Be Our Guest
Empty nesters relocate to Redondo’s Riviera and reap huge rewards.
- Written bySuzanna Cullen
Downsizing is challenging, but when homeowners create better space with less square footage, it becomes liberating. After raising five children in their family home of 16 years, Kerry and Jack Nelson decided it was finally time to create the home of their empty-nester dreams.
The Hollywood Riviera of Redondo Beach is a special area that has preserved larger lot sizes with close proximity to the beach. Many mid-century beach cottages still line the streets near The Strand, providing a family-friendly atmosphere. “We were always driving to the beach, but we decided that it was finally time to live at the beach,” says Jack.
A friend in real estate called Jack to let him know that a 1950s bungalow one block from the beach would be going on the market. Jack didn’t wait for a sign to go in the yard. Instead he met the homeowner for cocktails, and by the second round they had agreed on a price and celebrated the sale.
“I knew as soon as I walked in the door and felt the charm of the house that I was home,” says Jack. The house needed remodeling, but it had good bones and good light.
For Jack, the owner of Nelson Development, the project was easy and fun. Longtime friend John Juge of Juge Design Group weighed in on some of the design elements, while Jack’s firm executed the construction.
With five adult children and grandchildren arriving, the Nelsons needed a home that could accommodate a crowd. “We have big family dinners on Sundays, so we needed to be able to have everyone over and feel comfortable,” says Kerry.
By pushing out the back of the house to accommodate two A-frame-type structures, the Nelsons gained square footage, ceiling height and great light. Although the spaces are designated, the house feels large, with an open floor plan that flows from the Dutch door at the front to the row of glass doors and windows that line the back of the house.
“We felt strongly about preserving those features that were either hallmarks of good building of the ‘50s or those that provided style that worked.” Plaster walls are luxurious and expensive, so the Nelsons preserved those where they could. The original windows in the front of the house were also preserved so that the 1950s bungalow look was retained.
However, they took the opportunity to raise the ceilings and create the illusion of more space and more light in the house. Beamed ceilings provide a substantive counterpoint to the rich, mahogany-stained hardwood floors. The original brick fireplace anchors the central living space so that the total aesthetic is one that reads beach-style Craftsman.
With a crowd of at least 11 people for dinner every Sunday night, a large, functional kitchen was imperative. Thick slabs of honed Carrere marble and crisp white cabinets create a clean slate. Pendant lights and bronze fixtures echo the dark floors and beamed ceilings.
The dining room table can be expanded to seat the growing Nelson clan. “I always wanted a round dining table, and this one works perfectly,” says Kerry.
Designer Jane Calvert helped Jack and Kerry merge their tastes and styles into a uniform look that flows throughout the home. The wing of bedrooms is designed just like the living spaces in neutral tones with lots of daylight and hardwood floors.
The large backyard retains many of the original plants. From orange trees and eucalyptus trees to herbs and flowers, the yard feels established. Kerry has created potting tables where she can work with her grandchildren so they can grow up learning to appreciate nature as well as create in the process. “This is the first time we haven’t had carpet, and we love it—but we had no idea how much dog and cat hair the carpet was hiding!” says Kerry. Although they vacuum most days, the house feels cleaner without carpets.
“After raising a family in a large home, we thought it might be challenging to downsize and still make a house feel large. But this house is perfect,” says Jack. For this clan entering their third generation, a beach bungalow means the whole family is finally home.