This striking Southern California home, perched on the sand’s edge in the upscale coastal town of Santa Monica, is unfussy, relaxed, calming.

With a subdued, sun-washed palette, traditional furnishings interspersed with eclectic handmade pieces, and natural materials such as stone and wood, the home is at once timeless yet personal, casual yet classic.

That is exactly what designer Mark Cutler, principal of Los Angeles-based Mark Cutler Design, set out to achieve.

“My clients’ world revolves around their kids, but they also love to entertain. They wanted to combine both, so everything had to have a dual purpose,” Cutler explains.

“They wanted to feel like they are at the beach, so they opted for a design with a casual looseness and a nod to the beach lifestyle but without all the seashells and seahorses.”

It was just the sort of project that Cutler, who is originally from Brisbane, Australia, loves to tackle. He notes that thanks to his Australian heritage, his work often displays a naturally relaxed vibe.

“I create livable, usable design that doesn’t get in the way,” he says. “People often look for that in a beach house, these clients in particular.”

Cutler, whose body of work encompasses space planning, construction, renovation and aesthetic and structural revitalization in addition to interior design, spent 10 years working with the highly regarded William Hablinski Architecture in Los Angeles before hanging his design shingle in 2000. He considers his work a “form of portraiture.

“My design is not about me or about the way I see the world,” Cutler explains. “Rather, I start with my clients. What are they about and how do they see the world?”

The 6,000-square-foot, four-story home, which was built around the 1960s, required a remodel, so Cutler started the project with an almost blank slate. “We worked with architect William Hefner on adding a new basement,” Cutler says, “but the original layout remained the same.”

His biggest challenge? With the entry hall, living room, kitchen and dining room flowing seamlessly together in one long, cavernous space, Cutler had to perform some design magic to ensure the first floor “didn’t start to feel like a railroad car,” he says.

He solved the potential problem by breaking up the space with pocket doors and dropped ceilings to create separate rooms. “I opted for different spaces, each with its own color palette and unified by bleached wood,” he adds.

Interesting pieces catch one’s eye: handmade macramé fixtures in the kitchen, a round wood table in the entryway – the latter being a flea market find that originated as an old mill wheel.

A vast chandelier stretches 25 feet from the first to the fourth floor. “It runs like a vertebrae all the way up the stone stairway,” Cutler says. “You see the bottom of the chandelier in the entry way, and it keeps repeating. That one idea, one piece, unifies the whole house. I really like the whole entry experience.”

Cutler doesn’t adhere to any particular aesthetic. His portfolio covers a spectrum of residential design from California beach house and ranch to classic American, Mediterranean and Tuscan, modern Shingle, traditional French farmhouse, glamorous city living and Pacific Asian style.

As Cutler says, he likes to turn tradition on its head. “I design for the future by looking to the past, with classic silhouettes and quality materials that will last for a lifetime. I take touchstones of traditional design but tweak them and partner them with unexpected elements.”

An example of that is a custom handmade fireplace screen, crafted by a local artist from metal and hand-blown glass, thus providing pops of color, melding textures and drawing attention.

Similarly, an Italian ottoman, nestled between two wingback chairs, resembles a huge sea urchin, while a 17th-century antique door serves as a substantial – and stunning – headboard.

Several small tables of various heights, materials and shapes are pushed together to take the place of one larger coffee table. In short, the home is functional yet fun.

“There’s nothing precious about it,” Cutler says. “It has a relaxed, casual sensibility, as though the homeowners kind of threw it together. It’s a little bit quirky, and that’s part of the look – as though the house is populated with found objects and bits of people’s lives.”

The collections on the shelves continue the theme. The primitive sculptures belonged to his client, who is from South Africa. And the wire Ferris wheel is reminiscent of the real-life Ferris wheel on Santa Monica Pier just beyond the sand. “Every design needs to have a story,” Cutler says.

With its hues of blue, bleached wood and a sun-washed vibe, the home is unmistakably a beach house. “And you would still have that sense, even if you couldn’t see the ocean and beach from the windows,” Cutler says.


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Image Credits: Photo credit: Tim Street-Porter.