The small coastal city of Manhattan Beach, CA, is well known for its panoramic ocean and city views. Because of its wide range of offerings, residents have divided the city into about a dozen distinct neighborhoods, including the “Tree Section,” which is one of the most desired places to raise a family. Multi-million-dollar homes in this ruralized area fill the elevated streets to provide better views of the surrounding landscape, which is what influenced one local couple when it came to the design of their newly constructed home, according to interior designer Jennifer Allison of Jennifer Allison Design in San Pedro, CA.

“The clients were a husband and wife, and their three little kids,” said Allison, who designed the 1,847-square-foot residence, along with architect Mark Trotter of Trotter Building Designs, Inc. “They were very involved. The wife had about five different pictures [that she showed me] that had things she wanted to give the feeling [of the beach], and I ran with that. She was super open to getting that look. She says, now to this day, that based on those pictures, she feels she got what she asked for, if not more.

“We were going for a contemporary, California, coastal look,” Allison went on to explain. “It was a mix of transitional elements with a natural, watery, beachy look. We had a picture from a magazine of a Caribbean coastline which showed colors — all the way from aquas to intense blues — and which is where we drew our inspiration for our color palette.”

The three-story residence, complete with an elevator and many other high-end amenities, unfolds with a large, open-concept, living space located on the first floor, where guests enter after walking through an L-shaped entryway. Incorporated here is the living room, dining room, kitchen and back patio, which were all designed utilizing a range of blue-, green- and white-colored tiles from Lunada Bay Tile to better relay the seaside look the clients were trying to achieve, according to Allison.

Approximately 5,000 square feet of tile from Lunada Bay Tile was used in the home’s entryway, kitchen, bathrooms and backyard (for the pool border). “There is probably more tile than wood in the house — and that was a durability factor,” said Allison. “There’s maybe 1,500 square feet of hardwood floors, altogether.”

For the kitchen backsplash, 2- x 6-inch glass tiles from Lunada Bay Tile’s Tozen collection — one of the company’s newest additions — in “Erbium Natural” was employed. Tozen, an adjective defined as “naturally” or “as a matter of course,” is a handcrafted collection that uses transparency, pigment and light to tell a story, according to Lunada Bay Tile. Allison chose to use the collection’s largest size, which is a rectangular format, in a color that incorporates lighter shades of blue, green and white.

In the living room, the color scheme is carried over to continue the coordinating beach theme, which is seen in everything from the couches to the rug — even down to the drink coasters. Two expansive glass doors in this space, which span from the floor to the ceiling, open up almost the entire length of the room to the backyard patio and spa, exposing the new entertaining area Allison worked hard to create for the interactive family.

“The owners have a very active lifestyle,” said Allison. “They have weekly parties in the neighborhood and are always coming and going, so this was the perfect set-up for them.”

For the decorative tile border around the newly constructed in-ground pool in the backyard, 5/8- x 2-inch tiles — also from the Tozen collection in the color “Ebrium Natural” — were used. The mosaic tiles are shaped like elongated stretched-out hexagons, and when light shines on them, can reflect the colors of the water and other natural settings, which provide a rather relaxing atmosphere.

Upstairs, in each of the four bedrooms’ bathrooms and home’s main bathroom, is where the remaining tile from Lunada Bay Tile was used. The master bathroom’s backsplash and inset on the floor and shower feature 1- x 1-inch glass tiles from the Agate collection in the color “Firenze Pearl.” Agate, a noun defined as “a playing marble made of this substance or of a glass in imitation of it,” looks exactly like what it’s defined as. Although the tiles don’t portray the traditional colors generally seen in marble, these square-shaped tiles stay true to Lunada Bay Tile’s description of the collection, which is said to “visually combine the solidarity of stone, the fluidity of water and the translucency of air.”

For one of the bathrooms’ backsplash and shower inset, 3/4-inch penny-round glass tiles from Lunada Bay Tile’s Marbleized collection in the color “South Beach Pearl” were used. Marbleized, a verb defined as “to give a marble-like variegated finish to an object or material,” is a collection that reinterprets the timeless appeal of natural stone in colored glass. According to the manufacturer, artisans handcraft these tiles by stretching and pulling together layers of transparent and opaque glass to create complex variations in shade, tone and texture.

For another smaller bathroom, 1- x 4-inch glass tiles from a special blended collection, Sumi-e Tresse, in the color “Apple Tree Silk” were used. “Sumi-e,” a noun for the Japanese art of ink painting, is a collection which uses inspiration from the ancient art form. These handcrafted glass tiles feature soft, brush-like strokes in rich, flowing colors and are finished with an Old World-style rustic edge. The last bathroom features actual stone tiles, which measure 1/2- x 1-inch, from Lunada Bay Tile’s Buyi Slate Stacked collection in “White Gold and Izu Silk.”

