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Smooth Styling : Sculptural Design by Architects Ray Kappe and Dean Nota : Smooth Styling

February 12, 1989|SAM HALL KAPLAN | Sam Hall Kaplan is The Times' design critic.

THE PRE-EMINENT VIEW in Manhattan Beach is the broad stretch of sand, the sublime Pacific and, of course, the season's newest swimsuits. But attracting more than a glimpse these days is a striking structure recently completed at 16th Street and owned by Lou and Jay Scheimer, who wanted to locate their weekend house in this comfortable community. (Lou Scheimer heads Filmation, which produces children's programs.)

With a three-story glass-and-teak-clad cylinder fronting The Strand, and vaulted skylighting, the smoothly styled house looks like a luxury liner yearning to break away from its mooring. Yet there was no conscious thought of nautical references in the design. "We were simply responding to the clients' needs for a beachfront house where they could relax, entertain guests, swim and look out at the ocean," explains architect Ray Kappe, who collaborated on the house with Dean Nota. "We thought the curves would be graceful and neighborly, lightening the front of the house as well as the side entrance facing the pedestrian footpath." The owners encouraged the architects to be more sculptural, however; their prime residence in Tarzana was designed in an inventive Modernist style by Richard Neutra.

Within the tight constraints of a 33x100-foot lot and a strictly enforced coastal zoning code, the architects filled a 30-foot-high volume with a 5,000-plus-square-foot house edged and topped with 2,600 square feet of deck. Partially hidden from public view on the roof is a 10x40-foot lap pool. Also on the roof is a narrow, angled widow's walk that resembles the bridge of a ship and offers spectacular views.

The three levels are pierced by light wells and a staircase of steel and laminated glass. This and the tinted windows to the south and west bathe the interior with soothing, obscured light. The main entry, at the middle level, opens into a large living area dominated by the bar and views. Here also is an open circular kitchen and, to the rear, a pantry, wine cellar and three-car garage. Above is a glassed master suite; below a recreation area and guest rooms.

The soft play of tinted glass, exposed steel and aged teak, together with the view of the beach, makes visitors feel as though they have just cast off for exotic ports.

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