Visit a Santa Monica dream retreat that epitomizes indoor-outdoor living

Even a modern California retreat can’t hide the Midwestern roots of Kathy Taslitz, interior designer and artist. When describing her and husband Matt Grode’s dream home of one that could be comfortably shared with family and friends, the Chicago decorator relies on one of the biggest cinematic scenes in the heartland, quoting the character of Kevin Costner in field of dreams“It was one of those moments, ‘If you build it, they’ll come’.”

Taslitz and Grode also had the tools to turn their wish into reality. As president of MG Partners, a leading construction company for custom homes in the LA area, Grode has built residences and similar relationships with bold companies such as Olson Kundig, Ferguson & Shamamian and Backen, Gillam & Kroeger Architects. (Seven of the firm’s recently completed homes were featured in AD— Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis’ modern farmhouse in Beverly Hills, Barry and Sheryl and Schwartz’s surf getaway in Santa Barbara, and Kipp Nelson’s cantilevered retreat in the Hollywood Hills , among them.) With Grode supervising construction and Taslitz directing the interior design of their own home, the duo brought in architect Howard Backen and landscape designer James Doyle to complete his team.

Together they created a modernist home bathed in sunlight and rich in natural materials, inviting textures and custom sculptural works. “I like to keep things very simple in my mind,” says Taslitz, who approached each space with the “yin and yang of heavy and light” in mind. The incorporation of organic elements such as oak floors and whitewashed wood ceilings throughout the 7,000 square foot home, for example, helped soften the blackened steel windows. Elsewhere in the open kitchen, richly veined white marble surfaces and a backsplash counter the dark-hued cabinetry and range hood. “By keeping things understated, I can then let objects of interest stand out,” says Taslitz.

And that, they do. One step through the front door and guests are immediately greeted by the first of many custom Taslitz designs, the We Need to Talk Bench, crafted from a burl wood slab perched on a large bronze globe . In the master bedroom, a pair of his Meant To Be bronze-legged oak bedside tables flank the bed, while the Party in the House indoor-outdoor dining table is upholstered in a bubblegum pink to match the climbing bougainvillea nearby on the pool deck. Until a new inspiration comes. “That’s one of the reasons why it’s so nice to be married to an entrepreneur,” says Taslitz. “I’m bored, so I’m always experimenting and changing things up. Matt always jokes, “Don’t get bored with me.”

While the palette has been intentionally kept neutral inside, a rainbow of color awaits beyond the expansive pocket doors – a signature feature of Backen used in the living room and upstairs lounge to promote living indoors and outdoors. “Having lived in Chicago most of my life, nothing makes me happier than being able to open those doors and let the outside in,” adds Taslitz.

Bushes line the exterior to create not only privacy from neighbors but also a verdant backdrop from the interior views. A rose garden wraps around the second-floor terrace, and nearby is an edible garden growing lemons, limes, kale, pea pods, squash, and more. is ready to feed guests at any time. “We love making our signature cocktail using fresh basil, lime and garden hot peppers mixed with tequila,” says Taslitz.

It is a hospitable house, indeed. “Building this house together in Santa Monica with our families and community of friends in mind is a dream for us,” she says. After a pause, Taslitz reconsiders: “Sometimes we joke that maybe we shouldn’t make it so inviting. It’s the kind of house people come to and sometimes they just don’t leave.