Riding the Wave of Simplicity


Just as the surfer wants to catch the perfect wave, so did C.J. Olivares and Dean Nota want to create the perfect living environment when designing a home. Nothing about Amy and C.J. Olivares would overtly indicate their success, both collectively and individually. They are the rare type of people who shun ostentation and arrogance in favor of substance and sincerity. If one can disengage from the conversation long enough to peruse the wall of floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, C.J.’s Emmy award is slightly visible on a shelf, with a stack of books almost blocking it from view. When the Olivares contacted noted architect Dean Nota, they knew he could create a home as welcoming and understated as they are. 

Substance is a serious description, but it is the definition of both the Olivares family and the house they call home. C.J. Olivares is as modest as he is accomplished. The 2002 founder of FUEL TV network who worked as executive vice president and general manager until 2011, he led a high-profile life in television. 

As a lifelong surfer, C.J. is committed to saving the oceans and creating a better beach life for generations that follow. Serving on the executive boards of directors for both the Surfrider Foundation and the Grades of Green Foundation, C.J. devotes his time to those causes he deems laudable and credible. 

Amy Olivares has a 20-year career in real estate in both the South Bay and Chicago markets. She demonstrates a great understanding of both her clients and the properties. 

When the Olivares decided to build a home, their demands for an architect were as stringent as the integrity by which they lead their lives. Dean Nota understands and shares the Oliveras’ aspiration of perfection. It was a perfect fit. 

From the entrance of the Olivares home, it is clear that they are a learned family. The living room is filled with the type of eclectic but studied elegance that is frequently found on the East Coast, where rooms evolve over time and tell layered stories about the inhabitants. 

In the same room, the Olivares confidently placed a contemporary leather sofa on an antique Tabriz Oriental carpet, while two Eames chairs dance to the side. The hundreds of books on the shelves speak volumes about the owners’ interest in the arts, sciences, fiction and non-fiction. The sunshine-yellow surfboard in the corner is both a piece of sculpture as well as a collector’s item reflective of the passion for the favorite sport of the family.

Like all Nota homes, there is serenity about the house. Spaces are constructed with paramount concern for light and views. In a stroke of creative genius, a tidy porch separates the kitchen from the dining room. When the weather is nice, glass doors retract from each room, creating a beautiful flow from the kitchen to the outside and back inside to the dining room. 

The incredibly high ceiling of the living room is magnified when the wall of doors is pushed back to completely open the room to the garden area. Working with landscape architect Steve Billings, the Olivares and Dean constructed a beautiful garden, resplendent with lush greens that offer both privacy and a beautiful canvas.  

Bedrooms float on the second floor, where the Olivares broke Dean Nota’s design rules and permitted each daughter one wall of intense color—electric purple and pacific green. The rooms offer the slight rebellion that all teenagers crave yet still retain Dean’s mark of simplicity and light. 

If a house can be described as a perfect wave, then so is the home Dean Nota created for the Olivares family. With its easy flow from the entrance, culminating in a tremendous invitation as the backyard draws one through, the house is, indeed, a very good ride.



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