A Coronado beach house glimmers with Hollywood glamour
Chuck and Rita Steel pictured a beach house where a well-worn, 1970s ranch-style home in Coronado once stood — but not just any beach house. It had to be classy, artsy, reminiscent of the 1930s and ’40s.
It needed, Chuck says, “a little bit of a pop to it, a little bit of glitz, a Hollywood Art Deco feel when you walk in — something of the past that looks good in the future.” To carry out their vision, the couple turned to interior designer Denise LaVey. The three of them collaborated with architect Julian Ortega of URBANA Design Group over the next 13 months as the three-story, 6,000-square-foot house took shape. Based in Los Angeles, Denise had worked with Chuck and Rita before, upgrading the interior design of their Cabo San Lucas vacation home. Chuck says their rapport with her was instant, so they knew just whom to hire for their latest project, which would be their permanent home. Every Sunday, the three met for lunch at Hotel Del Coronado’s restaurant for members and reviewed material samples. “Sundays were kind of our day — no stress, no traffic and great work days for us,” Denise says. Originally from Northern California by way of New Jersey, Chuck and Rita have had summer homes in San Diego County for many years. Coronado, however, had a special pull. Chuck remembers discovering the “island” on his way to watch a Navy SEALs exercise with his brother during the July 4th weekend. “I was coming over the bridge and thought I was going to Never Never Land,” he recalls. “It was like going into a snow globe.” A guest to their new home might experience that same sense of beauty and wonder when crossing the threshold of their front door. Tasteful touches of Hollywood glamour glimmer throughout the beach house with its solid walnut plank flooring and calming colors of gray, taupe and pastel blue.
Just inside the entryway, for example, floor-to-ceiling rods with polished aluminum plates act as a luminous yet subtle room divider between the sitting room and the foyer. Denise custom-designed the piece so that each plate pivots when touched. “It’s nice to have an artful wall,” she says. “It’s fun, isn’t it?” The gleaming steel base of the entryway table complements the room divider. Above the table perch playful wall sconces with a honeycomb-like pattern of translucent resin. The second level serves as the home’s main hub. An unobstructed view of the ocean from the balcony deck inspired Chuck and Rita to put the living/dining areas and kitchen here. When open completely, panoramic doors turn the interior space and deck into one airy room.
Under Denise’s guidance, the space exudes a quiet elegance punctuated with understated bling. The sleek sophistication of wall paneling and the gray-and-white marble of the fireplace, kitchen counters, backsplash and island offset metallic, transparent and reflective materials that pop. Shiny acrylic bases support a 10-foot-long, walnut dining table and nearby side tables. In the kitchen, the custom-designed, zinc range hood gives off a soft luster. A chandelier of asymmetrical crystal rods and another light fixture of laser-cut aluminum circles look like modern art.
The second floor also houses the master suite. In the bedroom, vintage pineapple lamps of mercury glass sit atop custom-designed bedside tables of creamy green stingray skin inlaid with bone. Denise chose the upholstery for the bed, as well as for the wall behind it. In the master bathroom, an exquisite stone rug of marble, white Thassos and green glass offers quiet beauty underfoot. Just beyond lies the walk-in wardrobe that resembles a high-end boutique. Lighted, mirrored cabinets with glass shelving and doors display Rita’s handbags, shoes and accessories. Denise custom-designed the cabinets to open up the space and reveal Rita’s favorite things. “Chuck and Rita did an excellent job of creating the beautiful displays,” Denise says. The couple’s daughters, Marla, 14, and Madison, 17, got involved in the design of their rooms, which reside on the first floor. Madison, who studies ballet, wanted a New York loft theme, so Denise styled the space with brick walls, open shelving in dark wood and a light fixture with vintage-look bulbs. Marla’s room is more contemporary, with softer hues, a clear-acrylic replica of Eero Aarnio’s Bubble Chair and mirrored closet doors featuring an Art Deco design. To get from floor to floor, the family can take the stairs or ride the elevator, a convenience perfect for aging grandparents and bringing groceries to the kitchen.
Chuck likes to take the elevator to the basement, where, in true Hollywood fashion, they have a home theater with Art Deco accents in polished aluminum. The theater is outfitted with a 12-foot-wide, 160-inch-diagonal screen and padded acoustic wall paneling. Lighted steps and two long rows of comfy couch seating the color of flint complete the look. “I never get tired of this room,” says Chuck, who loves to come down here in his pajamas. In another homage to Hollywood’s Golden Age, Chuck owns a 1948 Ford Deluxe convertible and 1935 Packard 1201 Coupe convertible. He parks them in a two-level garage — with a custom lift — that accommodates four cars. Even out here, Denise helped Chuck and Rita honor the open, airy qualities of a beach house. On the back interior wall of the garage is a mural of the beach — with an LED frame around it. “They like showy, they like bling, but there’s a balance,” Denise says.