Use patterns and textures to change up a light-filled living space

  • Succulents grace the coffee table.

  • Creating a light-filled
    living space was key to
    interior designer Anne-
    Marie Claassen’s goals
    for her home’s “California
    cool” look.

  • Sound
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  • Raising the living room
    ceiling and using a
    white palette allows the
    Claassens to change
    things up with pillow
    colors and textures.

  • Plenty of storage space (and display spots for beloved toys) make the Claassen boys happy to
    have their mother’s “family friendly” design in their bedrooms.

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When interior designer Anna-Marie Claassen and her attorney husband Brian bought their new home in Corona del Mar’s Cameo Highlands, the pair already had long-term goals for that one-story, three-bedroom house.

“We have a plan. It’s probably in years, but we bought this house because we love the lot,” Claassen explains as she sits in their sunny living room.

In fact, when the couple and their 7- and 9-year-old sons moved into the 2,400-square-foot house in July 2017, they immediately made some changes, like redoing the living room. “The living space had a scalloped ceiling, and it was a very ornate, dark wood – I would say traditional, maybe Italianate, with a heavy mantelpiece,” Claassen recalls. “We pushed the ceiling up a little, tiny bit. We kept the fireplace box, but modernized it.”

They also removed another fireplace in the area beyond the kitchen and painted the interiors white, creating an office for her Anthology Interiors design firm and playroom space for when the boys get home from school. “It’s a big living space,” she says, “The house is really about the brightness and the lot. There’s plenty of land for us to expand. Eventually.”

Each son has his own room, and there’s not only a swimming pool in the backyard, but space for an enclosed trampoline. The family dog is happy as well, as the big black lab/shepherd mix loves the large front yard. But he’d better not get used to that, since the Claassens are planning some major construction, designed to keep them in the home and the neighborhood they already love for years to come.

“We bought this because we love the lot. There’s a partial ocean view. There’s tons of room to expand. There’s only one story allowed in this neighborhood, but what we love about this neighborhood is people are being really innovative and going down, people are going into basements or digging in their garage. We love a one-story floor plan in general, but this gave us a lot of room to push out,” Claassen explains.


Interior designer Anna-Marie Claassen

The long-term plan includes elements that stay within the community’s HOA regulations, including a full renovation of the master bedroom/bathroom, which at the moment doesn’t include a walk-in closet. “We’re working with an architect now, but we think we will do a great big master, with a new bathroom, new closet,” she says. Then she adds, giddily: “We can turn this whole section into another bedroom. The third bedroom would stay and then turn the other bedroom into a laundry room. Then, we can push that wall way out and we can expand the house. It’s hopefully a five-year, maybe 10-year plan. We’re going to just totally reconfigure everything!”

Until that happens, however, the Claassen family will enjoy the comfortable, “California cool” interior design that reflects the taste and style she offers her Anthology clients. “That’s what I call this eclectic mix of midcentury modern and family-friendly stuff. I do a lot of family-friendly decorating; that’s kind of my top focus every time I meet with a client. We do a lot of indoor/outdoor fabrics inside, for example.”

That’s reflected in her own home, with an oversize white sectional sofa dominating the living room. “It’s covered with an indoor/outdoor, really washable fabric,” Claassen insists. “Kids and dogs — they just take over. But with a blank slate of white walls and washable white sofa, you can bring in a lot of interesting color and textures with textiles, pillows and everything. The neutral palette allows you to do that, even if you have kids and dogs who are going to make a mess all over the place.”

One thing that may change as the family reconfigures the house for the long run is the flooring, which is travertine. Claassen has a whole different look in mind, especially as her boys head into their teenage years.

“I love concrete floors,” the interior designer and mom reveals. “Personally, right now, that’s my favorite. You can throw awesome rugs on top of it, and it really goes with the modern look, and you can mix things in with it. And it lets the kids do all sorts of stuff all over the floors that you wouldn’t necessarily let them do on a marble or wooden floor. Kids can roll their bikes all over the place and things like that. It’s just generally really user-friendly.”

With the long-term plan in motion, it seems obvious the Claassen family is going to make Cameo Highlands its permanent home. After all, as Anna-Marie Claassen reveals, it really is as much about the neighborhood as it is about the house.

“We love the ocean views we have, the ocean access and we love Corona del Mar. The beaches are amazingly gorgeous; they’re rocky with tide pools and the beautiful arches and the caves. I can see staying here for a long time.”  ■

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A terrible fire meant a new beginning in Newport Beach

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There are few things in life as heart-wrenching as watching your home burn to the ground. Just ask Lindy and Rosa Lindholm, who lost their 6,000-square-foot, custom-designed house in Yorba Linda to the 2008 Freeway Complex fire.

