When Steve and Mashid Rizzone stumbled across the ideal lot in Corona del Mar—located high on a hill and with jaw-dropping views of Newport Harbor—they envisioned the modern, airy home they would build upon it. It would be elegant yet comfortable, and would prominently feature the curved walls that Mashid had once seen and admired in a museum.
But their dream house would take five years to complete, as the couple embarked on a wildly ambitious mission: Build a nearly 10,000-square-foot home that would qualify for LEED platinum certification, the highest bar for green building. “We have two young kids, ages three and five, and we wanted to show them that, even with a house this big, you can still consider the environment,” says Steve. And, being technophiles—Steve has helmed several high-tech companies, and Mashid is a former technical engineer— they relished the challenge.
The Rizzones’ Laguna Beach-based architect, Marcelo E. Lische, spent a year sketching plans and refining layouts to achieve the perfect blend of beauty and green functionality. “When you enter the house, there are two large curved walls that open up to the ocean views,” Lische says. “There’s a lot of glass on the south wall, and skylights for natural illumination, so you don’t need much artificial light, even on the lower floor.” In fact, nearly every design decision minimized energy usage. Lische worked with Michael Van Parys with The Corvarys Group of Westlake Village and Los Angeles, to design a structure that would take full advantage of Mother Earth’s own ability to heat, cool and illuminate.
The doors and windows, for example, are situated to optimize the flow of the ocean breeze for natural ventilation. Thick concrete walls allow the sun’s heat to slowly migrate through over several hours, warming the home just as night falls. “It was important to incorporate passive energy-saving strategies into the basic design, taking everything into account—such as location, orientation, overhang for shading and natural ventilation,” Van Parys says.
Of course, designing a home that would also serve the Rizzones’ lifestyle was a top priority. “We never get bored here,” Mashid says. “There are a number of areas for the children to play in, as well as enter- tainment areas for the entire family to enjoy.”
A favorite spot is the state-of-the-art home theater, created by Keith Yates Design Group, with acoustics that rival most concert halls. “Every Saturday morning, we have a bit of a Looney Tunes movie festival around here,” Steve says. The home has 19 televisions and 56 speakers, all controlled by a Savant system, via iPods located throughout the house. The family can use the same system to control nearly every function in the home—from heating and cooling to window shades— either from within the house or remotely from anywhere in the world.
Much of the home’s power is generated by a 36-kilowatt solar panel array situated on the hill slope, which helps bring the Rizzones’ monthly utility bill to $20 or less. “That’s almost unheard of for a house of this size, which would normally draw $4,000 to $6,000 worth of power a month,” says project builder Tony Valentine, of the eponymous construction firm in Corona del Mar.
While Steve worked with the architects on the home’s structure and smart functions, Mashid focused on the interior—a division of labor that had worked nicely in the past. “We’ve done three houses in 20 years and we’re still married,” Steve jokes. “I had no idea what the rooms were going to look like until the trucks started to roll up.”
He was hardly worried. Mashid worked with Farah Amirsheybani, of Costa Mesa-based Design Trends Interior Design, to create spaces that are comfortable and friendly. To temper the sleeker finishes, they added tinted Venetian plaster walls and rich wood veneer throughout. “Mashid still had a lot of antiques from previous homes, so we incorporated some into this house, adding even more warmth,” Amirsheybani says. “We used materials that had an organic feel, with different textures that were tactile and inviting,” Mashid adds. Of course, the home also had to be kid-proof, so durable, washable materials like leather were used whenever possible.
After five painstaking years of working with their talented team to design and build a home possessing the highest aesthetic and green standards, the Rizzones have finally moved in. And while it’s the ideal place to enjoy their lively family life, the couple is also pretty tickled that the house manages to exceed California’s Title 24 energy efficiency standards by an impressive 63 percent.
￼That’s something they ponder as they relish the surrounding beauty that nature affords. As Steve says, “It’s very special to sit on the patio in the morning with a cup of coffee, read the newspaper and look out over Newport Harbor and off to Catalina Island.”