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California Home Decorated to Feel Like a Tropical Retreat

Formal architecture and casual design harmonize

Written by Sarah Egge
  • The beach is less than a mile away, but Wendi Young and her family rarely go there. Life is simply too good in their Southern California home. Each evening, after work and basketball practice, the family gathers in the kitchen and folds open the floor-to-ceiling glass doors to a courtyard showered with sunlight. Wendi and stepdaughter Kelsey prep what her husband, John Carrido, plans to make for dinner. Then the girls set the table outside and rev up the hot tub so it’s ready for a soothing soak later.

    “We enjoy the house so much; I cannot believe how much we stay at home,” Wendi says. “I’m surprised by that.” But she’s not terribly surprised at how well the house turned out. An interior designer who focuses on custom homes, she had the vision for this featureless site six years ago when, newly married, she and John decided to build their house there.

    The lot offered “a very small peekaboo of the ocean,” Wendi says, but more important, a southern exposure and views of the sunsets. Wendi crafted a long U-shaped home oriented around a courtyard on the south side. Nearly every room opens to this space through wall-size custom-made glass doors that fold back to eliminate barriers to the outdoors. “Our house works so well because it truly is indoors and outdoors,” Wendi says. “We leave the bifold doors open all weekend when we’re home and much of the time in the evening during the week.” A covered loggia centered in the courtyard serves as a dining and living area, complete with a television.

    Wendi incorporated more outdoor living spaces in the form of a double-decker veranda on the front of the house. Ten-foot-deep porches span the west-facing house on both the first and second levels, creating shaded spaces ideal for entertaining guests and viewing golden California sunsets.

    Much of the success of the house is the result of the extensive research that went into it—if you can call a honeymoon research. Wendi and John delighted in the invisible divisions between indoors and out on Fiji’s Turtle Island. They also admired similar laid-back, natural qualities on other island vacations to Hawaii and the Caribbean. “We thought, why not do that here, and incorporate that in our everyday life,” Wendi says.

    To that end, the house is modeled after a Dutch or British Colonial structure, a mix of formal architecture and casual furnishings that is typically found on tropical islands. John wanted relaxed, easygoing surroundings; Wendi is drawn to traditional Cape Cod-style houses. “My goal was to combine those two preferences,” she says. “Plantation homes have an underlying order. They are structured and symmetrical, which gives them a sense of elegance. With Colonial style, the seaside location gives it a casual feeling. The way you’re decorating it, you’re being more informal. Instead of silks, you’re using linens.”

    Wendi’s design approach was disciplined. She used several hallmarks of island Colonial style, including high, coffered ceilings decked in elaborate paneled detail and pale walls contrasted with substantial mahogany woodwork. The formal environment is offset by less-stately choices: bamboo furniture, bold bark cloth prints, natural-fiber rugs, and paintings in the style of Paul Gauguin. There are also elements of trademark Southern California fun. A blue-and-gold dorado fish that John caught is mounted and hangs above the bar.

    Wendi admits that creating a house for John and herself was not as snag-free as she initially imagined. “I thought he would go along with everything I said, but no, he had strong opinions,” she says, smiling. “I am so glad he voiced those opinions; the house is stronger for it.” This good-natured give and take led to a non-formulaic, engaging kitchen. A by-the-book kitchen designer early in her career, Wendi sketched out a plan with a hooded range occupying focal-point status on one wall. John, the cook in the house, pointed out that this would put his back to their guests.

    “He really wanted to feel engaged with people when he was cooking,” Wendi says. “We compromised by putting the cooktop on the island and a piece of artwork on the wall to create a focal point. That was a good two-hour-long discussion over wine one evening,” she laughs.

    Many nights, the family enjoys having the house all to themselves, but they are eager to share it as well. John’s extended family and Wendi’s brother’s family live in the area. “They’re here all the time,” Wendi says. With its well-proportioned rooms, smooth flow, and enticing outdoor areas, the house accommodates a crowd with ease. Several times a year, the couple host gatherings of up to 50 people, and they often offer up their home as a location for Kelsey’s school fund-raisers. There is also the occasional California-style dinner party, with a formal table dressed in candles, gleaming silver, and crisply pressed linens—all set outside.

