Sea Change


A Venice Beach-based designer channels the ocean without going overboard on coastal home cliche.

By Alexandria Abramian

When translating beach theme decor into the home, most people think of an abundance of seashells, anchors and coral. Home builder/designer Kim Gordon is helping to offer an alternative approach to coastal home style—one where boho-luxe environments can embrace the sea without drowning in it.

“The beach attracts wanderlusters who value experience and not things,” Gordon says. “In turn, we create environments that attract the restless souls who respond to the call of the ocean and are never far away from their next adventure. Floor plans that open to flexible, creative lifestyles, closets and attics for luggage, long windows for immediate connection with breezes and the bristling fronds of lush landscaping keep us grounded in the analogue of our otherwise crazy city life.”

Gordon has built and designed more than a half dozen homes in Venice, all clustered around hipster haven Abbot Kinney and on the area’s highly coveted pedestrian-only walk streets that are just blocks from Venice’s iconic boardwalk. And while she designs in a variety of styles that include everything from Belgian-inspired farmhouses to Big Sur-style retreats, each project beckons the beach in unique ways.

In one walk-street home, Gordon has created an outdoor room where dedicated surfboard parking is meant to be seen, not hidden. In another, a ground floor shower is accessible from the backyard, providing a clever design solution to avoid sandy floors.

And while the beach designs may differ from home to home, each of her projects share certain features. All houses include her signature steel-framed glass walls to not only ensure that as much light floods in as possible, but also to entice residents to live outdoors as much as in. Landscaping is another key component to all of her homes, designed to encourage residents to live outdoors as much as possible, and also to highlight the coastal airflow. “A lot of the plants we select are chosen for the sounds they make when responding to ocean breezes,” she says.

When it comes to bringing ocean views into the homes, Gordon faces a unique set of challenges in Venice, a mostly flat city where trophy vistas are reserved for the small number of homes located directly on the beachfront. Small lots, height limitations and urban density all make it difficult to catch that glimpse of a sunset. Gordon’s response? Each home she creates includes a fully outfitted, third floor deck area for unobstructed ocean, city and mountain vistas, often with Venice’s iconic palm trees in view. “Beach city homes are snugly strung together, which provides stacked opportunities in design. Our third floor decks offer up sunset and rooftop views for moonlight and moments of quiet reflection.”

Abbott-Kinney beach home
Despite Venice Beach’s small lots, Gordon’s homes are spacious without sacrificing outdoor space. In this home located off Abbott Kinney, the main living area features double height ceilings and steel frame windows that open to the garden. The two-sided fireplace faces both the living room and an outdoor sitting area.


Rooftop in Marina del Rey
Gordon’s home all feature a third story deck area with 360 city, mountain and occasionally ocean views. She often outfits the spaces to make for easy outdoor entertaining.


Marina del Rey House
Flexible living is key to her approach to home design. In this house, the garage was designed to easily convert into living space. Here, surf- and skate- boards are integrated into the design to make for a colorful — and functional — nod to beach living.


Master Bath Ocean Style
In the master bathroom of one project, Gordon extends the steel frame windows that look onto a private garden area. Instead of overcrowding rooms with beach-themed pieces, she opts for a less-is-more approach to ocean-inspired design.


Abbott Kinney Home
In another home located off Abbot Kinney, Gordon created a dining room that goes from a cozy winter retreat to an almost-outdoor summer space with its glass walls that open to the garden areas. Gordon gives special consideration to plantings, not just for looks, but also for sound. “When plants rustle with the ocean breezes, it makes for a magical kind of music,” she says.


Belgian Farmhouse in LA
Located on one of Venice’s coveted walk streets, this Belgian farmhouse-inspired home keeps the indoor/outdoor flow going with a dining space that opens to a lushly landscaped front garden. Channeling Venice history, Gordon purchased a black-and-white photo that originally hung in Hal’s restaurant, the iconic Abbot Kinney eatery.


Jewel homes

High-Tech, Coastal Chic

A new collection of Silicon Beach luxury homes designed by Orange County-based architect Robert Hidey is found in Playa Vista.

Next door to Venice is Playa Vista, where Google, YouTube, Imax and other tech titans have offices. Once home to Howard Hughes’ aerospace empire, the community has evolved into the heart of Silicon Beach with its mix of high-tech and design-driven residences. The latest collection of luxurious single-family homes, called Jewel, mix personal elevators and smart-home systems with modern designs playing off Playa’s beachy vibe. Floor-to-ceiling glass walls reveal hidden gardens while spacious third-floor terraces come with outdoor kitchens. And the views are A-list: They pan from the Westchester bluffs to a sparkly urbanscape of parks, shops and, yes, cool, new tech offices.