A Newport Beach, California, couple with two growing children were at a crossroads: build a larger home or stay put in their current residence. In the end, the choice was easy. “We really liked the new lot—location, view, street—so we knew we eventually wanted to move there,” says the husband, adding, “We really like projects, and it was the perfect location for one.” The decision delighted Eric Olsen, the architect they engaged. “A corner lot is definitely what an architect desires, because it allows a little more space and freedom in the design,” he says.
Olsen began by drafting the interior floor plan cued by the owners’ requests. “We wanted it to be open yet connected,” the husband says. “We wanted living to be downstairs and sleeping to be upstairs.” To ensure their house wouldn’t lose the intimacy of a smaller residence, the architect suggested a U-shaped structure. A two-story massing on the right positions the bedrooms above and utilitarian spaces below. A great room in the middle connects to the kitchen, and a guest suite wraps around the left side.
When it came to the exterior elevation, “Eric nailed it right away,” the wife recalls. “We both really loved it from the get-go.” Texas limestone, black vertical wood siding and stucco intersect for a farmhouse look that leans more current than rustic. A flat, dark paint ties everything together. “The understated finish takes on a dramatic look in contrast to the stone,” says general contractor Matt McClure.
Echoing the blocks of materials, landscape designer Chris Fenmore focused on texture, such as a grove of lavender and Westringia set against the dark siding, and grasses that create a meadow feel. At the front, six steps climb to a gate of reclaimed wood that opens to an inner courtyard. “I wanted to have a little relief off the street,” Olsen explains. “That gives you a bit of a transition and a journey to the front door.” Light filters through an allée of four large olive trees, where Fenmore introduced boxwood globes, a salvaged fountain and cascading rosemary. “When you walk through the courtyard, it’s a very transformative experience,” she says.
A wood walkway leads through the courtyard to a trio of French doors that open on to the great room. Opposite, sunlight—and stunning bay views—pours in through windows and glass doors that connect the interior to the exterior. Trusses span the ceiling, and the kitchen is framed by timber posts. Here and throughout, Olsen incorporated light woods and floors with white walls grounded by darker elements, such as stained tower cabinets and ironwork details. The exterior’s limestone reappears on the great room’s fireplace, and the dark paint of the exterior siding shows up in the nearby office.
Olsen weighed in on interior details as well, helping the couple select elements such as door handles, light fixtures and tiles—making designer Julie Hovnanian’s job rather easy, she admits. “Eric has a vision he takes all the way through,” she says. “His vibe is very natural and organic, and the palette we picked complements that.” Furnishings in off-whites, tones of linen, and grays that run from mist to charcoal allow architectural features like millwork to shine.
Within the neutral color scheme, Hovnanian introduced varied textures for interest. Wood-framed leather chairs in the great room pair with a linen sectional and a rattan armchair, while the rustic dining table is surrounded by both a bench and woven leather chairs. The couple was mindful of investing in long-lasting pieces, which the designer enhanced with durable materials. The kitchen’s gray built-in seat has a nubby fabric, the playroom sofa is upholstered in an indoor-outdoor textile, and the daughter’s blush-colored bedroom features a sophisticated velvet bed.
Juxtaposing new and old features, the designer brought in the clients’ family history through items such as the couple’s bedroom nightstands and dressers, once owned by the wife’s maternal grandfather. Chairs from her childhood are in the playroom, where family photographs taken by the husband decorate the walls. And vintage pillows and textiles throughout add subtle color. Hovnanian covered the master bedroom’s headboard in a suzani fabric and sourced only antique rugs, a unique feature in every room. “It’s a very warm, inviting family home,” she says.
Inside and out, the home is meant to support the family’s growth over the years. And just as its varied materials harmonize for a beautiful outcome, the clients and professionals alike left the project with a sense of cohesiveness. “It’s fun designing for people who really enjoy the details and the process,” Olsen says. “And it’s so easy when you have a team that is all about creating a great product.”