    How and whom they would entertain was part of Wendi and John’s planning. In the front of the house, the living and dining rooms feel slightly removed, ideal for intimate gatherings. Then there’s the spacious island and dining area in the kitchen for quick snacks and John’s famous Sunday breakfasts. Just steps away in the garden, the outdoor dining options double with the addition of a second zinc table.

    Landscape designer Molly Wood created a tropical environment, mixing such tall and low mounded plants as kangaroo paw, various bamboos, fragrant jasmine, and trumpet vines.

    Sixteen-year-old Kelsey often has friends in for a sleepover in the courtyard. Mimicking an idea from Fiji, the sofas can be pushed together to form a big bed. It’s a feature that, like the rest of the house, the entire family enjoys. “When it’s raining, we pull the curtains and snuggle in there to watch a movie and drink hot cocoa,” Wendi says. With all these comforts, no wonder staying home trumps a night out nearly every time.

    Photography: James Carriere
    Produced by Andrea Caughey

    Architect: Craig Hampton, Craig S. Hampton Inc. 46 Mallard Ct., Magalia, CA 95954; 949/209-8883, craigshampton.com.
    Interior designer: Wendi Young, Wendi Young Design, 3334 E. Coast Hwy, Suite 378, Corona Del Mar, CA 92625; 949/642-1099, wendiyoung.com.
    Landscape designer: Molly Wood, Molly Wood Garden Design, 1660 Orange Ave., Costa Mesa, CA 92627; 949/548-1611, mollywoodgardendesign.com.
    Contractor: Kent Johnsen, Renaissance Custom Builders, 177 Riverside Ave., Suite F-1050, Newport Beach, CA 92663; 949/278-3381, rcb-inc.com.

    Zinc-topped tables: Wisteria, 800/320-9757, wisteria.com.
    Wicker chairs: owner’s collection.
    Chair-seat fabric (“Fleur’’/Paradise #5205-3802): Nomi Fabrics, 831/728-4335, nomiinc.com, trade only.

  • Living Room

    Against a backdrop of symmetrical, classical architecture in the living room, Wendi Young arranged a cornucopia of seating, including a brass Directoire chair and an ebony chair upholstered in a zebra print.

    Sofa: owner’s collection.
    Sofa fabric (“Toucans’’/Document #2202177; discontinued): Lee Jofa, 80/453-3563, leejofa.com, trade only.
    Pair of upholstered chairs (“Buckley Chair’’ #155-34, by Dapha): Baker, 800/592-2537, bakerfurniture.com.
    Chair fabric (“Fantasia’’/Vendanges #4536-06, by Manuel Canovas): Cowtan & Tout, 212/647-6900, cowtan.com, trade only.
    Chair by mantel (“Wellington Reading Chair’’ by Greystone): company no longer in business.
    Faux-zebra fabric (“Leonore Zebra’’/Natural #DE00014347): Old World Weavers, 212/355-7186, trade only.
    Needlepoint pillow on reading chair (custom): Scalamandré, 800/932-4361, scalamandre.com, trade only.
    Pillow trim: Brunschwig & Fils, 800/538-1880, brunschwig.com, trade only.
    Vintage chair ( “Italian Brushed Steel Chair’’): Thomas Lavin, 310/278-2456, trade only.
    Leather fabric on chair (“Smooth & Silky’’/Kiwi #9300-04): Holly Hunt, 312/661-1900, hollyhunt.com, trade only.
    Coffee table (“Bronuso Cocktail Table’’ #4052): The Squires Co., 310/652-8108, trade only. Available through Kneedler-Fauchère, 800/421-4602, trade only.
    Seagrass rug (Botanical Blends Collection): Fibreworks, 502/499-9944, fibreworks.com.
    Mantel (custom design by Wendi Young): Wendi Young Design, 949/642-1099.
    Hand-painting on mantel: Leah Vasquez, Leah’s Fine Art, 949/494-5787, leahsart.com.
    Art above mantel: through Miriam Smith, Art Resource Group, 714/371-0101.
    Sconces flanking art (“Tole Flora Sconces’’ #42-9818): David Iatesta, 410/604-0360, davidiatesta.com, trade only.
    Table to left of mantel (antique): Dan Marty Design, 310/652-6928. Lamp on table (J. Lawrence resin lamp): through Blake House, 949/831-8292, trade only.
    Table to right of mantel (antique): Dan Marty Design, 310/652-6928.
    Window treatment (“Ibiza Sheer’’/Natural #83496-050): Brunschwig & Fils, 800/538-1880, brunschwig.com, trade only.
    Shell fringe on window treatment: Samuel & Sons, 212/704-8000, trade only.
    Wall paint (custom): Sherwin-Williams, 800/474-3794, sherwin-williams.com.
    Ceiling and trim paint (“Roadster White’’ #WW31): Ralph Lauren Paint, 800/379-7656, ralphlaurenhome.com.