“We really did lose everything,” Rosa recalls, sitting in the vast living room of the couple’s Lido Island house. “I’m still sad about my son’s baby book, which I didn’t think to take along when we evacuated. You really cannot replace that. Everything else, we just started over.”

The couple, whose three grown children had already left what Lindy calls “the homestead” by the time of the fire, are certain they would have never left Yorba Linda without the push from the disaster. “It was on two-and-a-half acres, we had a pool, everything,” he remembers. “It probably took the fire to get us to move. We were there for 18 years and we had so much stuff!”

Happily, they already owned a cottage on Via Jucar on Lido Isle in Newport Beach, so they had a temporary place to call home. “It was a little, one-story, 1,400-square-foot home,” says Lindy, whose Irvine-based company Hillcrest Contracting specializes in street improvement projects. “We were going to have it as a summer house.” They ended up living there nearly four years while they designed and built this new house, only a few miles from their daughter’s family, including their 8-year-old grandson.

Their new Lido Isle home is a striking, 5,652-square-foot “casual contemporary” corner house encompassing two lots. Copious outdoor space includes a waterfall flowing into a whirlpool spa and a second-floor terrace with two levels, fireplace and sauna. There’s even a dumbwaiter to carry food and drink from the kitchen to the top terrace.

Architect Brion Jeannette, who helped the Lindholms create their Yorba Linda home in 1988, again worked closely with the couple to realize their open design. The house has a 29-foot first-floor ceiling, with an open staircase and curved lines throughout. Giving it that grand scale yet still making it an intimate place where the couple’s family can visit and enjoy was a key element in Jeannette’s design.

“Open plans with high ceilings and large volumes have a tendency to appear massive from the exterior,” he explains. “I wanted the house to feel settled on its site and not imposing to the neighborhood. I also located the house on the site so that all sides of the home are fully exposed to natural light and ventilation. At the same time I wanted to create some intimate spaces and privacy from and for guests and their grandchildren.”

For the build itself, the couple used general contractor Neil Longman of Longman Construction, with Mark Whitaker doing all the stonework. Inside, Rosa Lindholm enlisted the help of Erin Curci of E2 Interior Design. “She helped me pick out everything – and you can just imagine how many decisions there were, when we had almost nothing to come in here with.”

One striking element of the inside is the built-in, 250-gallon curved aquarium that serves as a focal point of the downstairs grand room. “Lindy and Rosa both love aquariums,” Curci says. “It was definitely a challenge to execute on something so unique with the large expanse of radius glass. We were so excited when it finally came to fruition. It is definitely a statement in their home.”

It’s a home that the Lindholms plan to stay in for a long time – unless, of course, fate again has something else in mind.

“It was a blessing in disguise when we lost the house in the fire. Of course, we were so sad about it, but then you kind of see God’s plan. It brought us over here, to be close to our daughter and close to our grandson. And now,” Rosa says with a laugh, “we figure that this time a tsunami will get us here by the beach, not a fire!”

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No place like Lido

  • The open-air kitchen and dining area transformed the once walled-in space into an inviting family-friendly room.

    The open-air kitchen and dining area transformed the once walled-in space into an inviting family-friendly room.

  • Designer Keely Kay remodeled this Lido Isle home with an inviting "California costal" look.

    Designer Keely Kay remodeled this Lido Isle home with an inviting “California costal” look.

  • Jeff and Kirsten Ingham pose with the "queen" of the household, Lola the Australian Labradoodle.

    Jeff and Kirsten Ingham pose with the “queen” of the household, Lola the Australian Labradoodle.

  • Fun, innovative sleeping quarters offer space for friends to stay over.

    Fun, innovative sleeping quarters offer space for friends to stay over.

  • The Inghams' daughter helped select much of her bedroom's decor.

    The Inghams’ daughter helped select much of her bedroom’s decor.

  • Custom built-ins and furniture ensure that the Ingham children enjoy spending their time at home.

    Custom built-ins and furniture ensure that the Ingham children enjoy spending their time at home.

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Kirsten and Jeff Ingham came to Lido Isle on a whim. Little did they know that three houses later they would be living in what Jeff calls “the place we want to be for a long time.”

