The architect notes feeling equally thrilled by the site. “We’ve been fortunate to do a lot of homes in Malibu, but there are few better lots in terms of view,” Montalba says, explaining that the only neighbor to the property’s south is a rugged, cypress-studded ridge. “You feel like you have a private beach in LA.”
Reverence for the landscape drove the collaborators to finish Montalba’s tiered volume in shou sugi ban, “so the building didn’t stick out from the hillside,” as Graham puts it. The client was further interested in cladding the interior entirely in Douglas fir, to emulate the Walt Disney Concert Hall “and provide this real beach colony atmosphere against the dark exterior wood.” So began the many mockups that yielded oiled and wire-brushed fir planks for the floors and ceilings, with corresponding millwork in more durable rift white oak.
To underscore the night-and-day difference between exterior and interior, Montalba says he conceived a compressed entry experience by angling the house so that it would meet the steep hillside at an almost-triangular point. “You go through this tight experience that’s dark and compacted, and then it really opens up as you step in,” he says of the front door. Architectural elements of the first floor, like height changes and the location of the living area’s fireplace, prevent entrants from walking head-on into an ocean panorama. The framed views are repeated upstairs, thanks to careful placement of the primary suite’s bed as well as its shower bench, about which Montalba explains, “We create more transition between the world you’ve left behind and this place of respite and tranquility.”
Of the peaceful atmosphere, Roffoni says of Montalba and her husband, “If it was up to these guys, this would be the most minimal, pristine home.” She saw herself and Fong as filling in some of the interior’s negative spaces: “Cliff and I came in to warm things up.”
Fong also had parity on the mind, as the multihyphenate sought out welcoming furnishings that also embodied sophisticated design. “We shared the idea of this home where everybody could crash on the weekends and decompress,” Fong says. “And while people hear beach house and think of an overstuffed slipcovered sofa and a driftwood coffee table, that’s neither Tony nor Dierdre.” In another example of embracing process, the merry band of creatives undertook an unusual amount of test-driving in furniture showrooms, while layering in existing pieces as well as Roffoni’s flea-market treasures.
“Style isn’t buying everything off a showroom floor; it’s in the balance between high and low where style has its greatest moment of expression,” says Fong, who adds that several organic forms as well as an interior palette of pale beiges, grays, and blues were meant to achieve harmony with nature. The designers certainly got their outcome. As Graham concludes, “It still surprises me every morning to experience the cypresses when I wake up, and the movement of light over the landscape and into the house just hugely impacts the quality of life.”