We’ve gotten to a place where we all speak the same language,” designer Joe Lucas says of the working relationship he and his design partner, Parrish Chilcoat, share with builder Matt Morris. For Morris, the feeling is mutual: “We think alike,” he says, “and we bounce ideas off of each other constantly.” On a Morris-Lucas-Chilcoat production, many decisions are made in collaboration. Morris handles the interior architecture and cabinetry with input from the designers, who tackle the furnishings; the team arrives at the finishes together. “We fill in each other’s gaps,” adds Morris about the seamless approach. The trio has worked together on close to a dozen projects around Manhattan Beach, and their latest collaboration speaks to the advantages of familiarity and experience.
This go-around, the group teamed up to create a family’s three-story Cape Cod-style house on one of the beach town’s coveted walk streets. “The couple has a very fun personality, and they love to entertain,” says Morris. “So we were able to give the house a more glammed-out feel that’s still comfortable.” The open flow of spaces on the second level proved key to creating a chic plan conducive to entertaining. “The living room, dining room and kitchen flow gracefully from front to back,” notes longtime Morris collaborator architect Doug Leach, who established the overall layout and floor plan. “We love that everything is completely open, on one easy floor, since I spend 99 percent of my time in the kitchen,” says the wife. Throughout the house, Morris added details such as beadboard ceilings, wall paneling and barn doors to lend character to the spaces.
The wife also came to the table with a few specific ideas of her own. “When someone has an opinion, good taste and beautiful things, it’s a quick process to figure out what direction to take,” says Lucas. And one direction—a surprising one coming from a mother of young children—emerged quickly. “She wanted to keep a lot of the upholstery white,” recalls Lucas. “We said, ‘What are you thinking?’ But we found great outdoor fabrics that would work.”
To break up the white, which defines the furniture in both the living and family rooms, Lucas and Chilcoat opted for a few bold notes. Downstairs, a graphic batik covers a pair of armchairs in the family room, while in the living room, “we liked a chintz that had a lot of blue and yellow in it for the draperies and shades,” Chilcoat notes. “It adds some punch and depth.” Lucas and Chilcoat teased out one the chintz’s blues to create a transition from the open living and dining areas into the kitchen. The fabric’s navy appears on the dining chair leather, priming the eye for the pale blue of the kitchen cabinetry. Then, it reappears, flecking the bar chairs’ fabric.
There’s one exception to the light and bright vibe of the house: The second-floor library has a formality that pays homage to the wife’s East Coast roots. “She was obsessed with the idea of a lacquered library,” says Lucas, who settled on a deep navy-teal shade with a rich shine for the walls. The wife also adored a Phillip Jeffries grass cloth and brought a sample with her to their initial design meeting. “We loved it, too,” says Chilcoat. “We used a dark version in the guest bedroom and a greeny-cream in the master bedroom.”
The whisper of green in the covering provided inspiration for the room’s ceiling and trim paint, infusing the space with subtle color. The designers turned to another pale shade, this time a gray-lavender, which they used to lacquer the frame of an heirloom settee. “We covered it with a snakeskin fabric and hung a more modern lantern over it,” says Lucas. “We used classic shapes, but the colors and fabrics are updated.”
The updated classic feel reverberates throughout the house and rings true with the family. “It’s the perfect house for us,” the wife says. “And everyone who walks in mentions how happy it feels.”
—Lisa Bingham Dewart