Perfect Play

An expanded outdoor and indoor plan offers a growing family room to roam and recreate.


When Sandi and John Barrett bought their 1960 ranch home on a prime corner of the Paseo in Palos Verdes Estates, they were ready to roll up their sleeves and remodel. The original bones gave way to a contemporary house that has undergone several rounds of renovations. With the first two phases completed in 2002 and 2005, they recently completed an outdoor area that reflects the resort-style elegance of a home that is grounded in family-friendly comfort. 

The Barretts are an active bunch whose lives include constant school activities, sleepovers and a steady flow of contractors and concrete pours. When they began remodeling, their eldest daughter, Brittanie, was 10, and son, JP, was 5. Their first phase included a reconfiguration of the interior layout to accommodate a master bedroom and two bedrooms for the kids. 

Just when this was complete, the Barretts had their youngest daughter, Emilie, and Sandi started to reimagine her plans for the next phases, which included the addition of Emilie’s room along with major work on the master bath and kitchen. Their project, Miles Pritzkat (who was with Edward Carson Beall & Associates at the time), describes the goal as “taking the existing 1960 ranch-style house and creating a design that was both unique but fitting with the neighborhood.” 

Once each family member had their own space, the next phases allowed the Barretts to expand their home by focusing on spaces for the family to come together. They added a first floor great room to the side of home that faces the ocean. It serves as a community room where the adults have an office area and the kids have an entertainment center surrounded by a comfortable group of sofas that serve as beds for regular weekend sleepovers. 

This room is one of Miles’ favorite features of the house. “The  lower level room was carved out of the under-floor space of the existing house, but from the inside, the room feels spacious, bright, and the view is of a beautiful green lawn with the Pacific Ocean in the background,” he says. “Where once was nothing is now a wonderful, useable space!”

To complete the interior space and give it an island feel, Sandi worked with Michelle Dennee of Dennee’s Distinctive Furniture to create a living room with an impressive view of the ocean—an accent wall in itself. Sandi already had several colorful oil paintings that served as a springboard for Michelle to design from. They placed orchids throughout and used yellows and blues to give the room a cheerful tone. 

Michelle says, “My job was to pull it all together and coordinate it to give it that relaxed elegance you’d find in a Hawaiian resort, where it’s user-friendly and lends itself to the view.” 

The house originally contained a bare, narrow, sloping side yard that runs parallel to the house. With the view in mind, they built a ground-level patio off the great room and added a terrace above that, which includes a built-in barbecue and dining area. 

For their most recent remodel, Sandi was ready to focus on a modest square of grass off the master bedroom. It was neither functional nor integrated with the other outdoor spaces.

Landscape architect Deborah Richie-Bray was brought in to transform this area into a fun, inviting space for the family to congregate before and after barbecues. Sandi told Deborah that she wanted a place where the kids could play, the adults could lounge and they could enjoy the view. 

“I wanted it to feel like we were on vacation,” Sandi says. Indeed, with a new playground that contains two Jacuzzis, a gorgeous water feature, a fire pit, two concrete fire bowls and a lounge area with a stunning view of the ocean … mission accomplished.

As far back as 1999 when the Barretts moved in, Sandi envisioned incorporating water into the outdoor space. She considered a small pool, but with the narrow lot and the weather to consider, she opted for a cold and a hot Jacuzzi—“my pacuzzis,” she calls them. 

The two Jacuzzis provide the right amount of relief and relaxation. The cold offers respite from occasional hot weather or a cool-down from water basketball or ping-pong, while the hot side gets used year-round due to the constant marine layer that hangs over the area. 

While Deborah and Sandi sourced glass tiles for the Jacuzzis, contractor John Quinn was busy terracing the space for the dramatic new design. John worked closely with Sandi and Deborah on details of the design as well as obtaining permits and working with the city. 

He says he had to “make the elevations work, tying in the new work with existing structures and finishes.” Having worked together previously, John complemented Deborah’s design by assisting with the engineering aspects of the landscape and Jacuzzi builds. 

“The idea is to create this new ‘thing’ and at the end of the day, make the whole project look like new and existing elements were all installed together seamlessly,” John says. 

Deborah truly tied the space together by incorporating a stunning water feature. She says, “Sandi wanted something unusual, something you wouldn’t see at someone else’s house.” 

During one of their shopping excursions, Deborah saw a fountain that they agreed would complete the space and give it a signature look. Framed by Malibu tiles, they chose turquoise-glass, bamboo-shaped tile to provide a pop of texture and color. Deborah also flanked the fountain with Mission-style sconces featuring a yellow glass-and-copper finish that illuminates the wall with a soft glow. 

Custom limestone pavers and outdoor furnishings have soft earth tones that allow the water feature to truly take center stage. With the fountain’s peaceful trickle and the ocean breeze, it is a haven where Sandi and John can relax while the kids enjoy the Jacuzzis. 

“It was such a small space, we needed to maximize everything,” Deborah adds. “It balanced out and is really pretty.”

Low-water landscaping helps unify the area as well. Deborah planted orange sedge grasses and yellow kangaroo paws to complement the aqua colors of the Jacuzzis. The earthy palette is contemporary and clean, while iceberg white roses mixed with asparagus ferns on either side of the fountain add a classical touch.

Now that Deborah has mastered one outdoor space, she and Sandi have mapped out the next phase of landscaping, to begin next spring. Deborah explains, “With landscaping, you really need to rejuvenate. Things grow so fast here, and it can use a refresh.” 

The large front yard that overlooks the ocean is a flat grass surface reserved for Emile’s soccer practice, so Deborah will re-plant the perimeter. The big project, however, is a remodel of the entryway steps and adjacent patio off the kitchen. It’s a favorite spot for John; he wants to install a pizza oven and fireplace to extend the kitchen outdoors. 

This seems a natural next step for a family that appreciates the many benefits of their location, as well as the many benefits of a remodel. With Deborah guiding the contractors and the concrete pours, the Barretts will continue to make their home distinct and personal, both inside and out.




Miles Prizkat, (formerly of)Edward Carson Beall & Associates
J. Quinn Construction
Deborah Richie-Bray, Landscape Architect
Michelle Dennee, Dennee’s Distinctive Furniture
Impression LIMESTONE
Classic Tile & Mosaic
Lighting Zone 
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