  • Family Room

    Glass-paneled bifold doors in the family room open to a courtyard with dining and seating areas and an outdoor kitchen. Bamboo along the fence provides privacy.

    See more from this room on the following slide.

    Rattan armchairs (“Kyle Wide Chair’’ #2610-38): Stanford Furniture, 828/459-1992, stanfordfurniture.com.
    Floral fabric on armchairs (“Hippolyta’’/Blue, Cherry, Green #FD196 by Mulberry; discontinued): Lee Jofa, 800/453-3563, leejofa.com, trade only.
    Bamboo table between rattan chairs; ottoman; ottoman fabric: owner’s collection.
    Lamp on bamboo table (#4-34): Dos Gallos Furniture, 323/851-9117, dosgallos.com.
    Coffee table (antique, teak): PierceMartin, 800/334-8701, piercemartin.com, trade only.
    Area rug (Tibetan): Aga John Oriental rugs, 310/657-0890, agajohncarpets.com, trade only.
    Drapery (“Les Papillons Exotique’’/Cream, Rusty Brown): Brunschwig & Fils, 800/538-1880, brunschwig.com, trade only.
    Fan (“Islander’’): Fanimation, 888/567-2055, fanimation.com.
    Tray table/bar (“Sussex Butler’s Tray’’ #804-25): Ralph Lauren Home, 888/475-7674, ralphlaurenhome.com.
    Wall covering (“African Raffia’’/Corsica Natural #3418, Madagascar Raffia II Collection): Phillip Jeffries, 973/575-5414, phillipjeffries.com, trade only.
    Ceiling paint (“Roadster White’’ #WW31): Ralph Lauren Paint, 800/379-7656, ralphlaurenhome.com.
    Doors to patio: Kent Johnsen, Renaissance Custom Builders, 949/278-3381.

  • Family Room

    Details like floral upholstery, exotic-looking woods, and seashells bring the feel of the ocean into the family room. The opposite end opens up to the courtyard, allowing sunlight to pour in. “Our house works so well because it truly is indoors and outdoors,” says designer and homeowner Wendi Young.

    Sofas (designed by Wendi Young): Wendi Young Design, 949/642-1099.
    Fabrication: Steve Madril Designs, 714/532-1700.
    Sofa fabric (“Penumbra’’.Vision): Joseph Noble 214/741-8100, josephnoble.com, trade only.
    Art over mantel (Beach Girls): Lahaina Galleries, 800/228-2006, lahainagalleries.com.
    Barrel by mantel: Kim 3 Antiques, 310/360-9829.
    Hand-painted panels on built-in (“Madagasgar’’): Leah Vasquez, Leah’s Fine Art, 949/494-5787, leahsart.com.

  • Loggia Sitting Area

    A stucco fireplace is the central feature of the loggia, where Wendi designed individual teak seating pieces that push together to form a big bed. Above the fireplace, framed parrot prints swing open to reveal the television.

    Settees (custom design by Wendi Young): Wendi Young Design, 949/642-1099.
    Settee fabric (“Jacquard Encore’’/Yellow; discontinued): Giati Designs Inc., 805/684-8349, trade only.
    Coffee table; art over fireplace: owner’s collection.
    Area rug: Restoration Hardware, 800/910-9836.
    Mantel: James Brunning, Ultima Tile, 949/493-7899.
    Fireplace surround (“Madeira Marble Tile’’): Walker Zanger, 877/611-0199, walkerzanger.com.
    Lanterns flanking fireplace (“Bolario Lantern’’ #7004): Reborn Antiques, 310/289-7785, rebornantiques.net.
    Drapery: Scalamandré, 800/932-4361, trade only.