“The reasons we chose these tiles were location and proximity to the beach,” explained Allison. “It was a casual look. They wanted to have a house that was informal, with an open concept. And by using the same tiles and different colors, there’s a natural flow to the house. One room isn’t so much different from the other. Every room has a different-shaped tile, but within a color palette of a Caribbean feel — from light aquas to intense teals. Those colors are popular right now, and we wanted to accent them with apple greens.”

Allison said she and the homeowners didn’t have any problems finding accent tiles to adorn the house, but rather, had a bit of a challenge finding the larger field tiles to use throughout the home for more common things such as the flooring. “In terms of the accent tile, we knew we were inspired by that color palette, but the challenge was to find field tiles to inspire that,” explained Allison. “We did a lot of Thassos (white marble), and a pretty limestone that looks like sand called ‘Mocha Crème.’ We also did a green limestone in one of the bathrooms."

Although Allison put forth a lot of work to make this project come to life, she said she didn’t really encounter any unusual challenges along the way. “Once you understand the types of thinset and adhesives to use with glass products, and the types of grout to use (in this case, non-sanded), the tile goes in super simple,” she said. “It’s very reliable and works very well. And, Lunada Bay Tile has some great product lines to use.”

The installation, which took about one week to complete, required a team of four installers from South Bay Stone, Inc. in Gardena, CA, according to company owner, Julio Castro. “For the actual tile installation, we used a specialty thin-set called MegaLite by Custom Building Products,” he said. “We used the ‘old school’ method of tar saturated paper, lath, scratch coat, cement float coat, RedGard coat and MegaLite thin-set to the tile.”

Castro explained that, along with the four installers, an additional one to two helpers per installer were also present onsite to assist with the installation. “We like to assign one crew per bathroom to maximize our time and to finish faster so that the next trade has a chance to get in and do their part to build these beautiful houses that we put together as a team,” he said.

Although this particular job didn’t present any irregular challenges, Castro said the most challenging aspect of the any installation is in fact the cement float. “It has to be perfectly plumb and square to minimize the amount of thin-set and time you spend on each individual tile,” he explained. “If this coat is the way it should be, tiling is a lot easier. If this coat is compromised, tiling becomes tedious and slow because you have to control every tile piece individually.”

Altogether, the residence took about a year to complete. Allison spent a great deal of time onsite supervising the installation, as she does with all of her projects. “I call myself a design consultant. I’m available to my subcontractors and general contractors, and I work right alongside the tile setters and anything that revolves around finishes,” she explained. “I’m here to resolve any challenges and finish any details. I’m on the jobsite from start to finish — to check and see that everything’s going according to plan. [Some things I check for include] how to finish things off, how to bevel an edge — just a lot of onsite decisions and options. Some of them are intuitive and some of them have to be creative, so it’s just better if you’re available to go over it. Otherwise, you leave it to the subcontractor to make those decisions, and I prefer to make the decision or to pass it along to the homeowner.

“There were very little changes and alterations to the [original] plans,” Allison went on to say. “Overall, it went very smoothly. The residence was also on a local home tour. The homeowners love it. A lot of people have called and wanted similar looks. Lunada Bay Tile has such a large selection of tile in these particular colorways. I feel a certain affinity towards Lunada. I feel their colors are perfect to Manhattan Beach — it’s such an easy choice to make. I don’t necessarily want to do the same thing, and I don’t have to with them because they’re always coming out with new things. They have a clear finish, silk finish, agate finish, opalescent finish, and just recently, I’ve seen completely different shapes, such as domed and arabesque shapes. I could do 50 houses and not repeat the same shape twice. They have so many different options and that’s what really appeals to me as a designer.”


Installation Details

TILE PRODUCTS: 2- x 6-inch and 5/8- x 2-inch glass tiles from the Tozen collection, Lunada Bay Tile’s Tozen collection, 1- x 1-inch glass tiles from the Agate collection, 3/4-inch penny-round glass tiles from the Marbleized collection, 1- x 4-inch glass tiles from a special blended collection, Sumi-e Tresse and 1/2- x 1-inch tile from the Buyi Slate Stacked collection — all from Lunada Bay Tile of Harbor City, CA

INSTALLATION PRODUCTS: MegaLite® Crack Prevention Mortar and RedGard® Crack Prevention and Waterproofing Membrane — both from Custom Building Products of Seal Beach, CA

NUMBER OF INSTALLERS: 4

INSTALLATION TIME: 1 year