Happy Medium

One Hermosa Beach couple merges disparate styles in a forever home for their busy young family.


On any given afternoon, you’re likely to find the Wallis family hanging out on their front lawn, with the living room windows retracted and laughter beckoning the neighborhood kids over to play. When Dave and Carrie Wallis scooped up this lot along a covetable walk street in their Hermosa Beach neighborhood, they wanted to build a dream home for their young kids, ages 10, 8, 6 and 4. 

“We wanted this to be the house where our kids grow up and make memories,” says Dave. “It didn’t make sense to wait until they were older, so we hurried the build.” 

For a couple with fast-paced jobs (he’s a family and sports medicine doctor, she’s a family law attorney) and disparate design styles (he’s partial to modern, she leans traditional), this was an ambitious feat. 

“The two of us could never come up with anything we both loved,” says Dave, who met his wife while they were both students at UCLA. “I gravitate toward clean lines and open floor plans, while Carrie would rather have something older with lots of character.” 

To merge the couple’s wish lists into a unified beach idyll, in stepped Patrick Cunningham. One half of the brother duo behind C&C Partners Design/Build Firm, Patrick was also tasked with maximizing the narrow lot and designing a space to withstand the bustle of four children. 

Getting started, the award-winning architect says he encountered a career first: a client who arrived with rough sketches for the house design. “It was a great snapshot of what they wanted,” says Patrick. “The outcome was a hybrid that they both enjoy.”

To accommodate the family’s revolving door of friends and neighbors, Patrick anchored the main floor with open living spaces, including a spacious kitchen. Because the house is designed on a slight slope, the rooms on the main floor feature small walk-up steps that add a huge dose of character for Carrie. 

“I love our kitchen. It’s the biggest room in our house and designed with the idea that that’s where everyone ends up,” she says of the space that includes an island with seating for all four kids. “We have a temperamental stove that I love—it has a French attitude, and it’s French blue!”

Proving to be a jack-of-all-trades, Dave, together with his father—a retired dentist—built all of the house’s cabinetry, moulding and built-ins. Their craftsmanship shines in the kitchen’s whitewashed cabinetry that’s warmed with reclaimed-wood floors and ceiling beams from Dominica. “We used a lot of horizontal wood paneling to give it more of a Cape Cod feel,” says Dave, who luckily sourced most of the wood from the Steinway factory.

Another spot that draws the family together is the rooftop, the site of sunset dining, enjoying the hot tub in the rain (a favorite tradition for the kids) and an endless pool for Dave’s training. Did we mention he’s a triathlete too? “It’s my personal favorite spot, plus I’m able to keep up my training,” says Dave. 

“He was training for a triathlon during the whole build process. Who’s a doctor, trains for a triathlon and does carpentry?” asks Patrick jokingly. “The guy’s an animal!” 

So Dave can balance work, family and training, Patrick delivered a home office overlooking the dining room and kitchen for the couple both to use. “I can see everything from there, although it’s not user-friendly when I’m on a call,” says Carrie with a laugh. “I’ve been known to hide in the bathroom to make calls!”

To fulfill another request from Dave and Carrie, Patrick installed NanaWall glass doors to blur the lines between indoors and outdoors. When the glass doors are pushed open, it’s an open invitation for the neighborhood families. 

“We socialize a ton with our neighbors, from drinking margaritas and hosting an annual chili cook-off to trips to Costa Rica,” says Dave. Carrie describes their corner of Hermosa Beach as a modern-day Mayberry. “Everyone knows each other, the kids gather in the walk street and play pick-up games, and there’s a neighborhood market where we have a tab and I can send my 8- and 10-year-old to pick up eggs.”

From the quiet walk street, the family’s eclectic house is punctuated by a mix of materials that suit both Dave’s and Carrie’s design sensibilities. “The stone portion is more in the modern motif, the smooth stucco serves as an in-between, and the batten-board was 100% the beach look,” says Patrick, dissecting the materials breakdown. To gratify Carrie’s penchant for the lived-in look, he also added copper detailing that would patina and age to perfection.

Inside, the “beach bohemian” décor—as Carrie calls it—is populated by coastal blues and whites and serves as a nod to the couple’s adventures. After getting married, they trekked through destinations like Thailand and Africa. The built-in bookcase in the living room is populated mostly by photos, curios and exotic travel souvenirs. 

“The house was made to withstand four young kids who live by the beach, so there are a lot of surfaces that can be wiped down and slipcovers that can be changed,” says Carrie, who also relishes the outdoor shower, which cuts down on sandy footprints across her floors. “We wanted our home to be living-friendly.” 

But perhaps the best design feature is the photo gallery at the top of the stairs, where the couple displays four large photo prints of the kids that are updated every few months—a glimpse at this picture-perfect family.



Rohl “Shaws” sink


Ferguson in RB, ferguson.com


Armed Casper Chair


Shryne Design, shrynedesign.com


La Cornue CornuFé Stove





Patrick Cunningham, C&C Partners Design/Build Firm

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