THIS IS NOT A TYPICAL Southern California beach house. Its type of architecture--in the International Style--has been disparaged by critics as bare, abstract and impersonal. Yet despite the building's stark, modern lines, this particular unit becomes warm and personal when filled with classic modern and antique furnishings.
The origins of this project are a multifamily story. Eleven years ago, architect Charles Kanner of Kanner Associates of Westwood, his wife, Judith, and three other families purchased two acres of land on a bluff near Paradise Cove in Malibu. It was Kanner's assignment to design four attached residences on the property. "Giving each of the four units maximum view, and giving each home complete privacy from the others, were the two biggest challenges," Kanner recalls.
After years of designing and redesigning, construction on the project, called Seacliff by the owners, began in 1985. Less than a year ago, the four families finally moved into their respective units, each with 5,000 square feet of living space and a virtually identical floor plan.
Interestingly, Kanner's original design for the fourplex did not feature its current white stucco exterior. On original blueprints, the building was designed with a shingled exterior, which was more in the vernacular of the 1970s, when the structure was first planned. But as the years passed and Seacliff remained on the drawing board, Kanner's ideas and those of his partners / clients changed, and the structure took on its present look. Although the exterior changed during the building's long delay, the design of the interior spaces remained essentially the same. Kanner and his son, Stephen, also an architect at Kanner Associates, made only a few revisions. "While cohesion and conformity were necessary in the design of the exterior of the building," Kanner says, "each family had design freedom to express their aesthetic on the interior of each unit. The simplicity of the interiors of each of these houses was intended to be a background for the personal expressions of each family."