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All in the Family
By Kathryn Romeyn | Photo: by Karyn Millet | October 1, 2018
An empty lot in Newport Beach transforms into a stunning dream home for future generations.
There’s something to be said for respecting one’s environment. In sunny Newport Beach, life is best enjoyed in open air, meaning careful attention must be paid to the indoor-outdoor flow. Architect Eric Olsen wholeheartedly embraced the idyllic surrounds of a 9,500-square-foot lot originally owned by his clients’ grandparents, who built a home on the plot in the ’60s. His clients lived in the structure for two years before asking him to design a brand-new space for their young family.
To take advantage of the lot size and to blend into the neighborhood, a modern take on the single-story ranch was the ultimate goal. “We did not want the house to be a complete departure from that vernacular,” Olsen says. The trusting owners left all in his capable hands, alongside interior designer Shannon Wilkins, and never once micromanaged. The resulting four-bedroom, 4.5-bathroom home—which also includes a detached guest bedroom-cum-office space—flows seamlessly from inside to outside thanks in part to large sliding glass doors.
The exterior shines thanks to a resortlike atmosphere with three distinct areas: pool, outdoor dining and sunken fire pit. “We wanted comfortable and cozy outdoor spaces that people would really use,” Olsen explains. “Everything feels connected and works together.” The homeowners always wanted an outdoor shower, so the architect made that a focal point. “It’s easy to use and there is a hidden sliding barn door that can close it off and make it private,” he says. Bathrooms are light-filled and calming, and for uniformity, retain the same cabinetry as in the kitchen and hallways.
The goal from the outset was for every room to open to the courtyard, creating a strong visual and physical connection to the outdoors. To that end, Olsen designed an L-shape structure, with bedrooms lined up along the side of the property, and the living, dining and kitchen spaces at the front. The detached guest bedroom-office in the back corner creates, in Olsen’s words, a “greater sense of warmth” in the courtyard by adding a feeling of enclosure.
“Because the house was designed to be open and connected to the yard, it was essential to design the interior and exterior as complementary pieces,” he says. Materials, such as over-grouted Texas limestone, black-stained rough-sawn cedar, copper and plaster, create a seamless transition throughout.
The kitchen island and dining table were built to match, a choice Olsen made to create a somewhat symmetrical focal point with a strong visual impact. It was the most important part of the house to the owners, whose daily lives revolve around the marble-clad kitchen. To Wilkins, the dining setup—with its leather chairs found at the 11th hour at HD Buttercup—feels very Newport Beach in its informality. Linear architectural details and large-scale artwork from Scape Gallery add texture to the clean, open spaces.
“The family started out with almost no furniture and were super awesome about leaving the vision to us,” says Wilkins of the “dream clients,” for whom she sourced a mix of old and new, relying on antique shops as well as her go-to, Cisco Home. She chose each piece knowing the couple’s two small children—a boy, 6, and girl, 4—would be interacting with it.
She first tackled the main living room, which became a jumping-off point for the rest of the house. The Prairie Home Styling founder chose a durable, washable fabric by Cisco Home to upholster the large sofa. A pair of Borge Mogensen Spanish chairs from 503 Found was an exciting find, and Wilkins especially enjoyed sourcing the vintage metal basket lights for the hallway, tracking them down throughout L.A. The master bedroom scheme revolved around a minimalist wood four-poster bed from Juxtaposition, rounded out with nightstands from RH, Aerin lamps and linens and pillows by Jenni Kayne. She added additional texture by layering a large jute rug beneath a vintage Oushak one. The effect, Wilkins says, “feels tranquil and in harmony with the architecture.” It, like the rest of the home, is one with its environment.