Though, at the time, Sue and Jim Costanzo lived in Crystal Cove, Sue would often venture to Corona del Mar with the couple’s Bernese mountain dog, Gracie. “The people were wonderful,” Sue recalls. “Everyone would say hi and ask how I was doing–so we moved!” They purchased a small home and “used it as a little beach house to test it and see if we liked it,” she says. After the property next door became available, they jumped at the chance to build a more permanent roost enlisting designer Wendy Blackband, along with architect Stan Andrade, landscape designer Karen Andrade and general contractor Andrew Patterson.
While their new residence is nestled on a street just steps from the Pacific Ocean, its design makes the Costanzos feel like they’re a stone’s throw from the Caribbean Sea. “We were inspired by the West Indies,” Sue says. And the look happened to be a perfect fit with Blackband’s own aesthetic. “My design comes from British Colonial style,” she says. “I also do a lot of updated coastal-influenced interiors; the combination of those two things are what Sue and Jim found appealing.”
Stan Andrade, too, took the West Indies directive to heart. “There’s a porch with a detailed railing, vertical columns, ceiling fans and wood beams that are all part of that vernacular,” he says, and on the first floor’s front elevation awning shutters shade the windows. Inside, the architect devised open-plan public spaces including a large living room, dining area and kitchen that continue to a terrace and courtyard. There’s also a family room and a mudroom with a dog wash for Gracie and the couple’s Peekapoo, Taffy. The master suite, which accesses that classic, West Indies-inspired wraparound porch, is located on the second floor, as is a music room for Jim and two guest rooms for the couple’s children and grandchildren. Achieving perfection with so many details required Patterson’s eagle eye, and it wasn’t just the complex carpentry. “This house has a custom lighting package on it and to get the lights to work inside the bays without dropping the ceilings was really a marvel on its own,” he notes.
The plan also emphasized indoor/outdoor connections, something Karen Andrade capitalized on in her plans for the grounds. “The courtyard on the ground floor has a fountain that helps block noise and create ambience,” she says. “There’s also a fire pit and California-native plantings around the perimeter. From the inside, they have this beautiful garden view, but they can open it up in the spring, summer and fall and have that outside connection.”
The indoor-outdoor flow drove Blackband to select furnishings that are in harmony with the landscape. Rich textures and both bright and muted tones reference the home’s beach setting. “From the beginning, I saw turquoise as one of the colors for this interior,” Blackband says. “You can pull both green and blue tones out of it.” In the dining room, the designer placed turquoise rattan chairs at the ends of an alder wood table and arranged chairs with linen slipcovers on the sides; brass pendants with leaf-like forms add another layer of texture to the space. In the living room, she flanked a linen-upholstered English roll-arm sofa with custom blue-hued wood end tables. And the family room, too, received a dose of color. “The coffee table has a custom wax finish that’s kind of a light turquoise gray,” says Blackband, who inset wall niches in the family room with photographs of aqua water.
The designer mixed classic and contemporary pieces to add depth and balance. “There’s a traditional bamboo bench with a honey-colored cane seat in the entry,” Blackband says. “And I also found a contemporary mirror made out of coconut wood and beads for the space.” She blended styles in the master suite, too. “There’s a Colonial-style four poster inset with caramel-colored cane that I just love,” she says. “And then there are a pair of armchairs covered with blue velvet and leopard linen pillows. What’s cool about those chairs is they have a traditional English roll-arm, but they also have a squared-off leg that gives a more modern feel.”
When it comes to residential design, it really does take a village–especially in the case of the Costanzo residence. The group effort contributed to the rich layers that make the home a dynamic one. Not only did Karen Andrade design the landscape, she also worked on the interior architecture. Patterson didn’t just handle construction, he also supplied suggestions on finishes and fixtures as the project evolved. And, in addition to selecting a classic and whimsical display of furniture and accessories, Blackband helped Sue make final choices when it came to practically everything. “Sue and I were walking in the slab yard and we turned a corner and saw that turquoise granite for the countertops,” the designer says. “I said, ‘I really think we should do this.’ And she said, ‘I do, too.’ Sometimes the design changes when you see something that inspires you. It’s so fun when you jibe with a client.”