This Hermosa Beach Home With an Underwater Pool Window Nails California Living

Drawing from Nordic, midcentury modern, and beach house traditions, this family home is serene yet playful.
Text by

By the time Jen and Glenn Cole moved to the Los Angeles area after years of living in often-overcast Holland (and before that, even rainier Oregon), the couple and their children were ready to soak in some sun. They purchased property in Hermosa Beach, just blocks from the ocean, and set about planning their future home. "Our brief to our architect was, ‘We want it to be like a beach house: light, airy, midcentury modern feeling, but modernized," recalls Jen.

The Coles and their children love hitting the beach, just four blocks away.

LMDesign Architecture Studio created a glassy single-story wing for the living room on the west side of the property, and a two-story wing to the east that includes a second-floor master that’s set back from the house’s perimeter with its own deck and surrounding green roof.

"We talked about midcentury homes in Palm Springs, tall ceilings, very thin roof lines, and a layout where natural light and traffic could flow easily from one end to the other," LMDesign principal Luis Murillo recalls. "It was a lot about indoor/outdoor connection and how you could be indoors and still feel like you’re outside."

A sitting area in the front yard encourages neighbors to stop by for a chat. 

Tucked behind the living room near the back parking area (screened by a hedge), the pool and small deck become an extension of the great room.

Indeed, outdoor spaces seem almost as prevalent as indoor ones. A small pool and deck are tucked behind the living room, for example, and ripples of water reflect the continually changing light through a wall of glass.

A parking pad in back doubles as a walled-in courtyard, and a seating area in front encourages neighbors to stop by. Off the master bedroom is a second-floor deck, and on top of the house lies an additional entertaining area with sofas and even a small outdoor kitchen. Yet they’re all connected—in part, by an atrium-like stairway that makes it easy for people on different floors to communicate.

Viewed from above, the house shows off its multiple outdoor entertaining areas and lush vegetation

"The space flows so easily," Murillo adds. "You can have a private party back in the pool area with your family, or you can open it up and make it a large party by combining the spaces and opening all the sliding doors, to make them all connected."

As with many family homes, the center is the kitchen, which can be seen prominently from the street thanks to a strip of floor-to-ceiling glass along the front facade. The custom Henrybuilt kitchen can’t be missed—in part because of its yellow color. It’s one of many examples of how the interiors take inspiration from the vivid tones of the Southern California setting—including a wall of aqua in Jen’s office, and the deep orange mudroom. 

The home’s Henrybuilt kitchen is a focal point. The yellow hues of its cabinetry are softened by white oak finishes on the floors and the kitchen island.

"A lot of clients don’t want to do color," says interior designer Olivia Erwin. "They could easily have said, ‘We’re going to have a beautiful walnut-faced kitchen like everyone else is doing.’ This is so different—and once we decided to go full throttle with the yellow in the kitchen, it freed us up to try colors in other places."

Among those pops of color, though, the house is ensconced in natural wood—from the white oak floors to a host of built-in bookshelves. Inspired by their time in Holland, the Coles sought a combination of natural wood textures, warm modernism and what Murillo calls "millimetric" precision.

"There’s a place for things," Jen says. "And when there’s a place for things you don’t feel the stress of your life as much."

An upstairs desk can provide a place for Jen’s work or their kids’ homework. When not in use, it disappears into the wall.

Shop the Look

Balancing out the precision of the clean-lined architecture and interior built-ins, however, is the home’s lush vegetation. Landscape designer Rob Jones introduced an array of native plants in the front yard, planters throughout the interior, and a partial green roof surrounding the set-back second floor.

"We knew we had to bring in something else to soften all those rigid lines," Murillo explains. 

The master bedroom enjoys ocean views, with plantings providing a sense of lushness and a touch of privacy screening.

The underwater pool window not only adds a touch of whimsy, but helps illuminate the basement.

Yet the biggest "something else" at the Cole residence has to be its underwater pool window, which actually has a function beyond kitschy novelty. "Glenn always wanted to have a secret passageway to something. The pool window has this element of surprise," Jen says. "But it also adds a lot of light."

As it reaches the basement, the stairway widens to become bleacher seating. "It’s actually a meditative space," she adds. "You can sit there and stare at the water. People who visit say, ‘You should sit here all the time.’"

Related Reading:

This Renovation Will Make You Rethink the Look of a California Beach House

A 1970s Bungalow Is Transformed Into a Breezy Beach House in California

Project Credits:

Design Architect: LMDesign Architecture Studio

Architect of Record: Lean Arch Inc. (initial design)

Builder/General Contractor: GeorgeMinardos, Brett Butler, Minardos Group

Structural Engineer: Shane Adams, Palos Verdes Engineering

Landscape Design: Rob Jones, Jones Landscapes

Lighting Design: Moritz Hammer, KGM Architectural Lighting

Interior Design: Olivia Erwin, Olivia Erwin Interiors

Kitchen Design: Henrybuilt

Millwork: Daniel Brubaker, Aleksandar, Inc

Client Representative/Contact: Maria Gabriel, Gabriel Projects


Last Updated


Get the Pro Newsletter

What’s new in the design world? Stay up to date with our essential dispatches for design professionals.