UCLA’s head coach, Jim Mora, and his wife, Shannon, touch down in Manhattan Beach with winning results.
- Written byDiane E.
Jim Mora’s NFL and college coaching career has spanned 25+ years and has included numerous relocations for Jim, his wife, Shannon, and their four children. Since the college sweethearts moved from their very first house in San Diego, they have remodeled five homes that have run the gamut in style, size and location: a New Orleans ranch-style home built in the 1950s; a quaint, 1,400-square-foot-house in San Francisco; a mid-century modern home in Seattle; a traditional residence in Atlanta; and their current Manhattan Beach contemporary beach house.
“Before we moved here from Seattle two years ago, we looked at dozens of properties. We narrowed it down to three that were the most conducive to remodeling and our lifestyle and then selected this one. We wanted a comfortable, relaxed and livable home like all of our houses—and one that the kids could have fun in,” says Shannon.
After the Moras purchased the 1980s-era traditional house, they enlisted the talents of Hermosa Beach-based Jon Starr and Kasey O’Keefe of Starr Design Group and general contractor Steve Larkin of SRL Construction for an extensive remodel of the dark, compartmentalized and outdated design. The family rented a nearby home in the Manhattan Beach tree section before construction started, and Shannon enthusiastically rolled up her sleeves to work alongside the team.
The original footprint and roofline remained the same, while the appearance and functionality were dramatically changed. The first priority was to create open spaces with a lot of natural light.
“The house was very closed, and we really wanted to open it up. It didn’t feel like you were at the beach. If you are going to live here, bring the outside in!” exclaims Shannon.
To accomplish the desired openness, several walls were removed—creating structural challenges that, according to Jon, were remarkably managed by Steve, who installed temporary walls throughout the process of structural changes. In addition to his general contracting expertise, Steve also brought great artisans to the project, which is particularly evident in such details as the Corten weathering steel by Todd Clark inside and out, the stone work by the Siena Stone Tile team and the exquisite craftsmanship of the mahogany woodwork on the ceilings, windows and doorways by Neil O’Sullivan.
“It was a great transformation that we are all very proud of. Though we kept the footprint and maintained the same silhouette and form, we completely changed the overall design. It is fun to see what it is now and what it was before,” says Jon.
The materials and finishes installed throughout the home are hardy, kid-/athlete-/dog-friendly and earthy. Shannon likes the grounding feeling of stone underfoot and especially loves bluestone, which was installed outdoors and repeated indoors juxtaposed with distressed oak floors.
The limestone-appointed fireplace and accent walls add light-colored textural interest and visual balance in contrast to the prevalent, smooth, dark mahogany. The color palette is a soothing blend of neutrals—taupes, greys, whites and beiges—with hints of ocean blues and greens offset by the warm, natural beauty of wood.
Walnut cabinetry designed and fabricated by Coastal Cabinets frames Wolf, Miele and Sub-Zero kitchen appliances and is topped with sea pearl quartz with waterfall sides on an oversized, 16-foot island. The adjacent powder room repeats the Corten steel on the exterior facade and fireplace as an innovative backsplash that continues behind the cabinet and is shaped to create a shelf below. Finishing the space is an Amazon brown stone carved sink with bronze fixtures, mimicking a basalt sink that the Moras had in Seattle.
Shannon’s creativity shines throughout the home, beginning with the indoor/outdoor water feature in the floor at the entryway, which she points out (with a smile) has not yet doubled as an oversized water dish for their young Labrador retriever. Her design sense is also apparent in the master suite—a comfortable reprieve that boasts a barn-style door between the bedroom and bath and an inviting relaxation area. Pointing to the pillow- and blanket-covered sofa, Shannon quips, “Wherever we are in the house, we plan on multiple people and dogs!”
Wood-slatted, floor-to-ceiling closet doors allow for wardrobe visibility and ventilation, and the Canadian-made BainUltra air jet tub surprisingly fills from the ceiling instead of a typical freestanding or wall-mounted faucet. In lieu of grouted stone tile, solid marble slabs adorn the shower/steam room walls, finished with Dornbracht chrome fixtures from Germany that coordinate with the hardware at his-and-her sinks.
Breaking the tradition of installing the same furniture in the Moras’ last three houses, their Manhattan Beach home was newly furnished in a neutral palette with bold splashes of contrasting white and pops of blue and green to complement the newly completed redesign. Shannon spent many late nights searching online.
“If I found something that I thought worked, I went for it!” Most of her furniture finds are from BoConcept in Santa Monica and Design Within Reach. Lighting throughout the house is primarily energy-efficient LED, with decorative light fixture accents from Lightopia in Manhattan Beach and Design Within Reach.
Designing the outdoor spaces to become one with the home was key. Floor-to-ceiling windows and sliding glass doors were installed throughout, enhanced by disappearing Lutron window treatments. The fire pit area adjacent to the pool, with a view of the ocean through the house, epitomizes the sense of oneness and is a favorite gathering place. For the finishing exterior touches, Shannon brought San Diego-based Wolf Landscape Design (aka Shannon’s plant whisperer) on board.
Two detached buildings perched above the backyard were also remodeled to create a delightful outdoor living architectural backdrop. One is the garage. The other is the office and command central for the Jim Mora Count on Me Family Foundation—a charity founded by Jim and Shannon to make the world a better place for at-risk and mentally and physically challenged children.
“Giving back is very important to me and my entire family. We are in the position to help those less fortunate and want to do everything we can to make someone else’s life a little better,” Jim states on the foundation’s website.
After moving to the South Bay and taking on yet another remodeling project in a new community, the Moras are delighted with their home and the results of the design and building team they recruited. Reflecting on the process, Shannon says, “There was a great, harmonious collaboration with the team. Everyone’s standards were very high, and creative problem-solving and critical thinking were very positive. I loved being a part of it!”