A Point Dume local with an eye for interiors, photographer Lyndie Benson opens up her elegant beach home.
On any given day, you can find at least one bewildered tourist traversing PCH in search of Malibu. Without a significant Main Street, or any kind of organized town center beyond the ever-growing Country Mart, locals don’t seem to mind that the charm of their beloved enclave eludes outsiders.
“I like to say that Malibu is more of a state of mind than a destination,” says photographer Lyndie Benson, a Point Dume resident for the past 17 years. If you were looking for the real Malibu, you’d be well advised to turn to the native Angeleno for clues: She raised two boys here, sent them to Point Dume Marine Science Elementary School up the street and walked with them down a rocky path to the beach to surf before roll call with other local moms. Last year, she published a book of photographs, The Point (Dollhouse Publishing). A portion of proceeds from this visual love letter benefits The Malibu Foundation for Youth and Families. Look closely at the photo of the famous “Peace Paddle” that philanthropist Kelly Meyer and surfer Laird Hamilton coordinated and donated to the Natural Resources Defense Council, and you’ll spot Benson in the upper left corner, bobbing in the blue water on that cloudless day.
“I grew up in Los Angeles dreaming of moving to Malibu,” she says, perched on a pale linen sofa, in her living room, surrounded by an impressive art collection highlighted by a Robert Graham sculpture, an Ed Ruscha painting and many of her own photographs. Looking tan and fit in a thigh-grazing Michael Kors caftan, the fiftysomething Benson explains how her interior design sensibility is built around multipurpose spaces and furniture.
“I like the idea of having all the perks of an estate—but with a smaller-scale property. I don’t like to use the word downsize, but it’s just more practical to live in a house that’s not 15,000 square feet,” she says. Her version of a more manageable property includes a tennis court, a putting green, and a priceless view of the Pacific. “So I have a game room, with a ping-pong table and a pool table that can also become a dining room, with just a small conversion. James Perse custom-makes these chic game tables. I push them together and have a dining table that seats 16.”
On a tour of the house, Benson walks through an oak bar that’s stocked with candy jars and a popcorn machine for impromptu all-ages gatherings with family friends, and into a home theater. There, a massive sectional sofa has been upholstered in French terry.
“The screen retracts, and the shades lift up so you have a cozy den,” she adds. “That’s how we entertain here, with friends and kids and dogs.”
While she is not a professional interior decorator, she has taken on several home projects for friends and neighbors, most of whom are notable and, this being low-key Malibu and all, would prefer not to be name-checked. At the moment, she’s building a new home on a nearby street with Albino Construction, a beachy-traditional clapboard house which will serve as a footprint for her design philosophy.
She’s also settling into her own empty nest. Her younger son is visiting colleges while her eldest boy enters his junior year at Columbia University in New York.
“When I go to see him, I stay at The Lowell, get a driver, see a show one night and have a few fabulous dinners,” she says. “So of course I love New York—for four days. I couldn’t live there. Out here, I spend my days hiking, playing tennis, surfing, entertaining friends. The light and the sky and the water are so amazing. Honestly, there’s no place I’d rather be.”
Written by Christine Lennon
Photographed by Lisa Romerein