Fresh Beginnings

Recreating life and love in a revised Manhattan Beach abode.

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  • Written by
    Suzanna Cullen

When composers Peter Allen and Carole Bayer-Sager wrote the song “Everything Old is New Again,” it became an instant hit and has remained a Broadway classic for the lyrics that remind us that everything can be reinvented and renovated, even love. For Bret Barker and Ashley McCarthy of Manhattan Beach, both their marriage and their ocean-view home are examples of how life, love and home can be reimagined and recreated.

“I bought the house in 2007 when I was single and had the requisite bachelor/high-backed sectional sofa and chaise combo that’s perfect for television watching,” laughs Bret. Knowing that any property in Manhattan Beach would be a good investment, Bret purchased the house for its location rather than the interior aesthetics.  

The minimal modern stucco exterior was incongruous with the traditional finishes inside the house. Heavy crown moldings, cherry-stained floors and large slabs of granite countertops in the kitchen and family room were dated, but Bret didn’t do anything about them until Ashley entered his life, or rather, re-entered.

Bret is originally from Denver but has been living in Southern California for more than 20 years. “One day my personal trainer asked me if I knew another client from Denver, Ashley McCarthy,” he says.  

Incredibly, Bret and Ashley attended middle school together in Denver, where she dated Bret’s best friend. “I don’t think I ever said a word to Bret, but I knew him,” laughs Ashley.  

Having gone their separate ways in high school, Bret and Ashley didn’t realized they both attended college in Los Angeles. Bret attended LMU and Ashley attended UCLA, and they both ended up in the South Bay area after graduating.

Upon getting married, Bret and Ashley decided it was time to update the house and make it their own. Tired of the dated interior, they wanted to create “an open, airy interior and let the house do what it was supposed to do,” says Ashley. “We hired Paul Davis as our architect because his philosophy is to get your eye to move across the space without breaking the lines.”




The couple had to take into consideration how to best utilize the space. With a huge, barrel-vaulted ceiling on the top floor and plate glass windows facing the ocean, they decided to completely open the floor plan.

“We resisted the idea of a separate dining area or a large, high kitchen island and instead opted for a large dining table that acts like an island but keeps everything in the space on one level,” says Ashley.  

Paul Davis helped in the selection of the furnishings and created a custom media cabinet that relates to the size, scale and design of the living room furniture. In considering space, they had to make a tough decision about whether to maintain a designated guest bedroom on the top floor or incorporate it into the main living area. In the end they opted to keep the guest bedroom and incorporate loads of storage and an office into it.

“With a baby on the way and grandparents coming to visit, we need a guest bedroom, but it can be utilized in other ways when it’s vacant,” says Ashley.

Saturated but calm colors anchor the bedrooms. The nursery features deep pink walls with accents of grey for a soothing yet fun baby girl’s room. The master bedroom echoes the ocean views in a deep blue color that has enough grey in it to make it feel like a cocoon rather than a sea.

A creative use of space features a ground floor that incorporates not only a garage, bedroom and bathroom but also a wine cellar built under the stairs. “We really maximized every space to best suit our family,” says Ashley.

Southern California filmmaker Jason Baffa is a good friend of Bret’s, so some of his art anchors walls throughout the house. “It’s great to have pieces that not only relate to where we live but have the personal component of our friendship,” says Bret.

From middle school in Denver to a family and home in Manhattan Beach, Ashley and Bret have geographically, emotionally and physically created a new life. As the song says, “Don’t throw the past away/You might need it some other rainy day/When everything old is new again/I might fall in love with you again.”  

It seems that’s true: Bret and Ashley fell in love with each other, Southern California and a house that became a home with a renovation and the addition of small feet and big hearts. Everything old really is new again in this Manhattan Beach home.