On just about any nice weekend—La Jolla has almost nothing but nice weekends—you can see Frank and Diane Hurst and their three children packed into their vintage woody and heading to the beach for a day of surfing. On days they don’t ride the waves, they can walk across the street to the beach and splash in them. Or, they can just stay home and swim in their own pool. Such is life for this Southern California family of five.
"There are always people around, and lots of action," says Diane. And the recreational benefits of having a beach front home have been terrific. Her husband and son get more time to surf together, and the whole family can ride their bikes down to Mission Beach when the spirit moves them. "I also appreciate looking out on the ocean," says Diane. "It keeps me company when everyone leaves." And at the end of the day, "We really enjoy being able to walk down and watch the sun set on the water," she adds.
Frank, a financial executive, and Diane, a stay-at-home mom, decided several years ago to move the family home closer to their children’s schools—Kathleen and Hayley are in college and Frankie is in high school. So they decided to leave a much larger home in the quiet enclave of nearby Rancho Santa Fe for the hustle and bustle of this picturesque community’s beach area. That led them to a 1946 Nantucket-style beachfront home designed by noted local architect Harold Abrams. The house had great bones and wonderful detailing.
Plus, Abrams anticipated the current trend of extending indoor living spaces to the outdoors by creating fantastic outdoor areas, including a brick-edged pool and covered loggia, a large upper balcony, a sheltered front courtyard entry, and an inner courtyard outfitted with a built-in grill, wet bar, and dining area—perfect for the casual beach home lifestyle the family envisioned and the location demands.
What the house really needed was some upgrading in the kitchen and baths, and more light. So the Hursts asked interior designer Sandra Tofanelli-Gordon to design a home that was informal and hardy enough to withstand lots of entertaining, three kids, two pets, and the wear and tear of life at the beach. "We’ve always been casual," explains Diane, "but we’re even more casual here. Here it’s hard to take our flip-flops off."
Adds Tofanelli-Gordon, "This is a family home that the kids use constantly. They love the neighborhood and its proximity to the beach." Furnishings are a mix of new furniture and old furniture from the Hursts’ former house that have been recycled and redone to better fit the demands of their new home and its location.
For example, two old sofas were cut down and reupholstered in hydrangea blue polyester chenille, and an old green wool carpet was cut down to make an area rug in the living room.
Designer Sandra Tofanelli-Gordon's beachfront-appropriate palette of blues and greens fits the casually furnished living room. By placing a flat-panel TV on the mirror above the fireplace, the set all but disappears when it is turned off.
Existing light-colored dining furniture were darkened to a rich ebony finish and reupholstered in yellow and white with an embroidered black monogram.
New furniture is made of hardy beach-appropriate materials like rattan and bamboo, and upholstered or covered with indoor-outdoor fabrics. Greens, blues, and casual patterns dominate the fabric choices. To give the house more light, Tofanelli-Gordon designed minimal window treatments, added mirrors, and covered the walls with several different shades of white. Gloss and even marine-quality paints were used for their reflective qualities and ability to withstand the lifestyle of having a beach front home.
Where Tofanelli-Gordon and Diane really had to roll up their sleeves in the home was in the family’s kitchen. Diane had an active role in the design of the all-important room and adjoining butler’s pantry. The design began with a favorite piece of antique furniture. "I found an armoire I liked, then duplicated its detailing in the cabinetry design," says Diane.
That design is carried through from the pantry to the kitchen. The design for the kitchen included removing a drop ceiling and raising the new ceiling up to the rafters, which are now exposed, and adding a couple of clerestory windows to flood the room with sunlight.
An existing fireplace, which became the focal point of an intimate kitchen/dining area, was refaced with reflective silver ceiling tins, and shiny glass doors were used on the upper cabinets—all to make the most of the light entering the space. Beadboard and beams were integrated into the design of the room. A large island with lots of storage anchors the kitchen, which has three chandeliers to illuminate the room at night. The space is almost all white, with spots of color showing up on the kitchen stools, the reversible slipcovers on the dining furniture, and inside the glass-fronted cabinets, which Tofanelli-Gordon cleverly lined with blue, green, and pink plaid taffeta.
Tofanelli-Gordon works her palette of summery colors throughout the house using playful plaid and floral patterns. To keep the house from becoming too serious, she also brought in touches of vintage bamboo, tropical fabrics, and seaside accessories such as seashells, coral, and a few other nautical touches.
Where she departs from the overall design is in the master bedroom. The brown-and-white room is a quiet, serene getaway from the rambunctious household. The room is designed with casual seating, perfect for watching the ocean—or just watching television. In the modestly sized master bath, Diane says she was going for "the look of a fine hotel." This included white-and-brown marble countertops and—a classic Tofanelli-Gordon touch—vintage glass doorknobs on the shower door.
Actually, the idea of re-creating the look of a fine old hotel seems perfect for Diane and Frank’s new beach front home, given the relaxed and casual resort-like lifestyle they get to enjoy every single day of the year.
Frank, Diane, Kathleen, Frankie, and Hayley Hurst, with their dogs Woody and Tux, pack up the vintage woody for a picnic and surfing near their beach home in La Jolla.
Photography: John Granen
Produced by Andrea Caughey