Written by Constance Dunn | Photography Courtesy of Paul Jonason
A few years ago, a local businessman snapped up a plum property, located on a hillside and adjacent to his own Palos Verdes home. Luckily for Rose and Nicholas Colonna, the property became available when they were looking for a new home. “We downsized because our kids were all gone,” says Rose Colonna, a Palos Verdes native. Searching for something luxurious, yet not grandly scaled like her former home, which was approximately 12,000 square feet, Colonna knew that when she set her eyes on the nearly 7,000 square foot home three years ago, it was just the place. The couple snapped up the property to which they added approximately a million dollars in custom renovations.
The result is a fine Spanish home in the hacienda style, complete with a U-shaped floor plan that cradles an outdoor oasis in the vein of a leisured resort. Inside, rooms are meticulously decked with the features of classic luxury, from Venetian plastered walls to ornate chandeliers and coffered ceilings.
The atmosphere is an ideal twine of sumptuousness and making the most of Southern California’s fair climate—ocean views included. “It checks all the boxes. Everything I had in the big house I have here,” says Colonna, “only on a smaller scale.”
“I love the kitchen,” she says, walking through the ideally sized space—one that’s large enough to handle a hefty entertaining load yet small enough to feel homey when making morning coffee or fixing an informal family meal. “Look around, it has everything,” she says, pointing out features that include an oversized Viking range, along with dual refrigerators, dual dishwashers and built-in beverage drawers.
There are ornate glossy floors and a central island—along with shiny steel appliances and a deftly inlaid coffered ceiling. The more decorative notes are balanced by touches of farmhouse chic, such as carved cabinetry in shades
of walnut and antique blue, and a fresh-air atmosphere due to French doors that open directly to the outdoors. A butler’s pantry and an adjacent sunlit breakfast room complete the scene. “You don’t have to set up tables,” says Colonna, noting the multiple dining areas, steps from the kitchen. “You can have a party of 80 and you’re ready to go.”
Speaking of parties, the grounds are designed for them. Like the interior, the scale of the exterior spaces achieves an atmosphere of easy luxury without the burden of too vast a space, which inevitably leads to thoughts of upkeep.
A covered outdoor living room with a fireplace and a grand dining area, ideal for candlelit dinner gatherings, dominates the central courtyard—a space adjoined to the interior daily gathering rooms by a generous use of French doors. One of these is a family room with a vista that stretches across the city and mountains, and where Colonna enjoys peaceful mornings making jewelry and taking in the views.
“When my friends stop by, they tell me they don’t want to leave because they feel they’re on vacation,” says Colonna with a chuckle as we stroll outside, past the Roman-shaped pool and the fire pit, the full-sized bar and outdoor kitchen. This leisure area, decked in smooth travertine, is tidy and private, with a keen landscape of palm trees and succulents, creeping bougainvillea and tidy European hedges. “My husband is the landscaper,” she says. The style? “We did classic Santa Barbara Spanish.” Adding to this is a manicured lawn of more than 2,500 square feet that sits below this elevated area, with peaceful waterfalls and a koi pond.
Entertaining areas abound inside the home as well. There’s an intimate media room on the lower floor (there are three floors in all). For formal occasions, the wing on the main floor includes both a chandeliered dining room and a living room, plus a cozy library loaded with intricate custom finish work—from a carved marble fireplace and a deep tray ceiling to matching cabinetry and bookshelves in a deep merlot hue.
Perhaps the most epic views in a property filled with them are found in the master wing, which encompasses most of the top floor of the home, and in itself could serve as stand-alone lodging. There’s a massive outdoor terrace laid with stonework that affords a palm tree panorama stretching across the peninsula and beyond. “The view is really endless,” notes Colonna. “You can see the San Bernardino mountains, the Queen’s Necklace and even further, Point Dume.” A sequence of French doors merge the space with the indoors, which includes an airy office (“We love the office here, it’s so convenient”) and a sunlit bedroom, complete with a marble fireplace and quiet side patio that seems the ideal spot for lounging in the morning hours or stargazing before bed.
The master bath is appropriately outfitted in size and details, including chandeliers, marble counters and an elevated spa tub where one can soak amid views of the Pacific Ocean. The closet is notable for both its size—it’s as big as a nearby bedroom—and modern design niceties supplied by friend and wardrobe consultant, Gayle Theodora Drake, who customized features ranging from a generous shoe showcase and lockable cabinetry to a marble island and vanity.
Consistent throughout the home, from the most ornate room or column-filled hallway to every bedroom, is quick access to the outdoors, with its fresh air and resplendent views. It’s that balance again, between sunshine and stateliness. Perhaps it’s floor-to-ceiling doors that open onto a private sitting lawn, as is the case in the library and the dining room.
The private hydrangea garden that one steps out to from one of the five en-suite bedrooms. Or wrought-iron balconies in the formal living room, where one can drink in the home’s hilltop perspective that stretches across the mountains, ocean and city.
Whether it’s the triple-layered wainscoting in a spare guestroom or the gleaming workspaces that line the car-lover’s garage, the detailing throughout the property—inside and on its grounds—is the high-note of the home. “The level of detail,” real estate agent Anand Chhabria answers quickly when asked what makes the home so special. “Everything about this house, especially what the owner did from the time they moved in, is amazing.”
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.