A contemporary home sparkles with curated art and objects from around the globe

Written by Suzanna Cullen Hamilton Photographed by Shane O’Donnell Manhattan Beach Boulevard has a spectacular new sustainable billboard that promotes green living and imbues beauty—an impossible feat for ungainly conventional […]

Written by Suzanna Cullen Hamilton
Photographed by Shane O’Donnell

Manhattan Beach Boulevard has a spectacular new sustainable billboard that promotes green living and imbues beauty—an impossible feat for ungainly conventional billboards. Perched on the second and third floors of a stunning new home by Brent Coert of The (W)orkshop, the living wall—designed by Habitat Horticulture—wraps around two sides of the house with a sculptural design that marries the best of contemporary graphic design and colorful plants.

“This is not just for this house; this is for the neighborhood,” says Brent, who worked with plans from architect Brett Buchmann. The archetypal green space is as much a painting as it is a natural element in this neighborhood void of gardens, and it hints at the true passion of the owners of this impressive house.

Carole Wagner Vallianos and her husband, Peter, have been Manhattan Beach residents for 34 years. “After living in a traditional Spanish home in the Tree Section, we wanted to be
able to walk to restaurants and shops in town,” says Carole.

They considered many lots on which to build, but one day they stopped by the contemporary house to see the construction. “Since we’ve retired, we weren’t considering a modern home; however, it became more emotional for us as we envisioned life in this cutting-edge space,” says Carole.

The two had extraordinary internation
al careers. After working as an attorney, Carole transitioned into a State Department position that took her to many diverse and developing nations including Turkey, India, Bosnia and Cypress.

Peter’s work also took him on an international path, so both were constantly engaged in a global perspective politically, fiscally and aesthetically. As a result, Carole and Peter have amassed a large and diverse art collection that represents the depth and breadth of their travels.

Carole has retired as CEO at Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, but she remains chair of the board of the Richstone Family Center. These milestone changes triggered a desire to find a home that would accommodate their new lifestyle yet provide space for their collection. “We collect what we like, and we’re more into collecting than decorating,” says Carole.

Although all of the finishes were not installed when Carole and Peter first toured the house, the extraordinary attention to detail and the high level of quality throughout all facets of the house was evident.
 The open floor plan included high ceilings, incredible light and stunning products in a modern, elegant space.

The remarkable staircase is intended to mimic folded paper as it floats through the three-story house. Poured concrete floors with radiant heat on the first floor are as practical as they are beautiful, while wide-plank French white oak floors with a custom stain grace the second and third floors. Furniture-grade cabinets are found throughout the house and are a distinct element in the refined kitchen.

“Linear ceiling lights pierce the house and create a subtle but individual custom element,” says Brent, who envisioned the inventive detail.

There are multiple outdoor living areas, and the third floor decks provide tremendous space and views. The front deck overlooks Manhattan Beach Boulevard and the pier, while the back deck has a floating wall and ceiling that create a “room.”

Carole and Peter made only a few changes in the final finish selections and room uses. The huge slab of Carrara marble with the waterfall edge creates a kitchen island that floats in the room like a piece of sculpture. The classic wood-paneled library doubles as a media room when a large screen drops down over the expansive bookshelves.

Brent and Peter worked to create a masterpiece statement with the living room fireplace. The white onyx is lit from within so that not only is the fire alight, but the onyx glows softly and it frames a see-through firebox that’s visible both indoors and out.

Throughout all of the carefully considered spaces, Carole and Peter imbued each room with pieces from their collection for an eclectic and layered composition. Contemporary Native American Inuit sculptures mix seamlessly with the Oriental rug and grand piano in the living room, while Mies van der Rohe Barcelona chairs oat in the family room near a large Warhol lithograph.

“Lola” is a life-sized contemporary Parisian sculpture that stands near the traditional dining room table and chairs. Carole’s collection of copper pots fits perfectly in the sophisticated kitchen, while the family’s expansive collection of books is equal to the number of paintings and sculpture.

In total, it’s a masterful contemporary house filled with treasures that spark the imagination and interest of both the owners and their guests. The expressive living wall visible to the neighborhood is merely an indication of the accomplished and urbane owners who reside in this polished and sophisticated home that typifies luxury in all its definitions.