When a young family first moved to their home in Malibu, it was three bungalows — a main house and two guest cottages. They assumed that wouldn’t work for them, so they brought on designer Vanessa Alexander of Alexander Design to make some major changes. “We were originally just sprucing this up to make the space usable for a year before tearing it all down to build one larger structure, but after completing it they totally changed their mind about the property and fell in love with how special and unique it was,” Vanessa shares.

The main house was very closed up and divided into a lot of small rooms, so Vanessa and her team opened everything up to create a great room combination. “We really wanted a flow amongst the kitchen dining and living room and to the outdoors, both towards the bluffs and beach as well as to the other side which leads to the pool,” she says. “We connected all the buildings with a unifying set of walkways and decks, all made from reclaimed scaffold, which helps make the overall compound feel at once unified and larger.”

The Spanish Ranch-style architecture was considered throughout the renovation. Saltillo tile and arches, cobblestones, and corbels and other architectural details were kept in tact, but the heaviness normally associated with the look was mitigated by painting the previous dark brown wood a pale grey and taking the plaster finishes from rough to smooth. “I love that we were able to marry the old world architecture with the nature surrounding the property and make it more livable than even the owners thought possible!”

While each room feels distinct, there’s an overall flow and story to tell. Most rooms have sweeping views of the Pacific or the gardens. “It’s truly so unique,” Vanessa shares. “The great room is bright and elegant yet super comfortable and showcases the views and an art collection we helped them build. The master is intimate and serene.” Of course, there’s also the giant deck built into the bluff with plenty of cozy seating to take in the Malibu coastline views. It’s a true indoor/outdoor oasis, proving three homes are in fact better than one.