California girl Maggie Taylor carries on
the beachside legacy her parents left when they built their Carpinteria getaway in 1937.

By Susan Stiles Dowell
June 08, 2007
Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

Any kid would envy the summers Maggie Taylor spent during the1950s and '60s in her family's beach house near Santa Barbara. Herfather pitched a cabana on the sand in June and stocked it throughSeptember with dry clothes and fresh towels. She rode the surf on arubber mattress until she could swim to a platform anchoredoffshore. When she was 7, Maggie and her mother would scuba diveoff the Channel Islands, catching reef fish to fill two bigaquariums at the house.

The world was her oyster.

"I was on the water all day. We all were. My father was apassionate deep-sea fisherman," Maggie reminisces about ReeseTaylor, a Union Oil executive. Her namesake mother's scuba prowessmerited the 1950s article "Beauty and The Deep" in the Los Angeles Times. "My parents loved the ocean, and theybuilt this house to immerse themselves in the marine outdoors, andescape Los Angeles, whenever they could."

Now the house belongs to Maggie. It not only holds her childhoodmemories but also stands as a testament to timeless, innovativebeach-house design. Built open-faced to the ocean with a biggaragelike front door, the house was―and still is―oneof a kind. Maggie is committed to maintaining the integrity of itsarchitecture, established by her father and California landscapearchitect Lockwood de Forest.

In the 1920s and '30s, Lockwood de Forest gained fame inSouthern California for the sumptuous hillside estate gardens hedesigned for wealthy business and society clients. While a housesurrounded by sand dunes and sea was not the typical design venuefor de Forest, his philosophy of connecting a space to itsenvironment suited the Taylors' wishes exactly.

For the rugged fishing-and-scuba-diving clients, the landscapearchitect had to think like a mariner. His plan would be to orientthe interiors to the sea, and make the living as easy as sand andsalt water permit.

"My father wanted to open up the whole house to the ocean,"Maggie says of his request to de Forest. "But there was notechnology in the '30s to provide the kind of wide, easy access heenvisioned." She thinks the two friends may have brainstormed thesolution together―a 12-foot-wide garage door (filled withrows of square windows) that opened manually with a ropepulley.

Originally the house's design called for two garage doors. Theexterior door facing the beach stayed open all day in good weather.An identical second door (later removed) was just opposite, acrossan inside deck. When shut, the second door sealed off the mainhouse to daytime traffic, and the inside deck between the two doorsbecame a shaded pavilion for reading and snoozing. The floor slatswere spaced an inch apart so any tracked-in sand siftedthrough.

This area also eased the transition between indoors and out. "Myfather wanted the big, open-plan room kept as a formal, sacredspace for evening entertaining and relaxation," Maggie remembers.Hollywood style still reigns in the sitting area Maggie's fatherkept sacrosanct for gracious living and dining. "As a young man, myfather worked for Llewellyn Steel and Ironworks, which made theprops for the first Mutiny on the Bounty film with Charles Laughton," saysMaggie. "He salvaged the ship's wheel from the set and hung it overthe fireplace." Portholes from the movie set became windows, andship propellers were transformed into lamp bases.

The marine theme attained Art Deco sophistication when de Forestinstalled a linoleum floor patterned to look like gigantic,multicolored fish scales. He also designed sleek maple furniturereminiscent of pieces on a 1930s ocean liner.

Though the majority of the house has remained unchanged duringits six decades, Maggie decided a few years ago that it was time toreenergize its interiors. The solid canvas covering de Forest usedon the maple chairs was changed to a stripe, and blocks of woodwere added to the chair bases to raise the seating height.

"I wanted to keep de Forest's 1930s feeling, not fancy it up,but I needed fresh ideas," says Maggie. So she invited her friendand L.A. designer Ann Knudsen to take a look.

On Ann's first visit, she climbed the ship's ladder to thepilothouse-style bedroom on the rooftop. With unobstructed views ofthe sunset on the Pacific and lights twinkling on the coastalmountains behind her, Ann understood Lockwood de Forest's intent:"I was meant to feel like I was on a ship at sea. How magical! Thishouse should never be changed."