Colorful Malibu Beach House

Surfer choses bright, bold colors to breathe new life into his home


Jim Peter is a colorful character. The lifelong surfer and former Las Vegas card dealer who often curses spent much of his adult life as a middle school special-ed teacher working with students who had learning disabilities and behavioral issues. “I fit right in,” Peter says.

When it came time to remodel his Malibu, California, home after he went through a divorce from his wife and found himself living the bachelor life again, Peter knew exactly what he wanted: colors. Lots of colors.

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Malibu Color 1: Gamma Photography Studio, original photo on Houzz

“After” photos by Gamma Photography Studio


Houzz at a Glance

Who lives here: Jim Peter, a retired special-education teacher

Location: Malibu, California

Size: 2,600 square feet (241.5 square meters); three bedrooms, three bathrooms

Year built: 1964


The home sits in the Malibu hills overlooking the ocean, the famous Getty villa and the Pacific Palisades neighborhood. Peter lives in the home with his blue-nosed pitbull, named Blue.

The color blue comes up prominently throughout the interiors and exterior — a move that was much of the main focus of the recent remodel. Peter hired interior designer Rick Doten of 1 Man of the Cloth for help. Doten had worked with Peter during a previous remodel of the home, which Peter says his former wife had spearheaded. “It really came out good,” Peter says. “But it was kind of bland compared to what I wanted.”

Peter says he had always been scared of color. While living in Vegas, his go-to colors were eggshell white and Navajo white. But he was ready for a change. “I wanted to jump up the colors,” he says. “I wanted to blow up my backyard.”

After choosing blue tile for the pool, he started to worry that it wasn’t exciting enough. To amp up the energy, he added bold red tile on the pool walls.

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Malibu Color 2: Before Photo, original photo on Houzz


BEFORE: The previous pool was “heinous,” Peter says, with 1980s flagstone everywhere. He kept the kidney shape for cost reasons but replaced everything else and added a Baja shelf, so he could put lounge chairs right in the water. He replaced the faded redwood, which had given the deck more of a “Big Sur country vibe,” Peter says, with mangaris wood to create a more modern look.


Malibu Color 3: Gamma Photography Studio, original photo on Houzz


AFTER: Artist Darlene Graeser did all the mosaic tilework, which trails down a walkway around water features and leads to the front gate. She and Peter chose concrete to replace the flagstone to create a neutral base that allows the mosaic to pop. “It just gives the yard a fun little spark,” Peter says.

The teal blue property wall also enhances the colorful tile and “gives this cool resort-y kind of vibe,” Peter says.

His retired surfboards create an art installation of sorts, an idea he got from a sculpture of broken surfboards he saw in the lobby of the Modern Honolulu hotel.

Peter and Doten replaced all the fencing with a steel wire design, but used a piece of glass on the section in front of two chairs for an unobstructed view of the ocean. Peter didn’t want to use glass all the way around the deck because he feared it would have blocked breezes too much.

The previous home contained five small bedrooms. “I’ve been in bigger jail cells than that,” Peter says. During a previous remodel, he turned the five rooms into three more spacious bedrooms and opened up the living spaces.

During this recent project, Peter brought more colors into the interiors through paint and bright upholstery.


Malibu Color 4: Gamma Photography Studio, original photo on Houzz


Peter hired Matt and John Kimball of Pristine Finishesto create a faux finish on the dining room wall with layers of red, blue, green, yellow and orange with a shiny finish. “It’s a wall that gets a lot of morning sunlight, so I really wanted something that would jump,” Peter says. “I had a china cabinet there before. Nobody uses china cabinets — nobody in real life.”

He had the once-beige chairs reupholstered in bright colors. “I wanted to take a boring piece and explode it,” he says.

The floor is 18-by-18-inch tiles in several shades of brown, beige and gold. The table and bench are reclaimed wood.

Although the kitchen was updated during a previous remodel, Peter repainted the walls a bold red. “I like red because it jumps out,” he says. “I like blue, but I hate to be the typical boy who likes blue the best. I like using red for the fun of it.”


Malibu Color 5: Gamma Photography Studio, original photo on Houzz


The living room sofa was previously done in off-white fabric. Peter and Doten went through a bunch of fabric swatches and picked several of the wilder ones. “I thought, ‘Let’s just go for it,’” Peter says.

The chair on the right was originally also off-white. Peter had it reupholstered in a mix of reddish fabrics. The coffee table-ottoman was previously brown leather.

Peter commissioned the painting from Oscar Magallanes, a local street artist. The piece contains phrases that often get used in Peter’s life, including, “It’s not them it’s you,” “What if …,” “Yeah but …” and “164,” which has to do with a book, he says.

The driftwood throne chair had been sitting in Doten’s backyard for years, and Peter asked if he could have it. He had it sandblasted to clean it up. “It sucks in color and reflects it back,” Peter says.


Malibu Color 6: Gamma Photography Studio, original photo on Houzz


In the powder room, Peter originally tried doing something that he thought might be found in a Jamaican beach shack, but it didn’t work. So instead, he printed out a picture of a Jackson Pollock painting and let his painter loose with it. “It’s a little overwhelming, but it’s so fun,” Peter says. “I like watching peoples’ faces coming into my home.”


Malibu Color 7: Gamma Photography Studio, original photo on Houzz


In the master bedroom, the bed sits on a double-faded, double-dyed orange rug. The headboard is reclaimed lumber pieces put together by Peter’s cabinetmaker friend. “I bet there’s a lot of lead paint in it,” Peter says. “I have enough brain damage as is, so we added coats of flat sealer.”

Peter gets up and surfs almost every morning, then has coffee on the deck, goes for a hike with his dog, then to yoga. Then his girlfriend comes over, and they lounge in the pool on chairs resting on the Baja shelf. It certainly sounds like a colorful life. “Anybody can have blah,” Peter says. “But blah is no fun. Colors are fun and soothing at the same time.”

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