Designer Lynn Pépe’s client presented her with a jewel in the rough: a Hermosa Beach home on a half-acre lot with a stunning view of the Pacific and a rare perk for the densely populated area: privacy. That was nearly enough for the owner, a single portfolio manager who initially hired Pépe to remodel just the kitchen and bathrooms of the 1980s faux Mediterranean-style home. But, by the time she was done, the residence had undergone a complete remodel, “almost down to the studs,” Pépe says.
What intervened? The designer’s unabated passion for the home’s potential. “Lynn is willing to fight for the right things in a house,” says architect Bruce Norelius. “Imagine saying to a client, ‘We can do something better here. It’s going to be a much bigger project, but this site deserves it.’ She’s got guts.”
Together, Pépe and Norelius—who joined the design team after the home had already been gutted—subtly refined the residence’s Spanish architectural style while transforming the home into a sophisticated tableau perfect for playing host to the owner’s myriad family members, friends and business connections. With that in mind, Norelius created a floor plan marked by a post-loft aesthetic, offering a rich variety of spaces. “The original program called for many of the walls to be put back,” he says. “Instead, I proposed that we enhance the design articulation and define column locations to make the interiors more spatially interesting.”
The entry now opens onto a long living room, dining room and kitchen space, and—to delineate its purpose—the dining room features a lower ceiling and smaller windows to create an intimate area where guests become the center of attention. A small English-style pub was replaced with a wine room clad in warm limestone, and an 800-square-foot media room was designed to open onto the pool area, with Portuguese limestone flooring unifying the indoor-outdoor space. Other entertaining-savvy updates include an outdoor palapa bar and a service kitchen with stainless-steel countertops, a Sub-Zero refrigerator and Miele ovens. “There were so many opportunities to make sweeping changes,” Pépe says. “With a remodel, once you pull a string the whole thing unravels.”
In addition to the structural revisions, Pépe and Norelius added interest to the home’s Mediterranean footprint with attention to period detail such as deep windows and doors. Pépe expanded the vocabulary to include Moroccan touches: ceiling molding inspired by vintage African motifs, tilework on the floor, various light fixtures inside and outside the house and a massive carved-wood door installed on a sliding track in the master bath. The designer’s custom furniture, covered in organic and vintage textiles, complements Amadi carpets in soft pastels that add a beachy feel, and reclaimed oak flooring introduces timely style without succumbing to trendiness.
“Restraint is so important to me, but every piece I place must have integrity,” Pépe says. “We added modern elements like folding door systems, but we used materials with a sense of age and history. It would have been very easy for the client to do something that was simply stylish for style’s sake, but it was critical to him that he have something to grow into that would stand the test of time.”
Despite the almost overwhelming expansion of the project’s scope, the team kept to its original one-year deadline so they could finish in time to accommodate the homeowner’s planned housewarming party—the formal invitations were already in the mail. Toward the end, builder Sean Icaza says he doubled his crew to 40. “We just hopped right on everything we had to do.” Even Pépe was working down to the wire, supervising workers installing tile in hardscape until 4 o’clock in the morning the day of the event. Says Pépe: “I wanted to know that when my client’s 300 guests arrived, he could look around at this home as something to be proud of.”