Malibu Beach Bungalow Tour
Scaled-Down Spanish Colonial
In California, the land of invention, even old styles can live in new ways. Los Angeles architect Lewin Wertheimer chose Spanish Colonial influences for a house standing alone on a tawny hillside 300 feet above the beach. Nothing says “old California” like buff-colored stucco walls, dark wood beams, and a low-sloping terra-cotta roof. But this is no sprawling hacienda. On the contrary, Wertheimer skipped the grander hallmarks of a traditional villa layout, like a palatial staircase and cavernous rooms. He scaled the house down for efficiency of living on a modest lot while retaining its Mediterranean character. “I wanted it to look humble,” says Wertheimer, “like a farmhouse or Spanish Colonial cottage.”
A new house with a great deal of tradition, but not a huge amount of space. Homeowners Renee Vogel and Allan Mayer also wanted to capture the magnificent view of the Pacific, and create rooms, indoors and out, that their family would spend time in every day.
Get the Look: Crafted from hand-painted ceramic tiles that re-create Spanish and Moorish patterns, the whimsical star-shaped fountain in the brick entry court encompasses the sense of tradition that Vogel and Mayer wanted throughout their hillside bungalow.
The Waterfront Spot:
A blufftop site wiped out by a Malibu wildfire, which left only the charred remnants of a fireplace and swimming pool. The new house stands in splendid isolation with virtually no other residence in sight, only views of the wide Pacific and an adjacent canyon protected from development.
Genius Move: A terra-cotta tiled terrace with an L-shaped banquette stretches onto the bluff, creating the illusion of an outdoor seating area that hovers over the ocean. “This is the knockout view,” says Mayer. “From here, you can see miles of blue.”
Fire and geological setbacks that require homes to be built away from bluff and cliff edges for earthquake protection restricted the Spanish Colonial bungalow's footprint. In addition, respect for an uphill neighbor limited the house to just one story.
Get the Look: Santa Monica-based landscape designer Marny Randall chose rosemary, French lavender, and roses for the garden path that winds the breadth of the house toward the terrace and its knockout view of the Pacific Ocean.
The Design Solution:
Creating a boomerang-shaped plan, with the long side of the house facing the ocean so that nearly every room overlooks the water. With square footage at a premium, Wertheimer combined the kitchen and dining area. The condensed floor plan is an advantage, he says, because the spaces tend to be used more frequently.
Genius Move: In the living room, designer Christine Worth Vergara tucked the TV behind rustic cabinet doors painted to look like panels found in an ancient Spanish church. “I like to think you could walk through the house and not know what year it is,” she says.
Get the Look: Throughout the house, Architect Lewin Wertheimer drew upon window and door designs from similar homes built in the 1920s, ’30s, and ’40s, emphasizing oversize openings, thin framing and mullion bars, and leaded glass transoms. The wood is Douglas fir (also used on the overhead beams).
Wertheimer designed the cozy study with a top wraparound shelf, extending the book collection up to the eaves. The floor tiles are stained tecate, and the pendant light is antique.
Cozy Reading Nook
Vogel watches surfers bobbing beside the Malibu pier from this built-in reading nook. “It’s like a little jewel off the living room,” she says.
Get the Look: A window seat cushion from Nina Campbell and throw pillows upholstered in fabrics by Lee Jofa and Bassett, Mcnab & Co., make for an ultra-cozy place to curl up with a book or take a snooze. Antique sconces add a dose of traditional Spanish style to the space, while custom decorative tiles by Ceramic Concepts add a little Mediterranean flair.
Master Bedroom with a View
A richly colored rug and a vibrant suzani pattern on the bed's quilt and bolster pillow bring warmth to the airy master bedroom that opens onto the terrace and its spectacular Pacific Ocean vistas.
Get the Look: The walls in the master bedroom and throughout the house are painted Whisper White by Dunn-Edwards. The four-poster bed is from Ironies; the rug is from Pacific Oriental Rug; and the Roman shades are from Roth Draperiers-Interiors in Los Angeles.
The Character Boost:
Classic California-style stucco and hand-painted decorative tiles that re-create Moorish and Spanish patterns common in the area during the 1920s and ’30s. To endow the exterior with a more rustic character befitting a cottage, Wertheimer used terra-cotta Mission roof tiles with a rough, irregular texture and earthy stucco.
Get the Look: On the ocean side of the master bedroom's double doors, Wertheimer added a trellis made from salvaged local branches above the porch for a natural canopy that allows plenty of California sunlight to stream through.
The Connection to the Outdoors:
A series of open-air spaces, beginning with a brick entry court centered around a star-shaped, tiled fountain. On the water side of the house, a cool, ocean-facing loggia with terra-cotta floor tiles and an earthy stucco double-arched ceiling functions as an outdoor living room for owners Renee Vogel and Allan Mayer (shown here with daughter Sasha, 13, and Australian shepherd Panda). “This is where the owners spend much of their time,” says Wertheimer. Bordering the house, landscape designer Marny Randall opted for hardy natives, roses, and succulents.