Does creativity find its full blossom with no boundaries, or does it need limitations to flower? Certainly, designer Ashley Clark’s experience with a Newport Beach, California, abode makes a strong case for the latter. Her clients, who brought her along to walk a house they were considering, warned her that they weren’t planning on tearing down the home and starting from scratch. While Clark admits, “remodels can sometimes be harder,” the news didn’t dampen her enthusiasm. In fact, the designer liked what she saw.
“The bones of the house were really cool,” Clark says of the single-story home whose two wings reached out from a central entry. “It had this sort of midcentury modern yet 1970s vibe.” Situated at the end of a cul-de-sac, it had a large grassy park next door and great views. Architect JR Walz had a similar first impression: “It was an older arrangement with a kitchen roughly in the same location that it’s in right now but closed off to the exterior and the rest of the house.” He, too, shared Clark’s vision of its potential.
Working with general contractor Ami Gilad, Walz tackled the home’s floor plan, moving all the bedrooms to one wing and grouping all the public rooms in the other. He turned a space that had been used as a bedroom into a playroom and found a spot for a small guest room. Rethinking the exterior entry, Walz enlarged it and refaced it in black brick. “It really gave it an anchor and a focus as well as a tremendous amount of curb appeal,” he says. An expansive front door now opens to an entry with high ceilings that set a modern and welcoming tone. Multiple outdoor areas encourage relaxing and entertaining.
Meanwhile, Clark set her sights on the interiors. “The key to a successful remodel—even to a successful new build—is making your wish list: what’s important to you and your family and the way you live,” she explains. “We were able to talk through these things because of our real-life experiences and knowing what works and what doesn’t.” The result, yielded through careful planning and research (“That searching and sourcing—that’s why we’re named Skout,” Clark notes of her firm.), is a mix of old and new, vintage and custom, a home that’s as comfortable and functional as it is beautiful.
The residence’s distinctive architecture is underscored and complemented by Clark’s furnishing choices. In the living room, where a sextet of windows with graduated heights frames the view, the designer placed a cobalt coffee table, club chairs in a geometric pattern and a custom emerald-hued velvet sectional. “We wanted to do something different and we felt this house was a place where we could have a giant green sofa,” says Clark. “The clients are open to fun things.” Meanwhile, in the dining area, “We removed the stone and added the same black brick used on the front of the house and backyard to keep things consistent and create that indoor-outdoor vibe,” explains the designer, adding, “We had a lot of wall space on either side of the fireplace and open shelving was just not going to do it for us—we wanted to add some texture and create something different, so stacking all of that wood was our solution!” Nearby, built-in bench seating with storage is paired with a trestle table, and opposite is an intimate grouping that speaks to the husband’s desire for a place to enjoy the view while sipping his morning coffee.
Underlying all the spaces is a playful effervescence that speaks to sunny days at the shore. It’s there in the husband’s office, where a surfing scene is displayed on the walls. It skips through the master bedroom, in a striped rug layered over a textured jute mat on the floor, and a handful of kilim pillows on the bed, as casual as a pile of beach blankets. In the daughter’s bathroom, a Pop art print of a Barbie doll waves from her perch atop a pool float. The son’s room unearths a mix of treasures, from a headboard created from a vintage leather gym mat to an antique flag, as eclectic as the finds in a beachcomber’s pocket. And it’s evident in the bunk room, where a painted sign proclaims “Amigos” behind a plush army green sectional. “I like to be comfortable, unique, different and a little funky,” says Clark, “I feel like we did a really good job at meeting all their list of wants and needs and getting it all done.”