Warm and inviting, rich with details and often built with a pleasing symmetry, traditional-style homes have a timeless appeal. And, for a formerly East Coast-based family of five putting down new roots in Los Angeles’ Manhattan Beach neighborhood, the draw of living in a house steeped in history—even as the home itself is a brand-new build—was irresistible. “Our clients were clear that they loved traditional residences,” recalls Anthony Laney of their initial conversations. The architect, whose firm’s portfolio had, until now, exclusively consisted of contemporary architecture, welcomed the chance to expand his purview.
For the interiors, following discussions with the clients that had started prior to their West Coast move, designer Lynn Pépe focused on bespoke detailing to craft a sophisticated yet comforting material palette. “She wanted elements of a formal home and had such a clear vision,” Pépe says of the wife, who grew up in the South Bay. “She’s well-traveled, loves fashion and design and has a fantastic eye.” The family’s resulting abode graces a corner lot in the Hill Section of Manhattan Beach and is an appropriate synthesis of California coastal cool and East Coast charm.
The home’s symmetrical primary elevation clearly states its intention. In reference to Cape Cod aesthetics, two volumes with gabled roofs contain bay windows at the ground level and are separated by a defined, centered entrance. A sunburst-patterned fanlight and ornamental sidelight windows surround the recessed doorway framed by a porch. And exterior cedar shingles treated with a translucent gray stain “allow the white trim to really pop and animate the façade to respond to every nuance of light,” Laney explains. This variation lends a dignified patina reinforced by the roof, thanks to its combination of classic copper components and flat gray slate tiles. To complement this approach, landscape architect Rob Jones strategically planted privet and boxwood hedges to provide privacy, as well as flowers like camellias and wisteria vines for softness. Jones also brought in a mature sycamore tree that “stands as a nice punctuation mark for the home,” he says. All told, these materials and ministrations conspire to appear as if the house has been there awhile.
While it clearly references classic East Coast sensibilities on the exterior, the home’s California locale accounts for a particular variation: A two-and-a-half-story elegant entry vestibule and staircase capped with a skylight lead the way to the home’s main public spaces located at the second level—where they enjoy sweeping ocean views—with the bedroom suites tucked downstairs. This reverse floor plan isn’t uncommon among homes in Manhattan Beach, but it is quite unusual for a house with such a traditional flavor. “The exterior suggests a conventional layout, but, from the minute you go in that front door, you realize, ‘Oh, I wasn’t expecting a double-height space flooded with light,’ ” Laney comments. “The challenge was, ‘How do we lean into an unapologetically traditionalist aesthetic while taking advantage of the views and openness?’ ”
One answer was to embrace a sense of craftsmanship, which makes the entire experience feel deeply considered and welcoming. Laney points out the detailed wood paneling on the entry vestibule in tandem with black-and-white marble flooring and meticulous wood handrails and balusters. “The aged finish of the harlequin-patterned marble evokes a sophisticated, welcoming entrance with a sense of history,” Pépe adds. Upstairs, in the largely open-plan kitchen and living room (another departure from a traditional layout), a mix of neutrals and cool tones helps relax the tightly composed space against bright, west-facing coastal views. Coffered ceilings mitigate the scale of the room and add interest while wallpaper lends a flourish to the dining room. “Even though many of the architectural details of the house are formal, it’s filled with life—kids, dogs, guests,” Pépe observes. “No area is off limits.”
Among the most beloved spaces is the expansive covered upstairs patio off the main living room that serves as a multipurpose outdoor area (“It’s one of the house’s very special places, with bifold doors that can fully open,” general contractor Dave Baldwin points out) and the lower pool deck complete with a two-story, limestone-clad fireplace. A finished basement level holds a gaming room and enclosed glass-walled wine cellar along with the husband’s office and guest suites.
This home, ultimately, is a reminder of why some styles and visual touchstones endure. It certainly charmed Laney. “Even though ‘traditional’ wasn’t our native language, it’s beautiful and triggers a sense of nostalgia,” he muses. “I can see why this is such an ageless aesthetic.”