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Penthouse Perfection

An Irvine high-rise turns into the perfect retirement perch

Clients Randie and Paul Williams with Fumiko Faiman, left, and her daughter, Lisa Faiman, of International Custom Designs.

Starting the third act of life can sometimes be disconcerting for retirees, but not for Randie and Paul Williams. As they were retiring from their careers as educators, they made a plan for a new beginning.

“We knew that we just wanted to start over, like we were newlyweds!” says Randie, who taught middle school math and has been married to Paul, a high school music instructor, for 26 years. “We lived in Huntington Beach for about 28 years in a condo with a spiral staircase that led up to a loft. So we knew when we moved that we wanted a place designed for living well as we get old. So we definitely wanted our new home to be on one level, for starters.”

The couple, 67 and 70, began their search for that ideal retirement home in 2014 and settled on buying a condo in 2015 in the “urban master-planned community” of Central Park West in Irvine, just off the 405 in the Jamboree corridor. There they found a penthouse perfect for their needs: 1,850 square feet, with two bedrooms, two baths and two patios, along with a large garage and all the amenities of the community – fitness center, swimming pool, verdant neighborhood parks and more.

Knowing they wanted to create a new way of living, the Williamses decided to enlist the help of interior designer Fumiko Faiman and her daughter Lisa, of Irvine’s International
Custom Designs. 

“I went onto Houzz.com and I’m looking through portfolios, hours and hours and hours of portfolios, and as soon as I saw Fumiko’s portfolio, I was in love,” Randie recollects. “There was no doubt in my mind I wanted to use her when we were ready.”

Because the Williamses were really serious about starting over, bringing only a few works of art and “a box spring and an old couch and an old table” to the new place, the Faimans were challenged to develop a complete home esthetic for the couple in every room, every nook and every cranny.

“To create the first look, to imagine what they wanted, I knew they wanted to have their dream home after retirement,” Fumiko recalls. “So we asked, ‘What kind of house is their dream home?’ We started from there, and talk and talk with them about what they love and what they want it to be. From that, I knew that they wanted something with a more luxurious kind of look. But, knowing their personalities, it wasn’t luxury with a stuck-up attitude! So it’s like luxurious, but very warm and inviting – that kind of feel. Once you get there, then you can start deciding on all the elements.”

The beautiful result is a melding of what the longtime interior designer calls “Asian contemporary urban organic style” with a bit of mid-century modern thrown in.

“Basically, I wanted to bring in a soothing aura, a peaceful feel. In the selection of lighting, for example, a kind of organic feel. That’s what I like in my esthetics. In the color palette too, using earth tones gives that feel,” she says.

Much of the furniture is custom-made,
from the living room’s built-in wall-to-wall cabinet and sofa (upholstered in a pop of azure in an otherwise neutrally toned space) to a massive teak dining table, which was the source of one of the assorted glitches in the months-long process of designing this splendid retirement home.

“There were many unexpected issues as we went along,” explains Lisa Faiman. “The dining-room table – this one was not the original table that was specified. The one that was originally specified arrived damaged three times. Three times! So that was difficult. The company really tried to make it right, but it was just too much. The base was originally a hammered metal base with a teak top. Who knows why, but each time it arrived, the base had various levels of damage, big dents or else it didn’t sit on the floor correctly. It was just rocking back and forth. Now it is all teak, including the base. That was a real ordeal, but Randie and Paul didn’t let anything like that bother them at all.”

Other wrinkles along the way included “an issue with the finish of the custom bedroom furniture, an issue with one of the recliners, an issue with the pillows on the custom sofa”; in fact, as Lisa admits, “the list is pretty extensive!”

There were some wiring snafus as well, all solved by Jim Borras, a general contractor in Orange. “He did a great job for us,” says Randie. “We had some interesting challenges, but Fumiko and Lisa were amazing. They did just an amazing, amazing job. The whole thing was just a process. And it was so much fun!”

The Williamses’ enthusiasm for their new home bubbles over in every room, as they point out the gray-and-silver bamboo wallpaper and Italian glass light fixtures in their foyer all the way to their massive master bathroom with the Faimans’ select touches that make it feel like a luxurious private spa.

“I wanted clean lines and an aura of serenity, peacefulness,” Randie says. “And I got exactly that. Now we have to live here forever.”

And Paul chimes in. “I’ll do great in a wheelchair around here, if that time ever comes,” he adds, “It’s exactly the retirement home we wanted.” 

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