A Manhattan Beach couple and a local architect create a custom, South Pacific-inspired hideaway to serve as a hub for their children and grandchildren—complete with a surf room, arts & crafts room and plenty of spaces to play.
WRITTEN BY JENNIE NUNN | PHOTOGRAPHED BY LAUREN PRESSEY
Just about every square inch of Mica and Phil Linsley’s Manhattan Beach residence tells a story. “Our house is filled with things that we like and have had for years, including items from our parents and family treasures that have sentimental value but also go with our tropical theme and décor,” explains Mica, who along with husband Phil designed the space specifically with her four grown children and 10 grandchildren in mind. “Everything is very personal and treasured, and nothing was bought to just fill space. There is probably a story attached to everything that is seen in our house, down to the plants.”
The major prerequisite, though, for the 6,300-square-foot house situated on a 33-by-105-foot corner lot came down to one single factor: family. After suffering the loss of two grandchildren —Lucia “Lulu” (the original inspiration for the home when she was the only grandchild) and Leo Krim—from a horrific tragedy, they knew it was time for a new beginning. They looked to local architect Michael Lee (now a close friend), who helped make the vision a reality and provide a respite for visiting children and grandchildren who now live out of state. Kim Komick of KKC Fine Homes would eventually be hired to build the project.
“Phil and Mica had lived in the neighborhood for a long time on a lot with no view and always dreamed of building a home on the walk street where they could host their grown kids and grandkids,” says Michael of the design that features exterior materials including Cumaru (a Brazilian teak hardwood), coral stone and stucco. “The main important goal was to provide as much outdoor space as possible on all of the levels and to make sure that the private decks on the main level worked well with the terraced walk street yards, so that Mica could keep track of little ones if she was in the kitchen or on one of the decks.”
Aside from the ocean view, the couple wanted to create multifunctional zones—from a craft room for art projects to a surf/media room to house all beach gear, sand pails, shovels and surfboards. And they wanted no steps for the entry and on the main floor, to provide extra safety for older visitors and grandchildren. Phil, an avid surfer and stand-up paddler, also had another specific request.
“I wanted to be able to sit up in bed in the morning and see the surf,” he says. “We were thinking ‘South Pacific contemporary’ for the design, and we wanted the main living space to be on the ground floor, and the top floor to have a wide open view.”
Walking through the front door, it’s clear every inch of the house was deliberately intended for a specific function, with designated zones for play, rest and relaxation, dining and grown-up conversations. “There’s not many lots you can do this with,” says Mica of the open, reversed floor plan with living space on the ground floor and four dedicated bedrooms upstairs. “Everyone thought we were a little crazy.”
On the main level, the Linsleys outfitted the space with a large, rectangular solid mahogany dining table and chairs (big enough to accommodate 10 guests) from Andes International in Hermosa Beach. “After many months of searching for the perfect table, Phil was walking out of our storage room, which is next door, saw a ‘sale’ sign on the sidewalk, peeked in, saw the table and chairs, called me and we bought it on the spot,” recalls Mica, who made the large, palm leaf drapes herself from fabric she bought at a fabric mart in Honolulu.
There are also split-leaf philodendrons scattered throughout. “When my mother passed away in 2011, I took two large split-leaf plants home with me when we cleaned out her home,” says Mica. “Since then they have flourished, and we now have multiple plants all over both inside and outside. They love it here and continue to produce more and more cuttings for more and more plants.”
The room is also layered with a handcrafted metal wall sculpture entitled Jellyfish by Ric Vigallon from Hermosa’s Fiesta De Los Artes; a Wyland collection including a “Dolphin Wave Riders” cast bronze sculpture coffee table bought in Lahaina, Maui; Mica’s sea glass collection with sea glass from Manhattan Beach; and a three-panel series, Forces of Nature, by Bo Bridges Photography, that anchors the space above the stairs to the basement media room and surf room for easy access to and from the beach.
Downstairs in the media room adjacent to the surf room housing surfboards, the space features a Hallet & Davis Company upright piano, an arts and crafts room lined with paintbrushes, construction paper, crayons and pens, art books, and personalized hooks for each grandchild hand-painted by Mica and Phil’s daughter, Tera. An Al Merrick big wave surfboard hangs on the wall above a coffee table made by Phil’s father constructed with lumber from the 1923 Big Bear Dam.
Honoring Lulu and Leo Krim
“My maternal grandmother from the Philippines was an extremely artistic and creative lady,” says Mica. “This was inherited by my mother, then passed on to me. Art and creativity has always been a big part of our family. My kids were exposed and encouraged to create and experiment. Today our home is filled with supplies, art areas, all kinds of opportunities to choose to create versus sitting in front of a screen. My oldest daughter followed in my footsteps and also exposed her own children to art and creativity (and she was even better than I was/am.) When we lost the two children in 2012, art became an important link to the two children for all of us. Thus was born the Lulu and Leo Foundation.”
For more information, visit choosecreativity.org or lululeofund.org.
Upstairs, the master bedroom has hints of refined, tropical-inspired island décor with art bought from a month-long family trip in Southeast Asia in 1993, woven and rattan chairs from Cost Plus World Market, and a pastel portrait of Mica’s grandmother done by her mother from the Philippines when she was 19 years old. “Cost Plus World Market is one of my go-to stores for tropical décor,” adds Mica. “I also find a lot of ocean and tropical treasures at HomeGoods, and I love mother-of-pearl. HomeGoods gets a lot of items from the Philippines .”
Now there is hardly a time during the year when the house is empty with just Phil and Mica. “Our goal was to build a home where everyone can come back and be together in one place, which we have also achieved,” says Mica, who is also expecting another grandchild in February. “We are the New Age type of grandparents where we are totally involved in the lives of our children and grandchildren, so going on cruises and treks with just the two of us is not our thing. We want to be with our family and want them to look forward to coming back home with their families. The house has been such a great thing for our family. We feel like we are on vacation all the time.”
It’s hard not to smile when Liz is in the room.
She sparks a natural candescence with each distinctive laugh or clever observation. Pointing out an uneaten cupcake on her table at a photo shoot, she sweetly confides picking it out as a potential prop, inspiring this writer to pick up one for himself.