,” points out Spath, who selected tiles and stones to underscore this feel used in both the interior and exterior for the purpose of deepening the thematic link between the two spaces.
To comfortably dress the grand scale of the rooms, Spath looked for fireplaces and ironwork that were generous in scope, as well as tile that had the right coloring and texture to invite people into the spaces. In addition, glistening crystal chandeliers were brought in to add dimension to rooms. “Our goal was to bring the spaces and rooms together so they read as a whole,” says Spath, “without losing the feeling of openness and light that makes this property so special.”
DIGStv met up with Raju Chhabria of Shorewood Realtors in the South Bay of Los Angeles at his Torrance office to discuss his success and a couple active projects.
In 2015, Raju Chhabria was nationally ranked in the Top 15 Realtors by sales volume, selling nearly $300,000,000 in home sales in the Southern California real estate market. Raju talks what helps him stand apart from other agents. Then Raju Chhabria takes DIGS through a couple of his recent listings listings in Palos Verdes Estates and Manhattan Beach.
Breezy, white-on-white spaces and ample coastline views proves that bigger is better in Hermosa.
Written by Constance Dunn
Photography by Paul Jonason
Offered Raju Chhabria of Shorewood Realtors
List price $6,250,000
There are three types of people in this world: those who yearn to step on the sand, those who just want to look at the water, and those who are indifferent to the prospect of either. This home is ideal for the second bunch—those whose yen for the ocean is best quenched by gazing at it, preferably 24-7.
That’s because there are few places in this 8,390-square-foot Hermosa Beach home where you don’t get picture-perfect views of the South Bay coastline, whether it’s the sloping green hills of Palos Verdes, the white-canvas legion of sailboats making their way out of King Harbor, or a full-length shot of the classic wooden pier jutting from Redondo Beach. And both the floor plan and Big Minimalist aesthetic of the interior have been designed to take full advantage of these visual riches. Oversized picture windows stream in panoramic views, while abundant outdoor leisure spaces are ideal for taking in the hospitable climate and seaside air. The design—big, white and airy—is Modernist to the core. Most rooms are oversized playrooms—rectangular or square in shape, with stark-white walls against white or wood floors—that successfully frame the unending canvas of blue sky and sea that surrounds the home. Your gaze is continually pushed outdoors, though indoors is not a bad place to be.
“The builder really went for it,” says realtor Anand Chhabria, introducing the home’s visual centerpiece—a cathedral-sized foyer. Chhabria, who works with the home’s listing realtor, Raju Chhabria, points out a twinkling constellation of ornamental chandeliers, recessed twin skylights and an exposed second-floor. “Everything is over the top. Grand.” Beneath are glossy floors that beckon towards a streamlined show kitchen with dark-wood cabinetry, marble countertops and steel appliances. Sitting areas, complete with upright leather perches in white and a reflective ceiling centerpiece that’s strung with pendant lights, mark the room as a natural gathering space, particularly since an entire wall is given over to retractable glass that opens onto an entertainer’s patio. Stocked with a bar and barbecue nook, a decorous fire pit and a seriously oversized hot tub in its center, the outdoor space can also be fused to the party-sized living room. This living room, though, can quickly be transformed in atmosphere from festive to intimate due to a sedate wall of wood cabinetry and an elegant fireplace that’s neatly folded into an earthy stone wall.
Special attention is paid to the home’s high ceilings, whether they’re adorned with striking light fixtures, gently curved or recessed, and glowing with light. It’s a strategy that’s used amply on the ground floor to interrupt the white-on-white theme and, in the case of the intimate dining room with its subtly vaulted ceiling, add more visual drama to the space via shadow lines that give the ceiling a floating appearance.
“This home has a lot of personality,” says Chhabria. “You’re not going to find other properties in the area like this. It’s made for someone who wants to make a statement. And it’s in a great spot. Kind of secluded, but close to everything.”
Purchased in 2012 and made anew by local builder Willie Campbell, the property sits atop a high elevation in an under-the-radar spot that’s, ironically, less than a minute from the Pacific Coast Highway and five minutes by car from the beach and Strand. The house sits at the end of a small cul-de-sac off 30th Street in Hermosa Valley, a residential swath of Hermosa Beach between Ardmore Avenue and Pacific Coast Highway. The exterior of the home—contemporary and rectangular, speckled with light-hued stones and shrouded by leafy bamboo trees—provides pleasant, understated cover for a significantly more dramatic interior.
The second floor, where guestrooms are situated, continues the “bigger is better” theme of the ground floor with broad hallways of grainy wood plank flooring and an L-shaped floor plan that’s mostly bordered by a translucent bannister stretching around the landing. “Pictures don’t do it justice,” says Chhabria of the home. “Every time someone steps inside you can see what an impression the place makes. And everything is so open; when you walk around you feel like you can breathe.”
The master suite is pre-empted by a showcase closet room lined with peek-a-boo glass and masculine wood, illuminated by twin skylights. The “master” status of the bedroom is re-affirmed by sweeping ocean views that run the length of massive twin balconies. (That, and a bathroom that’s big enough to do cartwheels across.) Each of the six bedrooms, though, are appreciatively well-scaled, so that no guests will find themselves lodged in disproportionally small quarters. And if someone is seeking complete privacy, they’ll find it at the end of a long stretch of sunny catwalk, blanketed by a glass roof and walls at one point, which leads
to a solitary room with spacious windows that are shrouded by tall stalks of
It was influential French architect Le Corbusier who emphasized the idea of a house being “a machine for living.” In this case the machine—sleek surfaces, super-sized spaces and coastline views—has successfully twined a setting fit for cosmopolitan glitz or fresh-air relaxation, and tucked it away on a quiet street in a classic California beach town.
A Sprawling Hilltop Hacienda, with Top-of-the-World Views and Plenty of Places to Play, is Pure Pleasure — Palos Verdes Style
WRITTEN BY CONSTANCE DUNN | PHOTOGRAPHY BY PAUL JONASON
OFFERED BY RAJU CHHABRIA, SHOREWOOD REALTORS | LIST PRICE $4,999,000
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.