Standing on the beach in Playa del Rey surrounded by his five children and 11 grandchildren, Phil Jackson, one of the greatest NBA coaches in history, realized he wasn’t ready to sell his house, a dwelling perched right on the shore. When Phil purchased the waterside dwelling some 20 years prior, it was a matter of convenience. He had just been hired to coach the Los Angeles Lakers and, as he says: “For my lifestyle, living close to work and an airport were prerequisites.”
This home, then a duplex, fit that bill and more. Over the years, nearly all of Phil’s children had lived in the secondary unit at one time or another, making it something of an anchor for the NBA family. As life changed—Phil retired, and his children started their own families—he often contemplated selling. But with his clan surrounding him on the sand that day, he knew he wanted to change his living quarters but not his address. “It was one of those 72-degree spring days, and I realized I didn’t want to let it go,” he says. “I sat down with Chelsea the next weekend to begin planning.”
Chelsea is designer Chelsea Sachs, his second eldest daughter, who was more than happy to help. Conventional wisdom has it that working with family is a bad idea, but for her, it felt familiar. “As a designer, I get to know my clients really well, and sometimes it takes time to develop a deep understanding and trust,” she says. “But with my father, that groundwork was already there.”
Rounding out the team was designer Patrick Ediger, who conceived the interior layout and provided all of the architectural drawings and elevations for the endeavor and day-to-day project management. Ediger and Sachs quickly determined the best way remake the home was to combine the spaces and start nearly from scratch. “The location is unique, but the 1980s architecture was not,” says Ediger. “The spaces were dated and chopped up. To make it cohesive and unified, we had to take it down to the studs.” The home was then reassembled to create a single dwelling with a family room and bunk room on the lowest floor, the master suite and guest bedrooms on the second level and, on the third story, among other spaces, a living room with incredible views of the ocean and, on clear days, Catalina.
It’s that landscape and Phil’s life story that drove the home’s interiors. In the living room, where oversize roll-away doors frame the waves, the team relocated the fireplace from the north to the south wall in order to optimize the seated view. The pale blues of the ocean and the tawny neutrals and soft buffs of the beach are on full display in a pair of custom sofas dressed in a pale sandy upholstery, a rug with a watery palette of grays and blues and a bespoke coffee table-ottoman topped with buttery caramel leather. “I wanted it to feel as if the interior melded with the exterior,” says Sachs.
In the master suite, the bedroom enjoys the same views from a slightly lower perspective. The bathroom is sited just behind it, and the home’s original creators maximized the natural light and sight lines in the space by installing an oversize interior window between the two. To kick the glam up a notch, a bronze-toned, one-way mirror replaced the window. From the bathroom, you can still see the waves; but in the bedroom it is opaque and reflects the water, creating something akin to an ever-shifting mural. A patterned rug, the vintage capiz shell light fixture and the coffee table in the nook bring in the colors as well as textures of the beach.
But in this house, soul is just as important as style. “Everything tells a story, every detail brings nuance,” notes Ediger. Most of the rooms contain pieces of the Asian antique collection Phil has spent years accumulating. And, despite the fact that nearly all of the furniture and the countertops are specifically sized to his 6-foot-8-inch frame, his minimally adorned mediation room is his favorite space. “My father is a Zen Buddhist, and the home embodies his quiet, calming spirit,” says Sachs.
Perhaps that spirit is what keeps pulling the family back to this home. “It’s now very open, with spaces the whole family can use, but there are still places for solitude and spots where you can withdraw and watch the kids play in the sand,” says Phil. “This house has been a constant in our lives, and when we are all here, it’s really special.”