Architect: Don Stine.
Interior designer: Julie Hovnanian, Hovie Interiors, 2307 Laurel Place, Newport Beach, CA 92663; 949/300-3271.
Contractor: Matt White, Matt White Custom Homes Inc., 3090 Pullman St., Costa Mesa, CA 92626; 714/329-2222, mwcustom.com.
Landscape architect: Bradley Allen, Fleur Jardin, P.O. Box 1813, Newport Beach, CA 92659; 949/650-6344.
Text by Amy Elbert
Photographs by Joe Schmelzer
Produced by Andrea Caughey
Barbecues at Joanne and Dennis Schwary's California home are likely to start aboard their canopied electric boat, cruising Newport Bay while guests enjoy wine and hors d'oeuvres. After all, if you're lucky enough to live on the water, you live on the water, says Joanne, who even insisted her kitchen sink face the bay. "The light here is beautiful, and we have amazing sunsets," she adds. Whenever guests come to visit, they invariably make a beeline for the patio and dock to take in the view. "It happens every time," Joanne says.
When designing the Schwarys' house, California architect Don Stine took full advantage of its southern exposure on Lido Isle, a small man-made island near Newport Beach. Like most homes on this densely built harbor island, the main entry is on the side of the house, with the garage fronting the street and the true "front yard" facing the water.
The four main-level living areas--great room, dining room, kitchen, and breakfast area--share a common space and face spacious windows and three sets of French doors to the patio. "Most of the time we leave those doors open," Joanne says. Never more so than when the Schwarys' five grandchildren come to visit, zipping in and out to play in the water that washes up to the Schwarys' small patch of beach.
Frequent visits by the Schwarys' two daughters and their families, who live nearby, were one of the compelling reasons for building the 4,800-square-foot house, Joanne says. "Once the children were grown, married, and starting their own families, we found we needed a larger house to have room for everyone to be here," she says. Three girls and two boys--ages 18 months to 10 years--enjoy sleepovers at their grandparents' ?home, so Joanne appointed two cozy bedrooms upstairs just for them.
However, most of the family action is on the flagstone patio, with its retractable awning that turns the space into an extension of the great room. "My husband loves to sit on the patio and read the paper with his coffee in the morning," Joanne says.
Above the main living area is the master suite with an adjoining sitting room and an upper deck that offers a private spot to enjoy the sun and scenery.
While the house's floor plan is California-casual, the detailing is more New York Hamptons, with built-in corner cabinets, wainscoting, beadboard ceilings, and trim painted a high-gloss, marine-finish white. "I've always admired the homes Robert A.M. Stern designed in the Hamptons," Joanne says. "I love the clean lines and that level of sophistication."
Joanne tapped Julie Hovnanian, a Newport Beach interior designer, to help her infuse the entire house with that sophisticated Hamptons style. "Julie and I went out every week¬--sometimes more--to flea markets and antiques stores, picking fabrics and furniture and deciding every single detail, including doorknobs and hinges," Joanne says.
Reciting a less-is-more mantra, Hovnanian and Joanne judiciously chose clean-lined furnishings and a subdued palette that take a backseat to the view. "All the focus is outward. We kept the rooms open and light so when you walk in, your eye goes directly outside," Hovnanian says.
Hand-distressed, random-width walnut floors throughout the house are stained a coffee color to contrast with the crisp white trim and create a warm backdrop for the furnishings.
A sand-toned seagrass rug anchors the seating area in the great room, where fabric pattern is minimal to keep the mood serene. The sofa wears a white linen slipcover in summer (Joanne switches to gray in cooler months), and the armchairs are covered in a tailored gray-and-white stripe. A bench upholstered with an antique throw in burgundy and an assortment of throw pillows, which Joanne changes to suit the season, add splashes of color, texture, and warmth.
"Joanne likes primary colors, and she used red, white, and blue in her previous home," Hovnanian says. "That evolved in this house to muted red and gray. The colors are subdued and sophisticated but still ones that Joanne prefers." The ability to home in on Joanne's tastes reflects Hovnanian's design philosophy and explains why she and Joanne bonded so well. "It's important to me that the homes I do reflect the personalities of the homeowners and don't look 'decorated,'" she explains. "It's their home, not mine."
Megadoses of personality come from Joanne's collections of vintage mercury-glass vases, Victorian shell boxes, flow-blue china plates, and white ironstone pottery--most of which the two women scored at flea markets and antiques stores. Hovnanian and Joanne were careful to navigate the fine line between collections and clutter, however, arranging objects in artful displays. Flow-blue plates hang on a wall above a trio of ironstone pitchers in the breakfast area, and mercury-glass vases of varying heights are grouped on a parlor table.
Hovnanian found the breakfast-area dining chairs at an antiques store and had them covered in a fresh raspberry-striped fabric. She combined them with a farmhouse-style table that looks antique but is actually newly crafted. Ditto the decoratively painted bar stools. Because the Schwarys' grandchildren often sit at the counter and breakfast table, Joanne wanted furnishings that had vintage style but kid-tough construction.
The symmetrical dining room leans to the formal, with twin built-in corner china cabinets and a delicate antique chandelier centered on a handcrafted walnut table. For a bit of bling, the backs of the china cabinets were lined with antiqued mirrors. But Hovnanian downplayed the dressiness of the room, adding upholstered dining chairs sporting kicky, short pleated skirts.
The dining room is within talking distance of the more casual breakfast area, so the Schwarys often set both tables when entertaining large groups. "The house is laid out so well, whether we're entertaining the grandkids or adults," Joanne says. "I never want to live anywhere else."