Creatively melding contemporary design, Asian influences and a casual coastal vibe, Manhattan Beach’s Thue family and their inspired design team fashioned their ideal modern beach home.
The clients wanted something exotic. But not too exotic.
“They showed us some pictures of Balinese huts with thatched roofs that they liked,” recalls architect Chris Kempel, AIA, of Rockefeller Partners in El Segundo. “We knew they didn’t want that literally, so we talked about the different aspects of the photos that they liked and what was it about them that they found so appealing, and then we settled on things like the big windows and the use of woven bamboo.”
Alana Homesley of Alana Homesley Interior Design concurs. “I wanted to give the house an Asian/exotic theme, but nothing overwhelming or obvious. I didn’t want to turn it into Trader Vic’s.”
The Manhattan Beach house, begun in 2006 and completed two years later, was the second project client Jeff Thue had commissioned from Rockefeller Partners. Alana had worked for the firm as a student, so there was a high level of trust, understanding and familiarity among all the principals. They could communicate through a form of creative shorthand that made the project flow smoothly from the initial demolition through the designer’s final touches. “He trusted us as professionals, as architects, and as artists to act in his best interests,” says Chris.
It was a challenging project: brand-new construction on a narrow, beach-adjacent walk street. The lot was small, but offered the potential for breathtaking ocean and sunset views. It fell to architect Chris to create a sophisticated 3800-square-foot home for a young family on a 30×90 lot. His design was executed by contractor Jeff Wilson of Wilson Construction in Manhattan Beach.
“It’s definitely an exercise in efficiency and space planning,” says Chris. “We like to think of it as being organized like a ship: a place for everything and everything in its place.”
The clients wanted a Modernist design: clean and simple, minimal materials, and they also wanted the classic, California beach aesthetic, with abundant decks and expanses of glass.
Chris organized the house around a tiny Zen garden in a center courtyard, created by landscape architect John Feldman of Ecocentrix in Venice.
“It’s a challenge trying to capture the magnificent ocean views while at the same time remaining sensitive to your neighbor’s views as well. We were very careful about the placement of windows,” Chris explains.
Chris Kempel, AIA
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