A Manhattan Beach–Based Interior Designer Artfully Infuses a Fresh Take on a Family Home in the Hill Section

A new perspective.

  • Category
    Homes, People
  • Written by
    Jennie Nunn
  • Photographed by
    Ryan Garvin
  • Styling by

The Siddhartha family’s search for a home in the Hill Section of Manhattan Beach began on foot. “We did a lot of walking in many neighborhoods and fell in love with Manhattan Beach,” says the homeowner. “We wanted a small-town feel while still being centrally located. We were drawn to the house because of its layout, large flat lot and beautiful mature landscaping, which creates a very private feel. We knew we wanted to start a family, so it made sense to look for a house in this area with a bigger yard.”

While they loved the location and size of the 4,332-square-foot, Mediterranean-style home built in 1999, it was dated and lacked the light and airy, California-inspired aesthetic they wanted. “We loved the configuration of the home, with a fully flat lot [rare on the hill]. It had great flow downstairs but also had more formal living and dining areas, which we liked. We knew the bones were amazing but that it just needed some cosmetic work.”

“It’s European farmhouse meets California casual, and it feels distinctly like it belongs in California.”

An Instagram search for design help before they moved in led them to Mary Beth Christopher, principal and founder of MBC Interior Design in Manhattan Beach. “We wanted a local designer so it would be easy to work together in person at the house,” explains the client. “We saw that Mary Beth had executed a similar extensive remodel that modernized a Mediterranean home similar to ours, and the before-and-afters blew us away. So we reached out to her and said something along the lines of, ‘Make our house look like that.’ She replied, ‘It’ll be better.’ And we were off to the races.”

Their design goal was to create a timeless and sophisticated space while preserving the style and as many existing features as they could. But the five-bedroom, five-bath abode was peppered with massive, 22-foot ceilings, two-tone painted tray ceilings, a sunken living room, brown granite, patterned backsplashes and elaborate curlicue iron detailing.

“There were a lot of yellow walls, travertine, ornamental iron railings, stacked stone and Tuscan touches,” says Mary Beth. “We didn’t want to erase all of the Old-World character of the home, but we wanted to give it a fresher, more present-day take on the Mediterranean design style. By streamlining some of the more overly ornate details and adding furnishings and lighting that are a mix of old, new and a few vintage pieces, the home feels elevated but still welcoming and comfortable. It’s European farmhouse meets California casual, and it feels distinctly like it belongs in California.”

Collaborating closely with the couple on ideas and desires while adhering to the overall project budget, Mary Beth implemented a design plan including salvaging existing walnut floors with help from Belmax Floor Company (which matched them to the bedrooms upstairs in a custom stain); updating the kitchen with new paint, pendant lamps and backsplash; and replacing stacked river stone with plaster for the dual-sided fireplace in the living room. Other modifications with help from general contractor Titan & Co. included gutting all bathrooms, removing excess crown molding in the primary bedroom tray ceiling, and creating a home office with custom built-ins by Coastal Cabinets featuring an intentional gap allotted for a bed for easy conversion into a sleeping space.

But one of the biggest challenges was the sunken living room floor with angled steps and a narrow walkway around the edge. “We positioned the furniture straight as if the room was square, so the angle is much less noticeable now,” explains Mary Beth.

She suggested closing off a dual-sided fireplace on one side to allow for better flow and function. “We brought it down to the floor, replaced the very small original insert with one three times as large, hand-plastered the surround and added a custom iron forged screen,” she adds. “Scale-wise it now holds its own against that superhigh ceiling and grounds the whole space.”

To lighten and brighten the entire home and complement the refreshed walnut floors, Mary Beth selected Benjamin Moore’s warm but crisp White Dove for the walls. In the living room, she selected a large, modern iron Darlana chandelier by Visual Comfort to anchor the space with vintage artwork culled from the Long Beach Antique Market and a custom sofa upholstered in a Rose Tarlow fabric for Perennials.

“The formal living room is our favorite,” says the client. “It is the first room you see when you enter the house. With 22-foot ceilings, the custom fireplace mantel, a large chandelier and beautiful decor, it creates a lasting first impression of our home. It also came together exactly like the renderings that Mary Beth did.”

For the kitchen, simple updates made a big impact. Existing brown cabinets were painted white, the island was painted a smoky green hue, and a brown-and-green patterned backsplash was removed and replaced with a bright white Riad zellige tile by Harmony. A pair of pendant lamps by Visual Comfort defines the island, with woven counter stools by Hati Home.

In the powder room, a playful tiger-patterned wallpaper, Tiger & Magpie in hunter from Krane Home, creates a statement—with sconces by Kelly Wearstler. “They wanted this powder room to be a jewel box,” says Mary Beth. “I love that it feels like its own unique space but still works with the rest of the home.”

Following the yearlong project, the Siddharthas—who recently welcomed a new baby—now feel completely settled in the space with their labradoodle, Beaujolais. “We love being able to live in what feels like a brand-new home,” they say. “It is elevated but also easy and livable, filled with little touches that we had the opportunity to influence.”

Mary Beth is also pleased with the final design. “I love that we honored the architectural intent of the home and didn’t just strip it down to a clean white box,” she says. “By keeping some of the original details intact but simplifying and/or removing others, I think we achieved a nice balance of making the home more modern but still keeping a lot of its charm and personality.”

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