Maximizing space and improving functionality doesn’t always add up to increasing a home’s square footage. Hawlie Ohe’s design of a charming Manhattan Beach remodel is proof of that. When Hawlie, principal interior designer and head of White Sand Interiors, was approached by a family of four looking to increase the livability of their space, she dove into the details.
She started by asking her new clients about their day-to-day lives to understand what they needed from their home. “Which door do you enter through? What activities do you do in your living room? How many towels do you use when you shower? We get very specific to ensure every nook is thought about and planned for,” she explains.
With no increase to the home’s size of roughly 2,200 square feet, Hawlie and architect Joseph Fournier of Joseph Fournier Design worked together to find solutions to improve the original layout—which felt cramped and awkward—while also opening and brightening the space.
“One of the most dramatic examples of spaciousness in this home is the pitched ceiling in the family room,” Hawlie notes. Walking into the house, this sun-filled space has a casual elegance. The pitched ceilings add a formality to the home’s entrance, while the piano in the corner—passed down from one generation to the next—offers a warmer, more familiar welcome. It’s a beautiful introduction to the home.
Perhaps the second most impactful adjustment to the layout was the addition of the downstairs powder room. With the original layout, the only downstairs bathroom was the one shared by the family’s youngest members. “It wasn’t an ideal situation if guests were over,” Hawlie points out.
The new layout converted the children’s bathroom into a Jack-and-Jill design while adding the addition of another downstairs bathroom. “Since the new powder room is located in the main hallway, it was important to everyone that we minimize the appearance of it as much as possible,” Hawlie says. “The pocket door was essential so the door wouldn’t swing out and hit someone walking down the hall. We also added wainscot molding for some architectural intrigue and to create subtle drama down the new hallway.”
Make your way into the kitchen, and your eyes are immediately drawn to the striking French CornuFé range complemented by a square-shaped kitchen island with ample storage and a custom dining table. “The beautiful CorneFé range was a dream for our clients. When you include a piece like that, it needs to be the star of the show,” Hawlie notes. “In making that the focal point, everything had to line up including this new island, the peripheral cabinets and all the fine details. It took a few iterations to perfect it, and in the end it was so worth the thought and effort.”
Throughout the house, she created custom built-ins to maximize the efficiency of every space while minimizing clutter. The colors and tones she opted for are soothing and casual with hints of gold that add a touch of luxury.
“Our client and I share the same favorite color: a soft blue-green, which feels both coastal and timeless. The color became the common thread throughout and can be found in some variation in every room of the home,” Hawlie says. The backyard is large and private with a freestanding bonus house with its own bathroom designed to mimic the style of the main residence.
The collaboration between Hawlie and the owners was positive since day one. Everyone in the family had input into how to make their individual space their own. “As a mom to little boys, this was one of my favorite parts of this project. From very early on, it was clear the kids’ spaces were the most important to our clients,” Hawlie says.
And from an aesthetic point of view, she and the owners were on the same page. “I love when our clients have an appreciation for design, because in so many ways it makes my job easier.”
What no one could have predicted, however, was how the timing of the project would overlap with the beginning of the COVID-19 shutdowns. “This was and has continued to be a tricky time, to say the least,” Hawlie says. “At the time this project wrapped, things we had once taken for granted—like the fact that the other businesses we depend on are able to keep their doors open and their staff employed—were no longer a reality.”
Fortunately, Hawlie and her team got their clients into their new home before the safer-at-home orders were issued. It would take time for every finishing touch to be finalized and perfected, but it was with patience and understanding that everyone moved forward until the project was complete.
“In an industry where we are quite literally creating home for our community—during a time when home has never been more important—it’s been imperative that we find new ways to service our clients safely and efficiently,” Hawlie says. “This project was an unexpected, real-world lesson in how to do that, and I’m so proud of how our team worked together to make it happen.”
After months of hard work and through times of uncertainty, Hawlie and her team made their clients’ dream home a reality. They came through when it mattered most, and the finished project is absolutely stunning.