Children invariably prompt life changes—even after they’ve left the nest. For one Midwestern couple, their kids’ relocation to the Golden State led them to investigate West Coast houses themselves. “Our son and daughter live in Southern California, and we just fell in love with the energy there,” the wife shares. When they scooped up a second home in Monarch Bay, its contemporary ranch style exuded a compelling, welcoming warmth. But it was the views of the Pacific that really sealed the deal. From the start, she says, “it made us feel like we were on top of the world.”
In the original layout, though, only a small family room enjoyed the scenery. The main living areas instead revolved around an open-air sunken courtyard walled off from the oceanic panorama—a design decision that puzzled the couple. “We kept thinking, ‘Why would you close up so much of the house from that view?’ ” remembers the wife. But they decided to wait about a year and a half before committing to a renovation. “We didn’t want to make assumptions about how a California home should be lived in based on our experience in Chicago,” she adds.
And time confirmed their instincts. “We would never sit there,” the wife says of the courtyard. “It was hot during the day and, at night, it was just an outdoor area without anything to see.” The courtyard became pivotal to the renovation, for which the couple called in the design team that had transformed their Illinois home: Interior designer Andrea Burridge and architects Ken Pursley and Mark Kline.
The entire team agreed with the clients’ assessment about their home. “The spaces were chopped up and didn’t take full advantage of the house’s opportunities,” recalls Pursley. To wit, several interior walls came down to create an expansive great room, and the courtyard was glassed in and topped by a skylight-studded roof. “A major decision was to add a back wall of sliding glass so our clients could enjoy indoor-outdoor living, which is one of the best things about California,” notes Burridge. Adds general contractor Michael Palmer, “We did an extensive amount of work, but opening it all up changed everything. It made this project what it is.”
In contrast to the couple’s more traditional Chicago home, Burridge took a laid-back approach to the interiors, pouring over West Coast design books like Nina Freudenberger’s Surf Shack for inspiration. Throughout, a mostly neutral palette keeps all eyes focused on the water, with a few ocean-inspired exceptions like the deep navy of the kitchen’s freestanding wall or the washed Aegean blue of the dining room’s grass-cloth wallcovering. The beach chic-style bedrooms were inspired by the couple’s many trips to St. Barts. “Design on this island has a beautiful aesthetic to it; these clean-lined interiors feel sophisticated yet casual in a similar way,” notes Burridge, a frequent visitor to the Caribbean getaway herself.
The great room’s kitchen houses one of the home’s more unusual features. There, a prep area is hidden in plain sight behind freestanding white oak cabinets, which are encased in a beveled wood frame painted marine blue. Skirting the ceiling by a few feet, this line of cabinetry tricks the eye by acting as a divider or “screen” delineating the prep area, explains Pursley. “A lot of our kitchens have a front and a backstage,” he says. “You get an open plan, but you’ve hidden the oven and storage.” The room’s other secret, dreamed up by Burridge, is its breakfast bar: A heavy wood piece cleverly glides out of the island, transforming into a table that can welcome up to 20 guests.
As for the initially puzzling, closed-off courtyard, it’s now level with the rest of the home. Recast as the formal dining room, it enjoys the same views as the great room through insulated glass which both muffles the clamor of dinner parties and allows for the space to serve as a private office for the husband. “That glass was an afterthought, but it became one of the best decisions we’ve made,” the wife comments. Close to their children and face-to-face with the Pacific, the whole abode fills its owners with the same serene satisfaction.