Kevin and Charlene Michel transformed an El Segundo property into their Victorian-style family dream home.
- Written byDiane E.
When Kevin and Charlene Michel were looking for the ideal place to settle down and raise a family, they wanted to stay in the South Bay and had their sights set on living in Hermosa Beach, Redondo Beach or Manhattan Beach. When their Realtor asked if they would consider El Segundo, they were adamant about that not being an option. However, when they showed the agent a photo of a house they admired—a Victorian-style in Pasadena that was in the film Father of the Bride—the couple was convinced to look at a home on Palm Avenue in El Segundo. As the saying goes, the rest was history. They immediately fell in love with it and purchased it.
Twelve years and four children later, Kevin and Charlene decided it was time to build their dream home. “My mom was a developer, and I always knew that I would build my dream home some day,” says Kevin.
As destiny would have it, instead of the Michels finding a special property to build on, it found them. One of their children’s teachers mentioned that her parents’ nearby El Segundo home was available, which turned out to be exactly what they were looking for.
The Michels purchased the property with a magnificent double lot in 2010 and tore the existing house down to create a fresh, new slate for their design vision. “I always had a U-shaped design in mind, and the lot was perfect for it. We interviewed five architects, and when Doug Leach showed up with samples of his work that included a U-shaped home, we knew he was the right fit for us,” says Kevin.
With the same care they took to select Doug as their architect, they considered several contractors before bringing Matt Kroha of TriSam Development on board. “When we put the job out to bid, Matt went over and above the other contractors with the details,” says Kevin. “His budget breakdown included additional items that he thought we might want, such as an area that did not have stone specified that we ended up installing.”
From start to finish, Kevin and Charlene were very hands-on during the 18-month construction process. Their shared affinity for design and their similar taste made for easy decision-making.
Kevin’s expertise as a mechanical contractor also lent itself well to the project. He was very involved with the fireplace and cabinetry designs and brought in his company, Xcel Mechanical Systems, to work alongside TriSam Development on the heating, air conditioning and plumbing.
DECK THE HALLS Stylish holiday decor blends beautifully with established pieces through-out the home.
“Kevin and Charlene were very easy to work with and open-minded to a lot of ideas. It was great for me to work with Kevin on some of the structural issues that came up during construction. And it was also a pleasure to work in El Segundo,” says Matt.
A testament to the quality workmanship of TriSam Development found throughout the home is the circular, walnut, capped wooden staircase that seamlessly “floats” through all three levels of the house—from the wine room and recreation room in the basement up through the main floor to the second floor. Crowning the grand architectural statement that greets visitors at the entryway is a custom, stained-glass, backlit window crafted by artisans in Pasadena.
In contrast to the exquisite craftsmanship done by hand is the fully automated, state-of-the-art Crestron technology that operates the lighting, climate control, entertainment center and other electrical components.
Interior designer Suzy Moore joined the creative team with Charlene’s two-year compilation of magazine tear-outs as the design compass. “We picked Suzy because when we looked at the Fowler & Moore website, we loved their work. Suzy always asked for our input and was good at nudging us without being overbearing. She was a perfect fit!”
From the numerous fabric and furnishings resources at their fingertips in the Fowler & Moore design studio in Riviera Village, Suzy and her team created a relaxing yet sophisticated color palette of aqua, sky, ivory, taupe and soft grey contrasted by crisp, white architectural detailing. Unexpected splashes of earthy red were added to fabrics in the sunroom and grasscloth walls in the library to coordinate with a family heirloom rug.
Wide-plank, black walnut, distressed floors were installed throughout the home except in the sleeping rooms and game room, which were lushly carpeted with ultra-thick padding (great for sleepovers, according to Charlene). The rich materials and finish details included grey-and-white American Mist marble and honed Absolute Black granite kitchen countertops accented with a herringbone-subway marble backsplash.
A custom Calacatta and Negro Marquina marble mosaic added simple elegance to the master bath. The kids’ bathrooms were more casually finished to tie in with the home’s color scheme with materials they selected to reflect their unique personalities.
Light fixtures from Visual Comfort and Currey & Company along with European hardware added sophisticated bling to the elegantly comfortable design. Many of the furnishings were custom-made to accommodate unique room sizes, such as the small, salon-style living room and the extra large family room.
Soft linens and other relaxed living fabrics from Kneedler | Fauchère, Cowtan & Tout, Colefax and Fowler and others were selected. “Charlene and Kevin wanted everything to be beautifully designed and also practical so that everything would be used and enjoyed,” says Suzy.
An extensive collection of realistic and idyllic watercolor paintings by Canadian artist Trisha Romance adorns many of the walls, paying homage to Charlene’s beloved Canada. In bold contrast to the gentle quietude of the framed watercolor pieces, Bo Bridges’ photo art explodes with excitement on full walls in the boys’ bedrooms and in the recreation room.
“The whole family came to my Manhattan Beach studio to choose from some of my select images,” says Bo. “One of the kids wanted a big wave, one wanted a snow-skiing shot and one picked auto racing. A mountain-scape was picked for the game room. I took photos of the rooms in the house, got measurements and mocked them up so they could see how it would look before the installation.”
With their Toronto and Chicago upbringings at heart, the Michels wanted the exterior to be landscaped reminiscent of a northern forest. Cathy Clous of Cathy Clous Landscape Design rounded out the design team to implement their vision. Since Cathy had lived in Seattle, she understood exactly what they wanted.
“Charlene and I went to nurseries, and she showed me what she liked. Then I researched to determine what would be adaptable to the coastal climate and alkaline soil,” says Cathy.
Key elements of the final landscape design were white birch, Japanese maple and redbud trees. The lush flowerbeds included silver camellias contrasted by blue hydrangeas. Ornamental grasses were added for the final finishing touches.
When asked why the Michels chose to build their dream home in El Segundo, Kevin says with a smile, “El Segundo is Mayberry and a diamond in the rough. We love it here!”
We chose FIG in Santa Monica, the hot new revamp of the old Grille space at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel. As I have observed before in these pages, it has always seemed weird to me that so many high-end hotels with coveted Ocean addresses put such little effort into their restaurants.