L.A.'s First Ever Sunset Idea House Offers Clever Designer Tips and Inspiration

Top designers show you unique ways to banish formality without sacrificing style, and to bring on the beach, no matter where you live.

Photo by Vanessa Martin Guidon The Sunset Idea House was designed by architect Louie Tomaro of Tomaro Design Group to fit right into its laid back Manhattan Beach surroundings. Mike Davis Custom Homes took care of the construction, and Masterpeace Gardens of Redondo Beach gets credit for the drought resistant landscape.

For the first time ever, Sunset magazine has created an Idea House in Los Angeles, and although it reflects a California cool, seaside vibe, the resourceful stylizing can easily inspire your home design no matter where you live.

As an “idea house,” this is not the kind of showcase where different designers try to outdo each other by performing elaborate decorating acrobatics. Instead, this one aims at inspiring all of us with creative solutions to the challenges we all face. From the DIY enthusiast to the most discriminating designers, there’s something for everyone here.

The designers described it as “timeless design blended with modern architectural detail and coastal inspiration.” The 4,500 square foot four bedroom, five and a half bath home is located in a quiet neighborhood in Manhattan Beach, a coastal city that in part of Los Angeles County known as “South Bay,” less then 15 minutes from LAX. Although it doesn’t have a view of the beach, the house is full of subtle seaside references that could feel right in homes from coast to coast and even in the nation’s interior. With the suggested touch of indigo (the color of the minute), clean white walls and plenty of light, you’d imagine smelling salt and hearing waves even if you live in Wichita.

The ideas and inspiration in this house, designed by Kirsta Schrock and David Dick  of L.A.’s DISC Interiors, are myriad. We were especially intrigued by solutions and answers to challenges like:

What to do with a large, four bedroom house when the kids are gone: Not everyone wants or needs a sewing/crafts room or a man cave, and guest rooms can go unused for months. In this house, one bedroom has been soothingly designed as “Mom’s Chic Retreat,” with a subtle day bed that can be used by guests for sleeping, but is perfect for reading, meditation, yoga and much more. And the Kids Room, also with a subtle daybed, is perfect for the grandkids when they come to visit, but could also be used as a game room, rec room or guest room for adults. It’s whimsical, but not juvenile.

Photo by Vanessa Martin Guidon The "Kids Room," with its daybed and comfy furnishings of indigo, copper and white, is appropriate for children of all ages and guests once the little ones have grown. The SEE mural, by Londdubh Studio, is a real showstopper.

How to achieve lush landscaping in the middle of the worst drought in state history: Both the front and backyards of this home have been landscaped by Masterpeace Gardens, and the property looks like a colorful oasis, yet all the plants are drought resistant and require very little maintenance, as referenced in the Sunset Western Garden Book of Landscaping. The use of river rocks, rather than cement is a nice touch, as are the Gabion Planters, elevated edible garden, raised up above the various obstacles that can take their toll on an in-garden, and also on the knees and back.

How to make better use of the traditional formal dining room: Although this won’t work for everyone, the DISC designers decided to make the traditional formal dining room, the living space nearest the kitchen, into a “living room/lounge, a swanky area that is more hotel inspired.” With an adjacent wet bar, guests or family members can utilize the room to sit and sip before or after a meal. Then the designers placed a 10 foot oak table in the front room, just inside the entryway, where it could easily be used for projects and wouldn’t have to be cleared off at meal time. Switching the living room and dining room spaces serve to “banish formality,” according to the designers.

Photo courtesy of DISC Interiors The integrated indoor/outdoor lifestyle captured by the Sunset Idea House includes an infinity pool, multiple terraces, and an elevated edible garden.

How to make modern architecture feel warm and cozy: The traditionally stark, clean lines of modern architecture can sometimes feel cold and institutional, but the DISC designers remedied that by “mixing austere architecture with warm linen and textiles to make the home feel incredibly comfortable.” They also used used glass accents, black granite, soapstone, bronze, and white oak flooring to make it feel spacious, yet intimate.

How to capture the beach house feeling without using cliches: The DISC designers explored “unique sources for how people view the ocean instead of the classic beach house motif that relied upon nautical/seashell/anchors/ships themes.” For example, they used rich tones for a modern take on the beach house, such as earthy blacks, white oaks, indigo blues, natural linens and burlaps. They also took inspiration from Hiroshi Sugimoto’s seascapes, which feature black/white photographs and stark coastlines. In the master bathroom, they used sand-colored Sabine Hill cement tile to reference the beach.

How to divide your backyard into separate areas without using walls or fences: Raise the infinity pool and spa so they’re above ground level, lower the conversation/fire pit so it’s below ground level, and elevate your veggie/herb garden atop attractive, caged river rock-filled Gabion planters, rather than using more traditional wood or cement. With river rock borders surrounding each of these separate areas, as well as the two ground-level terraces, you have what feels like a multi-room, multi-level backyard.

If you’d like to take a look at the Sunset Idea House for yourself, it will be available to tour from 10:00 am through 5:00 pm Friday through Sunday August 1 through September 7. Tickets can be purchased for $18, and are available online at the Sunset Design House website.

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