Living out your days on a tropical island is the stuff of fantasies, but one couple made this dream a reality—without even leaving California. Their new house in Corona del Mar hints at isle-style right from its entry, which features an overhang of woven twigs inspired by Balinese shade canopies. And then there’s the walkway, extending over an enclosed lower-level courtyard and accented by a peaceful water feature, plus the mix of natural woods and earthen touches throughout—all choices inspired by lush islands like Bali and Hawaii. The overall aesthetic is a dramatic departure from their former white coastal farmhouse in a nearby neighborhood, notes designer Erin Flinn. “They’ve traveled a lot,” she explains, “and the style of this house is in harmony with their journeys.”
Yet there is a through line between the clients’ abodes, both designed by Flinn, and it’s her emphasis on each residence’s views. As the wife says of their current house, which faces the Pacific and enjoys glorious sunsets, “We’ve been going to the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel on the Big Island for 20 years. When you step inside, the ocean view takes your breath away—it hits you, like, ‘I’m in Hawaii.’ I wanted people to feel that way when they walk into our home.”
The owners, a couple blessed with 16 grandchildren, also loved the idea of what Flinn dubbed a “bohemian Balinese-style” house that could host large family gatherings. Architect Mark Teale devised a plan he dubbed “Bali modern,” built in turn by general contractor Scott Cross. Ocean-facing covered patios extend via pocket doors from the great room overlooking the pool, which was a high-priority item on the homeowners’ wish list. Four bedrooms span the top floor, including two guest rooms and a bunk room that sleeps plenty of grandkids, while a home gym and a dedicated art room for the little ones open to a lower-level courtyard. The kitchen, tricked out with a customized Galley Workstation on the island, is adjacent to a butler’s pantry—and it recently made hosting a crowd of more than 30 a breeze. Seating for guests also easily spills into a covered outdoor dining area. “With the sliding doors open, it adds nearly half a room,” the wife enthuses. “And we have heaters in the patio ceiling, which is brilliant.”
A selection of natural woods contributes to the residence’s casual island vibe. Beneath a white oak ceiling, the kitchen cabinetry is walnut, while the great room features fluted oak cabinetry, and mahogany accents continue the theme on the exterior. “We weren’t trying to do a ‘matchy-matchy’ kind of architecture,” says Teale. “We wanted it to be a little more rough-hewn, not like it all came out of the same machine.” Adds Cross of the indoor and outdoor assortment of woods, “You don’t usually see them mixed like this—here we were able to join completely different styles of wood and finishes, which is very unique and uncommon. It’s a bit like saying, ‘I want purple, red and green carpet in my house, and I want it to all look good.’”
Flinn and Teale were strong collaborators from the project’s start, creating a sense of cohesiveness that continued through the final touches. Honed travertine floors from Seville, Venetian plaster walls and a glazed ceramic tile for the kitchen backsplash further the home’s natural, tactile sensibilities. When it came to the furnishings, Flinn deferred to the draw of the ocean. “We oriented the majority of the furniture out towards the view,” she explains. “We emphasized textures, not so much colors.” The great room’s generous and cozy off-white sofas, accented with wood bases, anchor the main area. They also provide enough heft to balance the brushed-steel fireplace, a material that repeats across the space on the kitchen’s range hood and references the industrial metals of contemporary Balinese architecture.
The designer’s selection of detailed accessories—like the vintage Indonesian planters that flank the front door or the imported carved-limestone pot converted into a fire pit in the courtyard—layer in references to history and travels. In the primary bedroom, tall mirrors above the nightstands are overlaid with patterns of carved wood and give off a distinctly Southeast Asian feel.
The entire design team cites their lockstep partnership as a major factor to achieving their goals. “I see interior design and architecture as going hand in glove, like the melody and rhythm of music,” Teale reflects. “Both Erin and I had fairly contemporary ideas, and together we managed to get them executed.”
And the homeowners couldn’t be happier with their unfussy, island-inspired abode. “Shortly after we moved in, a guest came into our house, went straight for the view and got tears in his eyes,” says the wife. “I thought, ‘Bingo! We did it.’ ”