1960s, Rancho Palos Verdes, California

“New homes in fashionable smog-free SeaView Palos Verdes…with Ocean View Supreme,” asserts the 1960s sales brochure. 

Overlooking the Pacific Ocean and Catalina Island, SeaView, a subdivision of 190 lots, offered 1700-2000 square-foot houses with three or four bedrooms. Eight floor plans (16 counting flipped ones), unique site plans and a variety of exterior treatments precluded obvious standardization. Today, from the street, the houses are attractive midcentury modern designs individualized by rooflines, concrete block screens, entry details, garage placement and landscaping.

Williams was famous, as Ebony magazine wrote in 1948, for “the total utilization of every square foot of floor space to make more convenient, comfortable and cheaper homes.” From the entries, generous living spaces are stretched by multiple visual enticements—diagonal vistas, glimpses into adjacent areas, walls of panoramic landscapes, winks of green and blue from side windows or clerestories and varying qualities and intensities of light. Remarkably, nothing is sacrificed in the ample accommodations. Bedrooms and bathrooms are large by any standard; halls and bedrooms offer commodious storage walls that eliminate the need for drawers and cupboards.

The SeaView designs share many features Paul R. Williams included in his much publicized 1957 bachelor house for Frank Sinatra—slate entryways, fireplace walls of Palos Verdes stone, fixed and sliding shoji screen room dividers and the latest kitchen technology.

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