659 30th Avenue, Hermosa Beach
South Bay DIGS Magazine, July 3, 2015
Steve Lazar’s new home optimizes lot size, Hill Section views and his distinctive, beachside aesthetics
Written by Constance Dunn
Photography by Paul Jonason
Those who have noticed the cropping up of South Bay homes with silhouettes that reference ocean-ready ships or lifeguard towers can point to Steve Lazar, designer and builder of The Lifeguard Tower Home at 3002 Hermosa Avenue, as a prime originator of this look. His latest project, a six-bedroom residence built on the hillside peak of 30th Street in Hermosa Beach for Design+Build by South Swell, is a study in the functional exploitation of lot size and surrounding beauty. That, and an evolution of the designer’s singular style.
Modernist in its veins, the new home has the earmarks of a Lazar design, inside and out. There’s a hint of lifeguard tower in its exterior, though more muted than visible in his past projects, mainly due to a ring of rusticated wood cladding swathed around its mid-section. Other signifiers are there, too, from a row of high-perched observation windows to a slightly raised metal hip roof of soft grey. Jutting out slightly over the home, its underside dressed in tidy shiplap, the roof contrasts smartly against the clean white stucco and earthy wood of the lower levels. In all, it’s still clean-cut Lazar, but more organic than sleek.
“I have a signature vocabulary,” says Lazar, standing outside the structure while craftsmen and workers buzz around, putting finishing touches on the place. “But I adapt it within each home to meet a client’s needs and maximize the particulars of that space. Every home feels completely individual, but it is built upon an evolution of tried and true details.”
“There’s a lot more to this house than what you see at the front entry,” Lazar announces before stepping inside. “It’s very deceiving as to how big this building is. What we’re going to walk through today is 8,800 square feet.”
Off my surprised glance—we’re standing on a 5,000-square-foot lot, after all—he continues. “There’s 1,700 square feet or better in the garage-basement. The house itself is over 5,700 square feet. And there’s well over 1,200 square feet of open space on that top level.”
There are four levels in all, from basement to top floor, and yes, there is lots of room. The street level and second level are home to all six bedrooms, with the master suite occupying the same floor as the ocean-view guest suite. Then, there’s a sunny central gathering room with a wet bar, nicely cordoned off from the foyer and floating staircase by sliding doors of pale green glass, thickly framed in white wood.
Of note in the nearly 1,000-square-foot master suite are materials and textures that subtly telegraph in the outdoors, a Lazar specialty. Among them: white shiplap and cut stone that extend along the walls and ceiling, and clear past a gallery of windows that let in grand views of Hermosa Beach, blue water and all. “The view is forever,” Lazar points out, explaining that neighboring homes have reached the maximum height at which they can be built. “It can never be taken away.”
The master suite also includes a fairly massive but sensible bathroom and closet area. “The master bath rivals most spas,” says realtor Ed Kaminsky. “It includes a walk-in shower and a step-up Jacuzzi to take advantage of the surrounding views. Plus, separate men’s and women’s sinks, toilets and walk-in closets.”
No matter the room, none of the property’s natural surroundings have been lost on the builder. “There are two distinct advantages to this home’s location,” says Kaminsky. “Being an entertainer’s delight, there are plenty of places in the area for your guests to park when you do entertain. But first and foremost is the prominent placement of the home in the Hill Section of Hermosa Beach. There are amazing panoramic views of the ocean as well as the beautiful rolling hills below.”
The Kid Zone
The floor beneath the street level has been built as a child’s retreat of sorts. There are four bedrooms linked in pairs by Jack and Jill bathrooms. This, plus twin study centers, an open play room and a small lounge—strategically tucked away from study and play areas—that’s rigged for gaming and TV-watching. On this floor, the vibe is light and airy, with white walls against light-hued floors of engineered oak (“They have a beautiful interplay of tones, and are more durable than actual wood,” notes Lazar). There is also plenty of custom cabinetry, from desks and drawers to multiple-sized nooks for stowing away toys and books.
Though positioned as a children’s floor, it doesn’t mean it has to be. The floor, and the entire house, has been designed with enough blank slate so it can stylistically recast as an owner sees fit. “Everything is very subtle. Very clean,” says Lazar. “Anyone can come in and use the space any way they choose.”
We step down a floor to the garage, which includes an open sprawl of parking, an elevator and a tucked-away extra room that could be assigned to wine storage, or used as a craft nook or spare bathroom. “For the large family, there are multiple living spaces throughout the home both for adults, children and guests,” says Kaminsky. “Including one of the largest garages ever built in Hermosa Beach. It can accommodate up to seven or eight cars, depending on how you parked them.”
“This is not your quintessential cookie-cutter new home,” he adds. “This home is gorgeous. Modern, with a unique and fun design. With special attention to detail, window placement and view orientation. Plus the quality you come to expect with a home designed by Steve Lazar. Additionally, the rooftop pool with retractable cover offers year-round entertaining.”
Fireworks on the Roof
For this project, Lazar has created another of his hyper-livable top floors—half indoors, half outdoors—that could arguably be the beating heart of the home. A sunny gathering space and gourmet kitchen are gathered under an elevated ceiling. Lined with windows and stocked with gleaming counters, the big room opens onto an equally spacious ocean-view deck that could morph either way: as an everyday living space or party central.
Practical highlights include a vestibule that connects to a bathroom, an elevator and a covert set of stairs that run along the exterior of the house. “From the pool, you run down the stairs and into the master bathroom,” says Lazar. “Or you run down the stairs and into the kids wing. Either way, you don’t run through the house all wet.”
At the center of the deck is a South Bay rarity—an oversized swim spa covered with a retractable wood deck. When rolled back, the cover exposes a swimming lane for one or a spa for 10, complete with a pop-up TV, coolers and a stereo system. “You can have a living space right over your spa pool,” Lazar explains. “When you decide, ‘Hey, it’s time to open up the spa,’ you just roll back the platform-based living room and it’s ready to go.”
Steps from the spa pool is an outdoor snack counter, separated from the indoors by a trio of slide-open serving windows and steps from dual sinks, a six-burner Wolf range and built-in, one-touch Miele coffee station. It’s at this serving area where one could dispense cocktails during a candlelit rooftop party just as easily as one could serve squealing children hotdogs or hamburgers on a sunny day.
These and other scenes are easy to imagine, not because of any ready-made images or staging. On the day I visit, the home is just-finished, and there’s not a stitch of furniture in the place. But even empty, rooms have been so well-engineered—with textures and colors playing against ready light; spaces maxed for views and designed down to the detail—that already, they brim with life and possibility.