  • Breakfast Area

    Bamboo chairs in orange-red lacquer give an Asian flavor to the wafer-thin breakfast table. Wendi opted for oak floors—a choice that’s more eco-responsible than exotic wood, she says. But to get the same look, she had the planks rift-sawn to raise the grain, then stained dark walnut.

    Table (antique): Susanne Hollis Inc., 626/441-0346, susannehollis.com.
    Red bamboo chairs (“Regency Side Chair’’ #8249CU): Ficks Reed, 513/985-0606, ficksreed.com.
    Chair-seat fabric (“Bali Hai’’/Beige, Gold #10834-01): Cowtan & Tout, 212/647-6900, cowtan.com, trade only.
    Chandelier: owner’s collection.
    Bi-fold doors to loggia: Kent Johnsen, Renaissance Custom Builders, 949/278-3381.

  • Exterior

    Deep verandas shelter Wendi and husband John Carrido’s plantation-style house from the sun and provide space for outdoor entertaining.

    Railings: Kent Johnsen, Renaissance Custom Builders, 949/278-3381.
    Paint (“Roadster White’’ #WW31): Ralph Lauren Paint, 800/379-7656. ralphlaurenpaint.com.
    Shutters: mahogany.
    Wall lanterns: Troy Lighting, 626/336-4511, troy-lighting.com.

  • Portrait

    Wendi and John enjoy watching the sunsets from both of their broad verandas, secluded by a variety of palms.

    Wooden chair (“Garden Lazy Chair With Double Arms’’ #CHA557T, Colonial Collection): RD Imports, 310/324-8101, rdimports.com.

  • A pale Aubusson rug and an antiqued mirror over the dining room mantel give this newly built house a sense of age.

    Pedestal table (“Tula Expanding Dining Table 180’’): Ebanista, 800/570-1087, ebanista.com, trade only.
    Upholstered dining chairs (“Brooke Armchair’’ #1009-A): Dessin Fournir, 785/434-2777, trade only.
    Chair fabric (“Boutique Stripe’’/Bermuda): Beacon Hill, 800/333-3777, beaconhilldesign.com, trade only.
    Side chairs (“Cardigan Arm Chair’’): Ebanista, 800/570-1087, ebanista.com, trade only.
    Seat-cushion fabric on cane chairs (“Balthazar Damask’’/Gold, Red): F. Schumacher, fschumacher.com, trade only.
    Drapery (“Ivy’’/Pumpkin): Galbraith & Paul, 215/508-0800, galbraithandpaul.com, trade only.
    Chandelier (“Pamplona’’ #8027): Reborn Antiques, 310/289-7785, rebornantiques.net.
    Area rug (Pakistani): Aga John Oriental Rugs, 310/657-0890, agajohncarpets.com, trade only.
    Candlestick on mantel: owner’s collection.
    Art on mantel: through Miriam Smith, Art Resource Group, 714/371-0101.
    Mirror over mantel: Campbell Glass, 323/735-0021, campbellglass.com.
    Wall paint (“Summer Day’’ #SW6662): Sherwin-Williams, 800/474-3794, sherwin-williams.com.
    Ceiling and trim paint (“Roadster White’’ #WW31): Ralph Lauren Paint, 800/379-7656, ralphlaurenhome.com.

  • Kitchen

    The kitchen feels unfitted, Wendi says, due to the absence of a range hood and upper cabinets.

