Some guys have all the luck: surfing talent, a garage full of primo boards, and a beach house nicknamed "Chateau Relaxo."

By Susan C. Kim
October 13, 2008
Roger Davies, styling by Gena Sigala

A true surfer knows that riding the waves is not simply a hobby―it's an obsession. "The next best thing to surfing my home break at 10th Street is the anticipation of the next big swell behind it," says SoCal native Bob Fleet. So he makes his home steps from the ocean, in a Del Mar beach house that caters to his love of the sport. "I wanted to bring as much of the environment into the house as possible, with indoor and outdoor spaces flowing into one another," Bob says. "It needed to be practical because I'm in and out of the water and sand a lot."

Bob designed a house with his post-surf routine in mind. First stop: the outdoor shower. "I always rinse off my wet suits to protect them from salt and sand," he says. Not one to scrimp on style, Bob upgraded the exterior faucet, installing a copper rainfall showerhead and framing the space with hand-collected beach rocks. After drying off, Bob carries his equipment into The Board Room―a garage customized to shelter objects he deems far more precious than cars: his surfboards. The space features a wet-suit closet and custom mahogany racks that showcase his collection when not in use.

Next, Bob heads inside to the master bath. Interior designer Christine Fink hid several high-tech features―including a steam unit, a shower stereo, and a minirefrigerator―among the marble counters, shiny fixtures, and Venetian glass mirror. "After I come in from the ocean, I crank the steam up, turn on some Jack Johnson music, grab a cold drink, and just chill out in here," Bob says.

From the exterior, the 3,300-square-foot residence overlooking a sandstone bluff exudes an inviting vibe worthy of its moniker: Chateau Relaxo. Architect James Sneed and builder Bob Dana followed the traditional lines of a shingled Craftsman-style bungalow, but added modern stylistic surprises, including a front deck made of îpe, a weatherproof hardwood popular in Hawaii. "It's long-lasting, and I need to oil it only once a year," says Bob, whose tropical inclinations stem from childhood vacations to Kauai and more-recent surf trips to Fiji and Indonesia. From the open platform, ornamented by cushioned lounge chairs, Bob can view dolphins at play in the ocean. "It's like watching my own Discovery Channel show," he says.

The crowning achievement of this dream pad, though, is the outdoor living room on the back of the house. Even Bob's two Labs, Jed and Jack, can't help gravitating to this quiet spot. The homeowner and architect designed the space without walls―only transparent isinglass that weatherproofs the room when rolled down. "It's typically used on boats," Bob says. "We invented a new application for it. Even when it's pouring outside, I can sit here and be fully protected from the weather. Best of all, I can still see through to the water."

Christine outfitted the space with cushy African teak furniture dressed in earth-tone outdoor fabric. "We wanted it to have the feel of a true hangout space," she says. Polished fixtures such as fisherman's lights add splashes of coastal sophistication, while abalone shells in the fireplace remind visitors that the ocean is steps away.

Bob has trouble naming his favorite part of Chateau Relaxo―it's more like a top-10 list. Maybe checking the surf from the master deck, or enjoying a meal with friends around the banquette. But one thing is certain: This is a serious water-lover's abode.