An Orange County Home With Warm, Contemporary Interiors

Details

Alice and John Wrate had been renting when they found what they were looking for: a contemporary house in a walkable neighborhood in Newport Beach, a rarity in Orange County. Even though the house was half built, “we were sold on the architect’s vision,” says John. “We always wanted to build a contemporary, and we knew we weren’t going to get another opportunity like this one.”

The only issue for the Wrates was how to turn a minimalist dream house designed by architect Scott Peotter for himself and his wife—empty nesters—into one that could accommodate a family with three young girls. So the couple retrieved a tear sheet they had ripped out of a magazine years before, depicting the kind of warm contemporary interiors they loved, and contacted Michael Fullen, the designer who created them.

“They wanted to make the layout kid-friendly without sacrificing the sophisticated look of the interiors,” Fullen says of his clients’ request. “They wanted a space for entertaining, a space for the girls—they wanted a space for everybody.”

So the couple retrieved a tear sheet they had ripped out of a magazine years before, depicting the kind of warm contemporary interiors they loved, and contacted Michael Fullen, the designer who created them.

“They wanted to make the layout kid-friendly without sacrificing the sophisticated look of the interiors,” Fullen says of his clients’ request. “They wanted a space for entertaining, a space for the girls—they wanted a space for everybody.”

The original plans for the concrete home called for a dramatic stone entry, soaring ceilings on the lower level that ranged from 12 to 15 feet, an elevator and a four-car garage. Upstairs, an exercise room and a second living area, complete with a mini kitchen, were planned. Once Fullen came on board, he began by reconfiguring those areas. Peotter himself acted as the construction manager.

The entry and high ceilings still remain, along with the elevator, which will come in handy with visiting grandparents. But the proposed four-car garage has been reduced to one that houses two vehicles, leaving enough extra space for a music room for Alice, a violinist with the Pacific Symphony. The intended living room is now a cozy office lined with oak shelves for John, a computer consultant and real estate investor. And, for the girls, dedicated study and play areas carved from upstairs spaces originally intended for grownups. “Up there, anything goes,” says John. “That was by design. Downstairs, the girls can’t leave toys around.”

Overall, Fullen’s approach sought to warm up the big concrete home. He did that by using stranded bamboo flooring throughout and built-ins that conceal the clutter of electronics behind eye-catching exotic woods.

“Because the house is kind of large and the ceilings high, I also used a lot of fabric to make it more inviting,” Fullen says. Floor-to-ceiling draperies did the trick in many of the public rooms and the master bedroom, which range a lofty 12 to 14 feet tall.

In keeping with Fullen’s motto: “If everything’s interesting, nothing’s interesting,” the design has an understated quality that whispers instead of shouts. Fullen’s stylistic inspiration came from the few furnishings the Wrates brought with them, including a Trieste dining table with orange upholstered Elements chairs and a 1950s Eames chair. “The earthy palette incorporates oranges, greens and golds, while the design pays homage to great midcentury design,” Fullen adds.

For example, in the dramatic 15-foot-tall entry, Fullen fastened a Mondrian-style wooden grille that floats below the plaster ceiling, creating a focal point. Midcentury cool is also reflected in the contemporary armchairs by Palecek that flank the fireplace in the family room.

Also in the family room, the favorite gathering spot, Mozambique wood encases the fireplace. Because this room is open to the kitchen, the same dark wood was continued onto the island, which is wrapped in a creamy Caesarstone. Fullen made the island 3 feet longer than Peotter’s design so that the entire family can dine there; it also provides “a great space for setting out buffets.”

Peotter is pleased Fullen’s redesign went beyond his original concept. “I love the finished project,” he says. “They were able to do things that I love with the design that I never even dreamed of.”

As for the family, they couldn’t be happier. “Even though we just spent two weeks in Aspen,” John says, “all of us couldn’t wait to get home.”

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