Tag Archives: Malibu Style

The Place Next Door


Untitled by Ridi Winarno (the David Allen Collection)


This is one of those times when we live twice: in the real world and in the imagination. The task at hand was to design a condo by the sea in Solana Beach, California. My inspiration was “Malibu Style,” neutrals and naturals, light and white. Adhering to this with a cult-like devotion, I have to wonder, did I take it too far? 

Our family gathered in the condo over the holidays. The NFL playoffs were underway on a flatscreen television playing soundlessly in the living room. I was holding our six month old grandson, trying to keep his eyes off the giant screen. Walking up and down the stone floored white hall, round and round the bleached dining table, his eyes searching–and before long I realized he’s looking everywhere for color. The baby was color starved. I am color starved. How did I not know this?

Everything I’d appointed was whites, naturals, some browns and black. I wanted to bring serenity, like a spa or sanctuary. Like a nest. But I caved when it came to the guest room, throwing in a stroke of light terracotta or clay because I thought I would crack without color. 

It must have been at this time I started designing another condo in my head, taking the same footprint and color saturating it. And there it exists, mentally, alongside this condo. Come on in, if you will.

Man Jong by Roche Bobois

Deep green trees greet you on the patio, and because in my mind I live here year-round and can tend plants, they are carried through inside, blurring the distinction between interior and exterior. Each room steps outside. The living room is landscaped in Missoni fabrics on Mah Jong, the modular sofa by Roche Bobois. Sprawled, stacked, and juxtaposed to make any composition, it’s like a visual collage on the floor. Blues, saffron, rust, reds, pinks, and greens, you might think you stepped into a Moroccan riad. You will want to take off your shoes.

Baths are papered in large lush tropical prints, and everywhere there will be potted trees and plants. I’ll grow fruits of color: oranges, lemons, and lime. A wall of books arranged by color, and everywhere art. I’m presently looking at large, brilliantly colored canvases by Ridi Winardo, Indonesian Asian modern and contemporary painter (David Alan Collection, Solana Beach CA). I would love to live with his work. 

Again and again from our condo of all-the-earthy-tones-I-could-get-my-hands-on, I frequently retreat into this color saturated condo in my mind. And then I slip back again, from the plethora of color to a monochromatic meditative state, and I am at rest. But that’s just me.


Filed under color vs. naturals, interior design

Just a Beach House


Sundowning at Seascape Shores, Photo by Ashley Mayer

Who does this, disappear for four or five months? We did. Our goodbyes on island in late June were all about going to San Diego for the birth of our latest grandchild in early July. But no sooner did baby Hudson come into the world, we started to look for a condo. A place we might rent out most of the year, and then use ourselves in wintertime. A home away from home to be near the grands and in the sun. That’s the plan anyway. Time will tell how well it goes.

This is the story of where we are and what we’re doing. I’d like our friends and neighbors on island to know, we did not fall off the earth. Although, here too, we’re living right on the edge.

Just north of Del Mar we found ourselves a condominium in Solana Beach. Not a row of condos, mind you, with everyone over your shoulder or elbow to elbow from one balcony to the next, Seascape Shores is instead designed as a village. Maze-like paths and condos that are turned for light, privacy, and abundant outdoor deck and courtyard space, all on a cliff with a shared staircase of 140 steps to the beach. A highly coveted oceanfront community, little did we know how rarely the units become available.

From first sight I have considered this “my beach house.” I want it to be an oasis. Everything in calm neutrals and naturals, following the edict of Malibu Style. I figure we’re both surfing communities, north of San Diego and north of Los Angeles. 

There is a ritual at Seascape Shores of residents coming out to see the sundown every evening. The thought is: if everyone paused like this, the world would be a better place.

As a child of the Sixties, I can do naturals with my eyes shut and hands behind my back. It’s a look and texture I love, and it’s in again, as it should be. Everyone’s got a hanging basket chandelier. Ours is made of rope. Similarly I was going to resist wall baskets for being too trendy. Well now I have two. Over-scaled. Avoiding big box home stores, I comb Cedros Design District in Solana Beach for vintage and rustic tables, stools, benches, pillows, throws, baskets, pottery, and art. 

Basically I waver between “We’re going to make it beautiful” and “It’s just a beach house.” When we first bought the condo all the girlfriends inside my head said, “You’re going to have to paint out the cabinets and replace the ugly brown granite countertops.” I know they were thinking white in both cases. Why then, after upgrading to stainless appliances and pulls, am I so happy with things the way they are? Walking home after sunsets there’s a warmth in the light maple cabinets, and the granite backsplash glows like alabaster lit from within. 

A wall weaving in cream colored string by Leanne Ford pulls everything together for me. I knew I could count on her to get my drift. In the dining there’s a twig composition from Bali, and a manzanita tree branch hung on the wall over each bed. It’s all natural and sculptural. I need to “feel the hand” of textures, to see the scale and the nuanced color. That which cannot be done online.  

So I go with what I love and in the process, fall in love with it. I’m going to have a hard time leaving this beach house. Part of me doesn’t want it to ever be finished. 

 “I hope we get out of here by Christmas,” says my husband.

We missed a summer and fall on island to get this condo in Solana Beach up and running. But I’m seeing the boys grow up here year after year. It’s their beach house too. The way the beach house was like a character in “Beaches” with Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey. I had such a summer place at a grandmother’s cabin on a lake in Connecticut in my childhood, so I know the importance of it. 

The boys bounding up and down the stairs in wetsuits, carrying boards and laughing. Their grandfather at the grill, and sun on the patio all winter long. A refrigerator that’s somehow always full and beds made up for them. And when it’s quiet, the sound of the ocean never far off. 

I see all this. And if they love coming here like I loved that lake, well then, that’s what I’m after. 


Filed under beach house, remodel