Around the World

A South African family transforms their already beautiful Manhattan Beach home into a personalized curation of their worldly style.


Tanya Monaghan laughs as we shake hands over the bottom half of her home’s large Dutch door. “Let me open this,” she says with a smile. The inside of the sprawling, corner-lot home is bright and inviting. Music is playing on the first level of the house; a light breeze circulates from the backyard through the open wall-to-wall pocket door in the main living space.

Tanya, her husband, Liam, and their two boys moved from South Africa and into the newly constructed, Cape-Cod-inspired home in 2009. After eight years and the addition of their youngest child, a little girl, the Monaghans gradually took steps to “modernize over time,” Tanya notes. The original home, designed by Gary Lane, was “brilliantly designed to allow in a lot of natural light yet somehow remain completely private. It was brand new, and everything was great. We just wanted to put our own stamp on it.”

And that’s exactly what they did. After steadily making changes to both the interior and exterior of the property, the Monaghans have finally completed the transformation of their stunning Tree Section abode into a sanctuary that reflects their own uniquely curated style.

“We wanted to create a feeling of being somewhere else—somewhere a bit tropical perhaps— even though we’re at home.”

“We call this the Whiskey Room,” Tanya says as she walks toward the seating area just to the right of the home’s entrance. Gesturing to a gorgeous white sofa, the mom of three adds, “We use this for entertaining, but definitely no kids allowed. It’s not super often, but sometimes we’ll come here, sequester ourselves and have a drink with our friends.”

Behind double doors in an adjacent room is a more kid-friendly space. “Because it’s one of the first rooms you see as you enter the house, I wanted to make it a bit more pleasing to the eye than a typical playroom or kids hangout area,” Tanya says. At the center of the room is a massive Indian day bed, which Tanya says the family “shipped from South Africa.”

The space serves as a study/hangout area for the youngest members of the Monaghan family. “This is a room where they can be loud,” Tanya points out. “We can just close these doors and let them go.”

In the formal dining room, a long wooden table made of pure yellowwood sits on top of an indigo rug. “I think this table is my favorite thing that I’ve ever bought,” says Tanya. “We bought it in South Africa; it was hand-made there.”

Pointing to the light fixture above the table, she says, “When we bought the house, all the light fixtures were really traditional, but in here I wanted something more industrial and modern.” The benches under the table give the space a communal feel. “This is where we eat when we have people over because you can fit so many around .”

Not-so-tiny details like the crown molding found throughout the house or the windows that wrap around, allowing natural light to pour into every room, are hard to ignore. But in true South Bay fashion, the hub of the home and perhaps its greatest focal point is where the indoor and the outdoor spaces merge.

The kitchen and main seating area make one great room with large pocket doors that open up nearly the entire back wall. Above the small dining nook in the kitchen, where the family eats most of their meals, is a massive window of solid glass. “I feel like this really changed the feel of the space—it’s light and inviting,” Tanya says. “And in an interesting way, I think it’s even helped us have more family meals together. Something precious in all our busy lives.”

The island in the kitchen is made of white porcelain. “I wanted marble, but my friends kept telling me not to—that it stains,” Tanya explains. “ is completely durable, chip-resistant and less expensive than marble.” The sink on the island and the faucet over the stove serve as hints that this kitchen is a working one. “I cook a lot,” Tanya says.

Just outside the large pocket doors separating the main seating area and the backyard is a long, narrow pool surrounded by a hardwood, ipe deck, large leafy plants and scattered succulents. “When people think Cape Cod they typically create the Nantucket/Napa Valley look where the focus is on a more muted color palette of drought-resistant plants,” Tanya shares. “We wanted to create a feeling of being somewhere else—somewhere a bit tropical perhaps—even though we’re at home.”

Rob Jones of Jones Landscaping helped Tanya bring her vision to life. “I shared with him my inspirations, and he just nailed it. He brought in an interesting combo of succulents, small palms, ginger and bird-of-paradise and added color to the front of the house with the bougainvillea.”

The kids’ bedrooms, a guest room and the master suite are all located on the second level of the home. The master bath boasts high ceilings, a gorgeous tub and a walk-in closet.

With pieces from Indonesia, Africa and India found throughout the house, the master bedroom is no different. “It’s called a juju hat,” Tanya says, gesturing to the decorative piece above the bed. “It’s made of ostrich feathers and comes from Cameroon. It’s a ceremonial headdress worn in tribal ceremonies.”

The house is full of surprises; Tanya merges different patterns, textures and pieces from around the world. “I like to do the interior design myself,” she says. “And I like to mix it up. It’s hard to make it all work and I’ve definitely made some mistakes, but I really wanted our home to represent us. Incorporating personally-acquired pieces from our South African heritage as well as our travels has helped make our home truly ours. It helps tell our story.”

The result is a genuinely unique space that beautifully reflects the family’s personal style.