The couple – who have been together for almost 30 years since meeting in high school in the San Gabriel Valley – were planning to buy a home in Pasadena in 2004. Kirsten especially felt an affinity to that venerable California city.

“Growing up in the Midwest, I wanted to live in Pasadena because it reminded me of the Midwest. And I thought, ‘I will never live in Orange County; there’s no culture, there’s no this, there’s no that,’” she says with a laugh.

“Then we came down to Newport Beach for a weekend,” Jeff recalls, “and we ended up buying a house here instead, on the peninsula.”

That’s the place the couple started their family, which consists of “one dog, a gecko, a guinea pig and then three children. Not necessarily in that order! We have a 14-year-old boy, an 8-year-old boy and a 5-year-old girl,” Kirsten chuckles, then bends down to pet Lola, the dog, who avidly accompanies this home tour.

Their first home on Lido came after the birth of their elder son. Says Kirsten: “On the peninsula, the neighborhood we lived in wasn’t as family-friendly. We wanted a place that had other kids and room for them to play, and we found Lido. At the time, we moved into what was perfect for us. It was a small house; we had one child. It was an original Lido house built in 1931, the same year the bridge was built.”

That house was where they began working with interior designer Keely Kay, a Balboa Peninsula resident herself. Kay worked on that first Lido home as the Ingham family grew to two boys.

“Keely came in, and she’s an organizational expert, and she would say, ‘OK, you can max out this space by buying a piece of furniture that will fit in perfectly.’ So she helped us max out our space in that house, we were all good to go … and then came baby No. 3,” she says. “We were busting out at the seams. We loved that house; it was a cozy, warm home. But we grew out of it. So we rented a house then, because we couldn’t find the right thing to buy.”

But the Ingham family never considered leaving Lido once they became a part of that special island community. “There’s a saying among our friends and neighbors here: ‘You don’t move off Lido, you move around Lido.’ So we’ve done a few little house-hops, but this one is here to stay. I think we’re going to be in this one for a long time,” Kirsten says.

They found and bought their 3,960-square-foot house, a street-to-street home that sits on a 45-by-90-foot lot, in 2012 and immediately “ripped it up,” as Jeff remembers.

“The house was originally built in 1940, and then it was added onto, I think maybe three times, or even four,” he continues. “What often ends up happening here is that rather than tearing a house down, people just keep adding something on. So this one was pretty well built-out, and we realized we’d have to remodel it to make it the kind of place we wanted it to be.”

Back came designer Keely Kay, who consulted with the couple even before they chose the house. “Keely even started with us a step earlier,” Kirsten explains. “Keely was coming with us to see other houses, since most of the other houses we saw needed extensive remodels as well. She knows our family so well, and she could help us see through what it was to what it could be.”

Once the home was purchased, the collaboration began. “Keely used to call it ‘The House of Many Doors,’ because originally there were so many doors and so many passageways,” she continues. “We knew we wanted an open kitchen and a big dining room for extended family gatherings, and so we opened up the whole front of the house.”

That meant tearing out the galley kitchen, getting rid of walls, changing the orientation of closets and commodes, putting in a kids study area next to the kitchen (for easy monitoring of homework while dinner is cooking) and even replacing the façade siding and front door.

“We put in a Dutch door in the front, mostly because we always had one and we like it, and with no air conditioning, we always have it open,” Kirsten says.

Kay designed and then kept watch on every element of the renovation, from major wall removals to many of the decorative accessories used in the built-in shelves scattered throughout the house, which she describes as “California coastal with a traditional flair and a timeless influence.”

Being intimate with the family for so long was a distinct advantage for the designer. “I knew what Kirsten was after, I knew what Jeff was after, and I knew what the budget was – which we exceeded by about 15 percent in the end,” Kay says. “What I do is once we agree on the design, I have a lot of subcontractors and I act as construction manager on a project. So I oversaw the project for them as well. That way all my design details get implemented exactly as I want them. Nothing goes wrong, in other words.”

Actually, everything is right in this warm Lido home that incorporates the Inghams’ items of personal and sentimental value with Kay’s “functional but pretty” design elements, particularly evident in the upstairs sun deck. That’s where Kay created a space that had everything Kristen Ingham’s heart desired.

“It reminds me of being in Europe,” she says. “She designed the built-in seating area for it and still kept room for the ping-pong table. That was a must for me.”

And remember Kirsten Ingham’s doubts long ago about moving to Orange County? Forget she ever thought one bad thing about the county. “Now we’re so happy that this is home. I think we’re going to be in this house for a long time.”

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