Uncovering the Layers

A Palos Verdes mid-century modern home built in 1965 undergoes a contemporary redesign with a sophisticated and elegant nod to the past.


When local Realtor Nicola Lagudis-Schneider discovered her family’s home during an open house, she took in the panoramic ocean view, looked past the outdated style and immediately knew it would be perfect for her, husband Jon Schneider and their cats.

“As a broker for the past 27 years, I have seen everything out there in the real estate business. Jon and I were open to a new home, and when I saw it I thought, ‘Bingo! This is it!’” exclaims Nicola. “I knew as soon as I walked into the house I was going to buy it.”

With an instinctive eye for design gleaned from a lifelong passion for architecture, Nicola assumed the roles of designer and project manager for the property remodel and spent many late nights scouring the pages of Houzz and home magazines for design inspiration. “My vision was mid-century modern meets sophisticated elegance, with inspiration from the Beverly Hills Hotel and the Jackie Onassis era.”

The 3,800-square-foot residence was originally built with two bedrooms, maid’s quarters and 4½ bathrooms. While the original footprint was retained, a much larger master bath was designed by combining two separate his-and-hers bathrooms, and the maid’s room became a guest room. All of the upstairs walls were removed, and the spaces were redesigned to make more open living areas.

Ceiling heights were raised and vaulted throughout the house, and floor-to-ceiling sliding German glass doors that disappear into the walls when open were installed to bring the breathtaking outdoors in. “We peeled the onion, so to speak, and stripped everything down to the studs to find the beauty in the bones of the architecture,” recalls Nicola.

An incredible attention to detail is immediately apparent upon stepping through the front door, as the rich simplicity of the finished remodel draws attention outward to the view. Dark, wide-plank, African mahogany wood floors complement unique walnut lattice screening atop contrasting, crisp white walls, which define the adjacent living and dining rooms.

“I just love the lattice—not only the artistic statement that it makes but also for the great air circulation that it provides. Everything about it is original. We simply just cleaned it,” says Nicola.

Steps down from the entry is the art gallery-style dining room with an unexpected antique teak table that was a special find of Nicola’s years ago. Though it did not fit her new home design vision, she could not part with it. She refinished it and added linen upholstered Hooker chairs to give the table and the space a more contemporary look tied in to the simple lines of the linen upholstered furniture steps away in the adjoining living room.

The warm and inviting kitchen boasts an artistic Porcelanosa feature wall with an eye-catching leaf motif. “The first time I saw it, I loved the elegance and iridescent texture. The entire kitchen was designed around it,” says Nicola.

Custom maple cabinets house Thermador appliances and are stained a dark espresso color to repeat the darkness of the hardwood floors. Mocha Caesarstone countertops offset the wall tile, and Perla Venata quartz on the island fabricated by a local artisan further complements the tile along with honed Jerusalem Gold limestone floor tiles that are installed in an offset pattern. Kitchen pendants were a Bellacor online find and are illuminated with Edison-style bulbs to cast warm light on the stone and tile.

Opposite the kitchen on the other side of the main level of the house is the bar, which is a frequent gathering place for Nicola, Jon, family and friends. “We spend a lot of time entertaining, and we like to serve the old 1960s-style happy hour there regularly—even if it is just sparkling water,” says Jon. The home’s original black vinyl barstools remained, as did the bar’s original shape, which was enhanced with new marble and shelving. The custom light fixture (formerly a part of a streetlight in England) was an estate sale find.

The pool and exterior of the house boast an equally impressive attention to detail. A double fog coat of smooth stucco replaced textured stucco and old ranch siding. In lieu of typical plaster inside the pool and hot tub, dark grey quartz was hand-trawled on the inside surfaces, and the coping and deck were finished with Italian porcelain.

The outdoor bar, shower, “catitat” (cat habitat) and barbeque are screened and accented with Mangaris wood—an exotic hardwood from Ganahl Lumber in Torrance. Since Jon is an avid golfer, the finishing design element was the installation of an elevated tee box in a corner of the backyard for him to practice his swing with wiffle balls.

In addition to having a discerning eye on aesthetics throughout the process, Nicola and Jon took an environmentally-minded approach to the project. Artificial grass, drought-tolerant plants and pinpoint water drip systems were installed.

The pool was made shallower than normal to save on heating and water consumption, while the dark pool color was selected to retain heat. Indoor and outdoor lighting is LED, and a solar energy field was installed that produces more electricity than the couple uses. They also have an electric car.

The four-year project entailed one year of planning, 18 months of house construction and a short break before tackling the exterior landscaping, hardscaping, pool and other amenities. “It truly was a labor of love,” shares Nicola proudly. “The heart, soul and warmth were always there for us to build upon as we transformed it into our dream house.”