Balanced Approach

The perfect intersection of architecture, art and design in a Manhattan BEACH Walk Street Home

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    Suzanna Cullen

The great 20th-century decorator Billy Baldwin said, “Scale and proportion provide everlasting satisfaction that cannot be achieved by only icing the cake.” 

The brilliant arbiter of style whose designs have stood the test of time would be most impressed by the Manhattan Beach home of Jane and George Kallis. Created by architect Michael Lee, beautiful lines with perfect scale and proportion combine with layered, confident interiors—reminiscent of the East but infrequently found in the South Bay—to make the home a rare gem. 

The walk street home appears to be a simple, Nantucket-style cottage from the outside; however, subtle clues give way to the sophistication that unfolds inside. Clean lines, bold furniture and carefully selected garden elements send a message that it is better to have a few high-quality pieces rather than a garden of mediocrity.  

The very balanced and exactly proportioned exterior echoes the same elegance and sophistication that exists on the inside. “We wanted to retain the original beach cottage charm and historical references but open it up for more contemporary, relaxed entertaining,” says Michael. 

The Dutch door opens to reveal a living room with perfect architectural details. Working with contractor Jeff Strnad, the ceilings and doorways of the original cottage were raised to create better flow for an open contemporary plan.  

From the large bay window, created by Window Concepts in El Segundo, to the wainscoting and mouldings, the room is balanced in architectural elements and light. While rooted in historical references, the gutsy scale but simple designs of the architectural features gracefully usher it into the 21st century. 

“I’ve always designed my own homes, and this one is a mix of things we’ve inherited, other things we’ve had for years and still some that we’ve recently purchased,” says Jane. Living room lamps owned by her mother have been updated with new, contemporary shades for a fresh look, while an outdoor statue from her mother’s garden now rests peacefully in the light of the bay window. 

“We are frequently in Palm Desert, and we buy most of our paintings there,” says George. A large, bold, contemporary painting over the sofa balances the more traditional oriental and kilim rugs. 

With an open concept ground floor, the house flows beautifully for entertaining. The kitchen is large, but like the rest of the house it is very sophisticated and simple. 

Leathered granite provides a rich but subtle matte texture for the countertops. The long, galley kitchen features top-of-the-line appliances with ample prep and cooking space, but the Ceasarstone breakfast bar blocks the view of any possible mess and makes a great serving area and bar when entertaining. 

“We’ve got children and grandchildren in Manhattan Beach, so Sunday family dinners are a busy time,” says George. Two additional dining areas provide ample space for everyone to have a seat in a relaxed environment. However, in a flip-flop of design that arrives with the assurance of confidence, age and need, Jane had to switch the furniture of the indoor and outdoor areas. 

“The iron dining table and chairs have been in my family for as long as I can remember, so I had to incorporate them into the house,” says Jane. When they started to rust outside, she simply had them cleaned and added zippy cushions to integrate them into the dining room. 

By moving the original large wood dining table to the outdoor dining area, they have created two dining rooms. Glass doors slide open so there is no obstruction to the exterior. Additionally, since the outdoor dining area is partially roofed and has overhead heaters, not only is it usable year-round, it visually appears as an extension of the interior.

The upstairs of the house has been updated to accommodate guest bedrooms for the other grandchildren who live farther away. Mementoes from travels in Asia and Africa line the walls to give an international yet artistic flair to the rooms. 

“We spent ages finding just the right pale grey for the walls up here, but the final color gives a light, ethereal sense to the space,” says Jane. Like the rest of the house, the fabrics, rugs and art yield pops of color in the neutral architectural space. 

An office and library have been creatively carved out of the upstairs landing. Skylights and a vaulted ceiling create the illusion of more space in this comfortable, cozy nook of the house where more of Jane’s mother’s oriental rugs hug the floor. The otherwise quiet area is dominated by a fantastic bright tetraptych by David Hockney, thereby merging antique with contemporary, small scale with grand design. 

The master bedroom was added onto the back before Jane and George purchased the house, and like many quirky older homes, it has the charming attributes of stairs and a vaulted ceiling that give it the feeling of a hidden atelier. More paintings line the master bedroom walls, while fantastic African necklaces are displayed in the pristine master bathroom.  

There is always one element in any established home that reflects the humor of the homeowner. It takes time for collectors to reach the stage that they are confident to mix the high and the low, the expensive and the camp. For Jane Kallis, that piece rests on her dresser, and it is one that anyone growing up in the ‘70s or ‘80s would covet: a huge porcelain tube of Bain de Soleil Orange Gelee. 

For this well-traveled international collector and owner of a historically referenced home, a funky shop in Palm Desert provided her biggest laugh and great balance to otherwise serious—and fantastic—design.



Michael Lee, AIA, Michael Lee Architects
Jeffrey Strnad, Principal, Beach House Design and Development
Window Concepts, INC. | Jane Kallis 




Turkish Runner Rug $750 

Baxter Table Lamp $398 

Maison Luxe in Hermosa

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