A Contemporary Southern California Home with Balinese-Inspired Architecture


Location, location, location. This phrase typically applies to real estate, which in this case does involve a stunning waterfront property in a Southern California coastal community, but it also has to do with the meticulous placement of architectural elements within a new home and its guesthouse to allow for the best possible vistas of the silvery Pacific. “The idea was to have a cohesive, seamless indoor-outdoor feel,” says Audrey Dunn, who, along with Ladd McRae Lambert, designed the interiors. “The owners didn’t want anything to obstruct their views.”

To that end, full-height mahogany pocket doors enclose the living room and then disappear into the building, opening the space completely to the elements and creating a bare corner devoid of any post or beam. From a strategically placed location at the kitchen island, the wife is able to chop vegetables, look in on grandchildren in the living room and visitors in the guesthouse lanai, and see the waves of the ocean beyond. Along the way to arriving at this vantage point, she asked the designers to create a fireplace mantel that would increase her view by 6 inches. The designers obliged on the small but important detail, not solely because the homeowner was the client, but because “she was very creative, very clear in her vision and very much a part of the team,” says Dunn.

For the homeowners, being so involved in the creation of the two- bedroom house and guesthouse represented a chance to get it right. For about a decade, they had put up with the quirks of a 1970s residence that previously occupied a narrow 30-by-90-foot lot. After buying a neighboring parcel of the same size, they were able to tear down and start from scratch. Because they love tropical locales—they own a residence in Hawaii and frequently trek to Bali—“they wanted the laid-back aesthetic of the tropics in a contemporary beach home with a Balinese feel,” says Lambert.

That same direction guided architect Christian R. Light. “The owners had a very clear contemporized Balinese feel in mind,” he says. “So we were all on the same page from the beginning, which made for a very smooth, fun process.” Typical Balinese architecture incorporates wood, white plaster walls and stone floors. Light achieved the same aesthetic, yet with materials that lent a “cleaner, more refined, modern application,” says the architect, who worked with mahogany for the doors and trim, limestone floors and Venetian plaster walls. Because of the fine materials and the simplicity of the design, “the work required a higher level of execution due to the lack of components that are often used to hide standard construction irregularities,” says builder Chris Walton.

Dunn and Lambert chose new furnishings and designed custom pieces to better complement the spaces. Furniture with curvilinear shapes (such as the Princess chairs by Gina B & Company) and soft edges (like the custom sectional) were chosen to offset the rectilinear nature of the house.

“There’s so much wood in the home, we wanted to vary the textures,” says Lambert. Hence the selection of Melina Woven dining chairs by Terry Hunziker in the kitchen and a rattan Infinity coffee table by Palecek in the media room. Because the home is so open to the elements, indoor-outdoor textiles—for example, the Holly Hunt velvet on the custom living room sofa—cover all the main upholstered pieces. “We wanted everything to be user-friendly,” says Dunn.

The result is not only that, but also the culmination of a talented team and the clients’ singular goal. “The owners had real life experiences to draw from, they knew what they wanted, and they made themselves available to participate in the design,” says Light. “That made it easy for us to make their dream a reality.”

—Joanne Furio