A room with a view is one thing, but a house with a view? That’s the dream. So it was with the Watsons, a family of five who traded in their Huntington Beach, California, residence for a hilltop property overlooking the sea in nearby Corona del Mar. But the perfect home it was not. “The house was an original—over 40 years old with small divided rooms that didn’t take advantage of the amazing panorama,” says architect Eric Olsen, whom the wife discovered when she happened upon his home in a magazine. The clients knew they wanted to tear down the existing structure in favor of erecting something more modern, but it took a full two years before they would act on their plans. “The owners are big believers in living in a space to learn about light, view orientation, and how a lot feels,” Olsen says.
Their observations helped the architect create a highly personal four-bedroom home that emphasized the family’s lifestyle while embracing a stylish sensibility. “They wanted an entertaining house that was as open as could be for larger get-togethers, but that also felt intimate, cozy, and able to meet the needs of their daily life,” says Olsen. To take advantage of, in his words, “every inch of the lot,” he designed the 3,450-square-foot structure around a central courtyard that affords public spaces access to a relaxed pool area through floor-to-ceiling sliding doors, all the while adhering to the neighborhood’s height limit so that others could continue to enjoy their own views. Like the more visible rooms, the private spaces reflect a subtle midcentury aesthetic dominated by clean lines and minimalist finishes. “The old house that they originally purchased, much like many of the original homes in the neighborhood, had that vibe,” says Olsen. “I wanted the architecture to relate to that aesthetic but be a fresh, organic take on that modern direction. The house needed to fit into the context of the street but also stand alone.”
While the residence’s midcentury inspiration is palpable, the rooms also represent the luxury and aesthetics of the present day. “Since the architecture of the house was very modern, clean, and bold, I wanted to pull the interiors into a softer yet complementary version of ‘modern organic,’ using natural materials, including leather, oak, and washed textiles,” says designer Raili Clasen, who translated the Watsons’ preference for approachable spaces. In the dining area, a crisp white banquette plays off woven leather chairs and oil-rubbed bronze hardware; two L-shaped sectionals upholstered in durable linen delineate the living room, while textiles in blue stripes add variation and a burst of color to the neutral space. This is a home that effortlessly balances style and comfort—and one that was well worth the wait.
This family love to entertain, so we had a 14-foot table custom-made to seat 16,” says Clasen. “Instead of overhead pendants, we had a light artisan create a row of wall-mounted industrial arm lights that come out of the board-formed concrete. The chairs are by Holly Hunt, and the artwork is by Pierce Meehan.
The minimalist master bath is a study in restraint, with lighting from A+R, chevron-tiled floors, and a picture window overlooking Corona del Mar. Blond wood cabinetry warms up the black and white palette.
In the master suite, a herringbone wall installation backs a custom bed and side tables. The bedding is Matteo and RH; the sconces were purchased from Rejuvenation. A plaid upholstered chair from Schoolhouse Electric is arranged beneath a work by Alex Couwenberg.
For the son’s room, “I wanted a feeling of old-school summer camp and brought in hints of his hobbies,” says Clasen of its occupant’s interests in sports and play. Linens by Schoolhouse Electric cover an RH bed; the rug is a vintage Native American weave.
A nod to one daughter’s love of ballet, this kid’s room features a barre for warm-ups and practice sessions. The bedding if from RH, and the cozy rug is from HD Buttercup.
This article was originally published in Architectural Digest on April 10, 2017.