A successful renovation often requires spending some quality time in a house before critical design decisions are made. That’s exactly what Jay and Kim Gaskill did–with one curveball. After five years in their Corona del Mar home, anticipating a warm, contemporary-style renovation, the Gaskills gained a deep understanding of their property’s nuances and ultimately concluded a different style would better suit the picturesque setting. “The clients developed their taste, their thoughts on the finishes and things they were comfortable with,” says architect John Henderson. The couple’s stylistic about-face, prioritizing drama over coziness, led to revising “all the materials,” says interior designer Michael Fullen, “including flooring, bath tile and stone, fireplace designs, cabinetry, lighting, furniture style, fabric and window treatments.”
The alteration of elements had a positive result: sumptuous spaces. Because the clients wanted “a little bit of bling,” says Fullen, he included pockets of glamour throughout the interior. A metallic crocodile-patterned wallcovering, for instance, transforms the elevator into a jewel box, while mirrored drawer insets and hammered metal in Kim’s closet provide a gleaming backdrop for her clothes and shoes. At the bar, a gently illuminated crystalline quartzite countertop casts a soft glow that adds an inviting ambience at parties. Furnishings, too, such as the clear Lucite stools in the kitchen and the white lacquer cocktail table in the main living room, and hits of metal emphasize a plush, yet airy, vibe. “Glamour is one of those things that when done well looks effortless,” notes Fullen. To ensure the interiors struck just the right balance, he mixed the highly reflective metals and lacquer with more neutral upholstered pieces, like a soft white sectional in the main living room, as well as with distressed finishes, including clubby gray leather chairs in the game room, and a pared-back palette, dominated by white, gray, silver and gold.
While the Gaskills yearned for a spectacular, striking home, they also wanted it to be a haven for their young adult children and for their frequent guests. The couple’s love of boating and being outside also called for a nearly indiscernible link between interior living areas and the outdoors. So, says Henderson, “The team spent a great deal of time studying the attributes of the site, such as the sun patterns, direction of the breeze, views, privacy, noise and topography.” Those factors as well as the magnificent, harbor-front location prompted the open-plan layout that allows views from multiple locations within the home while maintaining privacy. The terraced site also set the stage for many living areas across three levels–including one on the third floor that opens onto a roof deck overlooking the bay.
“Getting the home out of the ground was the biggest challenge,” says general contractor Tim Grady, recalling the close collaboration required among team members from the very beginning to ensure that all the elements coalesced seamlessly. Along with the home’s steeply stepped site and the area’s restrictive building codes, the waterfront setting provided perhaps the most significant challenge when it came to planning. “Prepping for and timing the tides was required for grading and foundation work below sea level, which kept our team on their toes,” notes Grady. “Creating the foundation alone was a year-long process.”
The bay-facing locale proved inspirational for the architect. “Our goal was to create a home that would draw from the environment and to express it through the architecture,” says Henderson. Landscape architect Michael Dilley complemented the resulting exterior–clad with limestone and smooth Venetian plaster–with a screen of delicate palm trees in the front. “We wanted to make it feel like a wonderful resort,” says Dilley. “When you hear the wind blowing through the palm fronds, it feels like you’re in a faraway land.” To shore up the sense of privacy, more palms were placed on the north side of the house and dense ficus hedges were planted along the property line to shield the home’s lower level and dock area.
Given the complexities of the setting and the space, conceiving, creating and completing the home required years, not months. “It takes patience, good character, objective thinking and communication to get through all that,” says Grady. “But Jay and Kim are super-cool owners.” Fullen concurs: “There are so many details to bring together along the way and you can only appreciate it all at the end. And, ultimately, the clients were thrilled.”