Dressing room with fitted units
The owner’s wardrobe, just off the en suite master bath, is perhaps the ultimate luxury, with tufted leather benches, custom shelving, a crystal chandelier and marble flooring.

Luxury living on the California coast

A home on the California coast is transformed to reflect the owners' passion for entertaining and ocean-side living. Words and photos by Karyn Millet

For a family of five that loves the ocean, the Pacific coast of California is the perfect location.

But when this 370-square-metre home in a gated Huntington Beach community was purchased, it looked just like all the others in the neighbourhood. The owners wanted their house to have a signature all their own.

With help from the designer Michael Fullen, they set out to emulate the refined island style of resorts and upscale homes in Hawaii, incorporating open spaces and a free flow from the inside to the back garden and pool. They also insisted on natural colours, rich woods and textured tile.

Fullen started with a new facade of Eldorado Stone and a massive, modern front door. A graphic mixture of walnut and glass, the door is a kerbside calling card letting passersby know this house is much different from the next.

Inside, a two-storey foyer in chiselled limestone is punctuated by a dark alder wood staircase and clear glass handrail. It has the feel of a chic, modern, boutique hotel.

To the right of the foyer, a sunken living room shares a fireplace with the adjacent dining room. Although the homeowners asked for natural colours only, Fullen mixed two turquoise slipper chairs into the sand and brown overtones, providing an exciting accent. A high-pile, wool, shag rug from Stark unifies all the colours and anchors the seating arrangement.

Texture is the key feature of the dining room, which has a wall of bamboo tile, a stone floor and a wood ceiling. Rusted oil can lids, which Fullen found locally for $75 (Dh275) each, serve as artwork on the main wall. Eight custom-made chairs, upholstered in stripped velvet, fit comfortably around a square dining table.

Because the family regularly entertains groups of 10 to 50 people, the ground floor not only needed to be open and flowing, but also needed to accommodate the owners' culinary and catering needs. Fullen created a high-style kitchen that could be at home in one of Hawaii's finest restaurants. All the appliances are concealed in cabinetry, and built-in sliding shelves for the toaster and coffee maker keep the kitchen looking tidy all day long. The centre island is sleek and modern.

Subtly lit, interlocking square shelving units display the owners' pottery and glassware, once again turning everyday objects into art. But they serve a practical purpose as well. From the hub of the kitchen, the glassware is within easy reach.

The kitchen also features a walk-in pantry with each shelf measured to fit the homeowner's most common staples. Racks designed especially for large platters give a clue to the size of the parties held at the house.

The kitchen expands into a casual eating area, where, again, Fullen sneaked in a bit of colour with persimmon chairs and soft blue pillows. A family room is beyond and, as with the entire back of the house, features sliding glass doors that disappear into the walls. Everything is open to the back garden and pool.

Although the house accommodates parties of any size, it's never long before Southern California partygoers find their way to the terrace. Knowing this, Fullen made the transition between inside and outside seamless. An outdoor fireplace and comfortable teak and chocolate brown seats create an inviting setting for visitors.

Apart from the guest quarters, all the bedrooms are upstairs, and with the master bedroom fashioned after a five-star hotel suite, one wonders why the homeowners would ever leave. A stunning wood-panelled fireplace stretches the length of one wall, while a bank of windows opens up to ocean breezes and sunset views. The colour scheme is all natural with no accent shades, offering a soothing respite day or night.

A spacious, en suite wood and marble master bath leads into a jewel of a closet for the lady of the house. A crystal chandelier, marble floor and tufted leather benches resemble a fine dressing room in Paris. Shoes and handbags are displayed in custom shelves, and clothes are hung behind mirrored wardrobe doors.

A house lacking for nothing is the sign of a job well done. As Fullen is a frequent guest at the elaborate parties there, it seams the homeowners are delighted with the changes. The lesson learnt is to buy a house for its location, then do everything imaginable to make it your own - even if that includes bringing a little Hawaii to the California coast.

* Red Cover