    Cabinetry; island: Mike Joyce, Big Sky Design, 714/894-4570.
    Countertops: Calacata Gold Marble.
    Cooktop; microwave: Dacor, 800/772-7778, dacor.com.
    Faucet: Newport Brass, 949/417-5207, brasstech.com.
    Bar stools: owner’s collection. Bar-stool cushions (“Brighton Taffeta Stripe’’/Red #50590): Schumacher, fschumacher.com, trade only.
    Refrigerator panels (custom designed by Wendi Young): Wendi Young Design, 949/642-1099.
    Fabrication: Big Sky Design, 714/894-4570.
    Ceiling lights (“Independence’’/Semi Flush): Hudson Valley Lighting, 845/565-3635, hudsonvalleylighting.com.
    Wall covering (“African Raffia’’/Corsica Natural #3418, Madagascar Raffia II Collection): Phillip Jeffries, 973/575-5414, phillipjeffries.com, trade only.
    Ceiling paint and finish on cabinetry (“Roadster White’’ #WW31): Ralph Lauren Paint, 800/379-7656, ralphlaurenhome.com.
    Art: through Diane Nelson, Scape Gallery, 949/723-3406, scapesite.com.
    Sconces flanking art (custom, #ULWL-107): Unique Lamps, 562/427-4885, uniquelampsonline.com, trade only.

  • Laundry Room

    A playful pink window valence and sink skirt celebrates the casual air of the tropics in the laundry room.

  • Massage Area

    An awkward space on the second level between the master bathroom and a dressing room provided inspiration for a mini-spa with an at-home massage bed.

    Drapery at door (“Paradiso’’/Palm #407N75): Raoul Textiles, 805/965-1694, raoultextiles.com, trade only.
    Linen skirt (custom designed by Wendi Young): Wendi Young Design, 949/642-1099.
    Linens: Peacock Alley, 800/810-0708, peacockalley.com.
    Wall paint (custom): Sherwin-Williams, 800/474-3794, sherwin-williams.com.
    Trim paint (“Roadster White’’ #WW31): Ralph Lauren Paint, 800/379-7656, ralphlaurenhome.com.

  • Office

    Homeowner and designer Wendi Young finds time to work in her home office.

  • Master Bedroom

    An airy paneled ceiling in the master bedroom takes advantage of the roof pitch. A four-poster based on an Indonesian antique contrasts with the whispery blue walls. French doors open to the front master-bedroom veranda.

    Bed (“British Colonial Jackwood Bed with Canopy” #FR-8422): Susanne Hollis Inc., 626/441-0346, susannehollis.com.
    TV cabinet with electronic lift at end of bed (custom designed by Wendi Young): Wendi Young Design, 949/642-1099.
    Fabricaton: Hermann Weingand, Weingand Custom Furniture, 818/765-6362.
    Area rug (“Wainscott Stripe’’/Tan): Mimi London, 310/855-2567, mimilondon.com.
    Bed cover: Ralph Lauren Home, 888/475-7674, ralphlaurenhome.com.
    Bolster pillow (“Bamboo’’/Kiwi #3000/04): Rose Tarlow-Melrose House, 323/651-2202, rosetarlow.com, trade only.
    Euro shams (“Tapa’’/Lime #402N42): Raoul Textiles, 805/965-1694, raoultextiles.com, trade only.
    Bedside chests (“Indochine 3-Drawer Dresser’’ #IM005): Grange Furniture, Inc., 800/472-6431, grange.fr.
    Table lamps (antique): Chapman Radcliff Home, 310/659-8062, chapmanradcliffhome.com.
    Sofa (custom designed by Wendi Young): Wendi Young Design, 949/642-1099. Fabrication: Steve Madril Designs, 714/532-1700.
    Sofa fabric (discontinued): owner’s collection.
    Chair at end of bed: Lee Stanton Antiques, 310/855-9800.
    Fan: Casablanca Fan Co., 888/227-2178, casablancafanco.com.
    Drapery (smocked panels): Plantation House, no longer in business.
    Blinds (“Rustic Bamboo” by Grand Design): Design Line Drapery Mfg., 714/259-7702.
    Wall paint (“Rainwashed’’ #SW6211): Sherwin-Williams, 800/474-3794, sherwin-williams.com.
    Ceiling and trim paint (“Roadster White’’ #WW31): Ralph Lauren Paint, 800/379-7656, ralphlaurenhome.com.

  • Master Bath

    Soothing blue and green tiles surround a fireplace in the luxurious master bath. The mellow palette is balanced by rich woods and marble surfaces. Wendi and her staff of seven work out of offices in Corona Del Mar, California, and are known for combining appropriate details, unique finishes, and unexpected color palettes to create relaxed spaces, with a hint of understated elegance.

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