photography By paul JonaSon

21st Century Modern:
M i d - C e n t u r y i n s p i r at i o n w i t h a F u t u r i s t i C F l a i r h o M e
w r i tte n By: pa m e l a co r a n te - h a n S e n

a giant driveway turntable designed to spin a full-sized vehicle. a circular living room with modular leather furniture. an automated toilet with a lid that rises as one approaches. a pampered, furry feline. if this sounds like the treatment for the latest film spoof about a certain international spy, think again. these are a few of the features that distinguish the contemporary manhattan Beach home that Stu and melita riddle share with their cat, miss toodles. the story of how the riddles built the residence with architect Jim fasola, the creative force behind the landmark home, has as many twists and turns as the plot of a good thriller, minus the daredevil stunts. the riddles searched tirelessly for the perfect lot to build their dream home, but when an ideal piece of land became available, developers often beat them to the punch. a property on manhattan Beach Boulevard came to their attention, however a city regulation that forbade new construction where there was an existing

structure put a damper on the riddles’ plans. But fate intervened. “the owner of the property called me a year later and said he wanted to sell,” recalls fasola. “Shortly after that, the house on the lot burned down. it was a little suspicious, but in the end Stu and melita got the property they wanted.” as if the uncanny timing on the house fire weren’t dramatic enough, one more hurdle materialized. “the city has a new construction ordinance that forbids backing out of a driveway onto manhattan Beach Boulevard,” fasola says. “So, i had this idea.” fasola had worked on a project for actor rodney dangerfield that involved building an oversized turntable for an automobile. fasola created a small-scale model and presented it to the city, which gave him the okay on the project. it was the shape of the turntable that influenced the home’s front section, a striking cylinder that provides a refreshing contrast to the neighboring

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boxy, 1970s era apartment buildings. fasola credits mid-century modern architect John lautner for the inspiration. “he’s my favorite architect,” fasola says. “in particular, the elrod house influenced me on this house.” fasola is referring to lautner’s 1968 futuristic, circular home in palm Springs, which, fittingly enough, served as the setting for several scenes in the James Bond film, “diamonds are forever.” at 3,500 square feet, the riddle residence comprises a garage at street level with the main living area on the second floor. a third story contains two bedrooms and an oversized office that can legally be divided into two bedrooms. one of the most distinguishing characteristics of the riddle house is the warmth of its interiors. in contrast with the sometimes sterile feel of modernist homes, great care was taken by fasola and his clients to ensure that the house felt inviting and intimate. a palette of orange, amber and ochre tones give each room in the home a warm energy. natural light pours in through multiple windows and skylights, enhancing the rich brown and sepia tones of the Brazilian cumaru wood floors. in the circle-shaped living room, a matte redwood ceiling complements the subtle gloss of the cumaru flooring, balancing the room’s large proportions and giving it a more human scale. tasteful decorative elements throughout the home

SomeThing Special haS To happen where The circle and recTangle meeT,” FaSola SayS it is at this intersection where the home rises to a dramatic, loft-like space on the third floor. in contrast, the back portion of the home is the more intimate, daily living space, a subtle transition from the circular portion’s formality.

create an elegant degree of tension between the modern and the traditional. an ornate murano glass chandelier floats above a spartan, rectangular wooden dining table that melita fell in love with in arizona. She good-naturedly recounts that her impulsive purchase upset an interior designer to the degree that she dropped the couple as clients. the controversial table sits at the juncture where the home’s circular front portion intersects with the rectangular rear. “Something special has to happen where the circle and rectangle meet,” fasola says. it is at this intersection where the home rises to a dramatic, loft-like space on the third floor. in contrast, the back portion of the home is the more intimate, daily living space, a subtle transition from the circular portion’s formality. on the other side of the couple’s gleaming kitchen, a breakfast nook with modular, mid-century style chairs looks out on a tranquil, Japanese-influenced backyard. thanks to the upward sloping lot, fasola was able to design the home so that the main living area connects with the backyard. “the bedrooms are on top, which is where they should go,” notes fasola. “a lot of houses in this area are built upside-down in order to get the view. you sacrifice livability because you lose all connection to the ground.”

“riddle hoUSe”
in the summer months, the riddles make full use of their backyard, adhering to the modernist concept of marrying indoor and outdoor space. a water feature and bonsai trees contribute to the sense of tranquility in the garden, which is not without a touch of whimsy. “a nursery was going out of business so we bought a giraffe topiary tree,” says Stu. “now it looks like a poodle.” angles and curves make bold statements indoors and out, and a granite kitchen island is no exception. Shaped like a crescent moon, the curve of the island creates visual interest as one moves from the entryway to the back of the house. “one of my professors in architecture school said that each building should have an element of excitement,” fasola says. “this is why we have the point on the end of the island.” adding to the novelty is an abstract mural on the wall that spans from the second-floor living space all the way to the third floor where the bedrooms are. entitled ‘Sausal redondo’ as a nod to the beach cities’ history, the mural’s orange, mahogany and slate tones complement the décor of the house. conceived by a local artist, the process was not without its own sense of dramatic tension. melita’s office, located in the third-floor loft space, faces the mural. “the artist spent a month of weekends painting the mural,” recounts melita. “when he first started working on it, i could see him from my office and i’d think, ‘oh my gosh, if we don’t like this, we can’t just take it down and put it in a closet.’ But it’s beautiful.” upstairs, two bedrooms with ensuite baths comprise the rectangular wing of the home. from the peaceful stillness of the master bedroom, it’s hard to believe that busy manhattan Beach Boulevard is just a few steps from the front door. Brazilian teak floors warm up the second floor, a decision melita does not regret despite having originally lobbied for wall-to-wall carpeting in the bedrooms. melita, a community college online instructor, and Stu, an engineer who works in outdoor advertising, enjoy traveling all over the world. But what they miss the most while they’re on the road is their elaborate master bath. a spa tub spacious enough for two is the centerpiece of the space, which is flooded by natural light from large windows, opaque for privacy. the toilet, which doubles as an automated european bidet, was inspired by the couple’s international sojourns and could easily fit in a home of tomorrow exhibition. the future, perhaps as John lautner would have envisioned it, is alive and well in Stu’s spacious circular office, which is a meditation in modernity. from his desk, he enjoys an expansive view of the manhattan Beach pier and palos Verdes. as easy as it is to imagine a character from a Bond film plotting his next move here, the riddles’ motives are rooted in reality. “we’re lucky to be here,” says melita gesturing toward the room’s scenic panorama, “and have the luxury of seeing the great blue.”

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