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Cozen-designed Manhattan Beach home picked for Modern Home Tour

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Mimi and Philipp Stephanus wanted a modern home with a warm feeling. Photos by Sarah Boyles and Martin Cox

Mimi and Philipp Stephanus wanted a modern home with a warm feeling. Photos by Annika Lundvall

by Kelly Dawson

While it’s standard for architects to ask clients about their needs before any hammers are involved, Carol Beth Cozen has an inquiry process that delves exceptionally deep.

She asks clients where they put their mail after retrieving it from a mailbox. She learns if they want privacy, away  from their children. She learns what foods they like and how often they entertain.

“Every project is different,” she said. “I listen to the clients, and I hear what they want. Then, I try to figure out why they want it.”

The process has enabled Cozen to build a diverse portfolio since she opened Cozen Architecture and Lighting in Palos Verdes, where she grew up. On Saturday, a Manhattan Beach home she designed will be open for public viewing as part of the LA Beach Cities Modern Home Tour

When Cozen began working with the Stephanus family on their Manhattan Beach property in 2011, her process took on added intimacy because she had been friends with the family for many years.

“Our daughters went to the same school,” Cozen says. Mimi Stephanus added that they were also in Girl Scouts together.

Architect Cozen prides herself on whimsical flourishes such as this translucent bridge.

Architect Cozen prides herself on whimsical flourishes such as this translucent bridge.

Mimi and her husband are longtime South Bay residents. When they bought what Stephanus refers to as “a teeny-tiny” house on a sloping lot, they wanted to completely renovate it. They were speaking with architects when they discovered a serendipitous fact about another Manhattan Beach home they admired.

“We would walk by this house on 19th Street and say, ‘If we were to do a house, then that is the coolest house.’ We love the way it looks,” Stephanus said. “As it turns out, it was Carol’s house. She designed it herself.”

Stephanus remembers how Cozen asked what time they wake up and if they would describe their morning routines. They told Cozen that Philipp Stephanus works with businesses overseas As a result, he has erratic hours. They also spoke about their desire for a modern design and a floor plan that blends indoor and outdoor spaces. Mostly, Stephanus wanted a comfortable family home.

“I knew Carol was a mom and has lots of kids and I knew that would be helpful,” Mimi said.

Construction began in the summer of 2012, and a year and a half later, the property was finished. A sunken entryway acts as a private courtyard where cotoneaster shrubs cast shadows on gray walls. A main hallway extends to views outside, and leads to a dining room filled with light from windows lining the high ceiling. Glass doors shield a gourmet kitchen beside a cozy family room. A shaded outdoor living space surrounds a colorful fire pit.

Natural light fills the bathroom through a floor to ceiling window that meets up with a skylight.

Natural light fills the bathroom through a floor to ceiling window that meets up with a skylight.

From there, in what Cozen refers to as an “office pavilion,” a removed workspace provides privacy for Philipp’s irregular work schedule. A glimmering pool, oversized barbecue, and hidden volleyball court take up the rest of the lot.

“It’s warm and livable,” Mimi said. “It’s not the kind of modern home where you walk in and there’s a cold feeling. It’s a great place to be all day.”

To build this nearly 6,000-square-foot home, Cozen scrapped the initial house and leveled the ground.

She partnered with interior designer Val Sartini to unite the common spaces and four bedrooms with simple lines, and she used zinc, wood, stucco, and concrete to promote an aesthetic of shared variety. Cozen made sure that rooms serve dual purposes. The private office doubles as a guest bedroom, which she said is important for homes near the beach. Cozen’s appreciation for unconventional design can be seen in the home.

The home was built by local builder Jeff Wilson and landscaped by Connie Heitzman.

“I love the elements of surprise and mystery,” Cozen said. “I always have a little bit of that, something that makes you smile.”

Poured-in-place concrete walls on either side of the front door and shelving at the start of the second floor are examples. Another example of unexpected delight is the relationship between Cozen and the Stephanuses. The building process strengthened their relationship, all because of the questions that built a mutual vision.

“That gave me a level of trust,” Stephanus said.

 

Christopher Kemple home

A second Manhattan Beach home on Saturday’s L.A. Beach Cities Modern Home Tour will be a walk street home designed by architect Christopher Kempel of Rockefeller Partners Architects in El Segundo.

The other four homes on the tour are in Venice and Santa Monica. Tickets are $30. Homes will be open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information visit ModernHomeTours.com. B

 

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