a living room fireplace clad with acid-blasted silver travertine
The living room fireplace is clad with acid-blasted silver travertine from Belgium while the walnut console in the dining area is custom.

A Contemporary Beach House With Modernist Allure

If there’s one constant among ocean-adjacent residences in Southern California’s Manhattan Beach, it’s their dense proximity. Lots are typically long and deep; street-fronting faces are narrow. That’s not to say that the houses are necessarily cramped. Quite the opposite. Take the 6,000-square-foot striking, contemporary dwelling by Montalba Architects unfolding over three floors. From outside, the abundance of glass, paired with a pared-down palette of plaster, Douglas fir for the roof overhang, and Western red cedar for a textural screen wall, hints at the voluminous presence. Inside, any sense of compression dissipates. That is mainly because the plan is organized around a double-height interior courtyard open to the sky. Here’s how it works.

Starting at ground, “entry is through a screened, semi-outdoor garden space,” founding principal David Montalba notes of his debut MB project built for a husband and wife who had long lived in the area. Past the entry court, the first level houses a guest room and bath, mechanical and laundry space, a large gym, and even larger garage for up to six vehicles. After all, this is California, home to automobile aficionados, in this case a Porsche collector.

A Beach Home With a Vertical Garden 

The “real” front door, however, comes on the second level accessed by an exterior stairway. Here lies the entry foyer looking out onto that courtyard centered by a large maple. The treatment, an alfresco amenity, “is visible throughout, whether moving along the length of the house or up to the third floor,” explains the architect who maintains studios in Santa Monica at the Bergamot Station Arts Center and in Lausanne, Switzerland. This second floor is dedicated to the owners’ private domain, the primary ensuite bedroom and bath plus her and his offices.  Another deck adds to the overall area.

A light-filled stairwell, this time indoors, connects to the third-floor living expanse, so located because it captures the most daylight. If one thing is consistent in Montalba’s work, spanning the residential, commercial, and hospitality spectrum, “it’s the idea of sculpting with natural light and propelling it into the building in engaging ways,” he comments. Meanwhile, much of the space is predictably conjoined. The living-dining-kitchen zone is joined by a family-media room opening via sliders to the luxury of more outdoor living in the guise of that tall courtyard plus a deck and lap pool overlooked by greenery.  Whoever said a garden need be horizontal? Here, it goes vertical while upping the privacy quotient. As for the beach itself? Montalba explains that “a slot of space sneaks through all the third-floor spaces allowing a distant view of breaking waves.”

The exterior of a Manhattan Beach residence
Closely flanked by neighbors, the house has a plaster, glass, and Western red cedar front face where the slatted wood screen breaks up the mass.

Ever the modernist, Montalba enhanced the architecture with minimal finishes and furnishings, much of the latter by contemporary maestri. Flooring throughout is white oak except when it transitions outdoors to ipe. “The idea was to dissolve the edges.” Other prominent materials are vertical-grain white oak for millwork and acid-blasted silver travertine for the fireplace. Furniture embraces a role call of designers including Finn Juhl, Rodolfo Dordoni, Edward Barber & Jay Osgerby, Roberto Barbieri, and Roberto Lazzeroni. Artists join the cast, too. Count Andy Moses, Casper Brindle, and the wife herself. She plays the pride-of-place Steinway that has been in the family for three generations.

The California Home Features Heirloom Accents and Contemporary Art

an open stairwell of a home with concrete end wall with a cut out slot
The stairwell connecting the top two floors has a concrete end wall with cut-out slot providing a view through to the media room. Andy Moses created the 72”-diameter artwork of acrylic on canvas mounted on a wood panel.
the dining room of a Manhattan Beach house
Roberto Lazzaorni’s Isadora chairs of wenge-stained ash and leather surround the dining table.
the living room of a Manhattan Beach house with a grand piano
Casper Brindle’s pearlescent paint and metal artwork from his Aura series overlooks living room furniture encompassing Finn Juhl’s Japan chairs, Rodolfo Dordoni’s Yang seating, B&B Italia’s white oak Toby-Ishi cocktail table by Edward Barber+Jay Osgerby, Roberto Barbieri’s lacquered and marble Baba side table, and the family’s heirloom Steinway.
a living room fireplace clad with acid-blasted silver travertine
The living room fireplace is clad with acid-blasted silver travertine from Belgium while the walnut console in the dining area is custom.
an open-air courtyard with a maple tree in the center
The open-air courtyard on second and third levels is centered by a maple tree.
a home office with artwork by Casper Brindle
Facing the courtyard, the wife’s office has another artwork by Casper Brindle.
a residential kitchen with white oak cabinetry
The kitchen’s appliances are hidden in extensive white oak cabinetry, and the bar is of solid surfacing.
the primary bedroom of a Manhattan Beach house with large windows and an acrylic on canvas painting above the bed
In the primary bedroom, Montalba’s custom bench keeps company with Cassina’s Acute bench and Minotti’s Lawrence bed, both by Rodolfo Dordoni, and an acrylic on canvas, Dome, by Ed Moses.
an outdoor pool connected to the family room of a Manhattan Beach house
The family-media room with Lario sofa by Gerosa Design and Domino Next cocktail table by Nicola Gallizia opens onto a deck with 38-foot lap pool overlooked by a green wall.

read more

recent stories