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A Dream Home Realized

Neighborhood woes for the Knowles end with the modern, open-air home they always wanted.

The large kitchen is one of the many spots designed with entertaining in mind.

In 2010, when C.C. and Chris Knowles finally were in a financial position to raze their Corona del Mar house and build their dream home, they thought it would be easy. At least C.C. did.

“When we moved in 12 years ago, it was a single-story house that had water damage; it had lots of issues,” she recalls. But at that point, with Chris working for George Chevrolet (her parents’ car dealership) in Bellflower, there wasn’t enough extra cash to tear it down.
“We moved in and the car business kind of tanked, and GM was having all their problems, so we couldn’t rebuild or redo anything then. We just cleaned it up and lived here for seven years,” C.C. Knowles says. Two children (ages 10 and 7) and an economic upswing later, the couple were ready to build, enlisting Newport Beach architect Craig McIntosh of McIntosh Architectural Design to bring to life C.C.’s vision of an ultra-modern home with expansive views.

Planning and designing the house was a delight, both C.C. and Craig agree. But then they ran into the Harbor View Hills Homeowners Association and hit some serious roadblocks when some neighbors complained of blocked views.

“We got together and pretty much designed the house pretty quickly,” McIntosh reflects. “Then we created this package to present to the neighbors, and that’s when the fight started. The odd thing, too, was that the neighbors nearest didn’t have any issues with it. It was the ones that are the furthest away.”

It took them over two years to get permission from the homeowners association to begin building; and today, as C.C. Knowles sits in her capacious living room with its expansive sliding-glass walls looking out on the ocean and the Balboa Pier, she’s delighted that the whole drawn-out experience didn’t break her.

“We contemplated moving a couple of times,” she admits. “But I would dream at night, and I could see myself walking down the hall. I could visualize the house three dimensionally, because I had looked at those plans for so long.”

Construction began in 2012, and the Knowles family finally settled in to their new home in December 2014. Their previous house on the lot was 1,862 square feet, with “a lot of unused front yard,” according to the architect, and the odd choice of the master bedroom situated near the street and the garage, rather than facing the incredible view. “The two front bedrooms were the ones with the view. So our kids had great views and we were stuck with two little windows out to the side yard and a slider door out to the patio,” Knowles says with a chuckle.

The new home boasts 3,814 square feet, primarily accomplished by reducing the front and side yards. McIntosh reveals one trick he used to create the massive great room with its feeling of high ceilings and large spaces. “We actually ended up lowering the site about 18 inches to get more height,” he says. “We just built a retaining wall and lowered the site itself.”

The owners and architect agreed on the goal for this sleek modern home, the same thing McIntosh strives for in all his designs: an open floor plan with minimal halls and as much glass and natural ventilation as possible. Building from the ground up, without saving a single wall, meant they had the freedom to create a breathtaking concrete structure that could bring the outdoors in.

From the street, the seemingly low-slung house is protected by a 4-foot fence, which “gives us that privacy we wanted,” according to Knowles. Without that fence, the home would be a bit of a fish bowl since the extra-wide pivot-glass front door allows a passer-by to see straight through the great room of the house to the astonishing ocean view beyond.
The kid- and pet-friendly ceramic floors mimic gray petrified wood, while the entranceway and back patio are done in a companion tile designed to look like the bark of that petrified wood. Numerous built-in elements catch the eye, including a massive granite fireplace framed by dark built-in shelves, light-and-bright gray walls, high rectangular single-pane
windows along the side wall and a quartzite bar area with a sweeping picture window that seems perfect for entertaining.

But it is the central wall of this great room that is so striking, with its floor-to-ceiling glass pocket doors that bring the vista of the Pacific Ocean right into the room. With a gentle push, the whole wall seamlessly disappears, as the indoor space meshes flawlessly with the outdoor, flowing onto a patio that includes a fire pit and water feature. The large dining room and huge kitchen are also part of the open flow, with strategically placed skylights bringing in even more of the light and air that McIntosh believes are elemental to a happy home.

The rest of the Knowleses’ dream house feels just as expansive, with the comfortable master bedroom now looking out a glass wall onto the ocean and including walk-in closets and a Jacuzzi with a lovely view. Two more bedrooms with en suite baths for the kids, a guest bedroom, a TV/game room and a laundry room complete the home, for which C.C. Knowles did all the interior design, a task that resulted in her forming Pull It Together, a company dedicated to “helping people finish whatever it is they need to finish.”

And the most ironic thing about the whole project, as McIntosh tells it? “Once the association finally approved it, no one said anything at all ever again,” he says with a grin. “And the biggest complainer? He bought the house that is closest to this one, and is now building a house there that looks very similar to this one. So the guy who was complaining the most about our building this house moves the closest to it!”

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