You might not expect a beach house in the desert, but Becky Zeller's home at Martinez Lake is just that: a rustic beach house, complete with imported sand at her waterfront property.
A Christmas present in 2010 from her husband Brice, Zeller's two-story lakeside home rests on a hill to offer a considerable view of the lake and to provide a relaxing atmosphere for her and her family. In addition to the usual furnishings, the deck is equipped with a portable lamp, on top of which rattan fan blades rotate to provide additional comfort.
“I love the warmth here,” says Becky, who prior to 1975 had lived in Oceanside, Calif. “People in Yuma are so supportive.”
Her backyard lawn slopes steeply from the house-length back patio toward the edge of the beach with its several palm trees and wooden deck chairs. From the home's back patio with its potted flowers and padded patio furniture, an S-curved sidewalk and more concrete stairs take you down to the beach. It is a friendly place despite the large skull and crossbones hanging on one of the palm trees facing the house.
Also on the beach, two palapas, designed by former Yuma-area resident Vinnie Espinosa, provide shade and a place to set a beverage under their thatched bamboo-shaded, circular roofs. A rustic metal fire pit sits nearby on the sand, and a casual visitor might also find a fishing pole or a few bobbers scattered randomly near the boat house, which is mostly hidden among smaller palm trees.
Even before entering Zeller's home, you can't help noticing the seashell wreath hanging upon the entry door nearest the carport. It hints at her seaside beach house theme.
To the left of the exterior door is a custom-made metal sculpture of footprints, whose feet left behind two flip-flop sandals with names on each: one for Becky, one for Brice. The footprint theme accompanies the beach theme indoors, too. A metal sculpture of flip-flop sandals adorns an upstairs hall wall, for instance. Zeller says that her home's footprint theme relates to her favorite poem “Footprints in the Sand” (also known as “Footprints Prayer”), an inspirational poem about having faith in God, especially in times of need.
Your indoor home tour might begin at the thoroughly modern kitchen with its stainless steel appliances to the right of the entry door. The kitchen's dark oak cabinetry openly displays glassware in azure or clear — some embossed with fish and underwater flora, others with imprinted shells. An L-shaped bench with storage bins beneath it rests against the north and west walls, bordering two sides of the table.
You may then stroll across the laminate floors, made to resemble old wood, which lead from the kitchen into the downstairs living room/bar area.
“They are awesome,” says Zeller about her flooring. “When you walk on it barefooted, it is soft. I love it. We have done a couple of other places with that, and it's so easy to keep clean.”
Once you reach the living room area, your eye is drawn first to the dinosaur movie prop that faces the window on the patio side — one of Brice's business purchases from a movie props auction in Los Angeles. Originally he bought it to decorate another business that he owns. Its head rises above the height of the black leather couch. Now, however, the Zellers' plans for this beast call for anchoring it in the lake near the water's edge to look like a sea monster such as the fabled Loch Ness Monster.
In the center of the room, a glass coffee table, with agate inlaid into its marble borders, rests upon a rustic iron stand. The rustic iron feature is repeated in the lighting fixtures throughout the home—opaque off-white globes made to resemble seashell qualities — housed in similar rustic iron settings.
Stepping further into the living room, you will be impressed with the fireplace, whose rocky structure sits at an angle to the stairs. The rocks of the fireplace itself extend to the ceiling. Gradually, those rocks slope downward to allow enough space above them for wall hangings in front of the bar. There, for instance, you will see a dark piece of wood to which is mounted some small fish along with a large bass, its mouth snapping at a perch. The wall and fireplace rocks themselves are mostly from the surrounding terrain—metamorphic or granite conglomerates of various types along with some volcanic basalt — collected by the previous homeowner. Instead of a mantle, several rocks jut out to provide places for knick-knacks. In front of the firebox stands a bronze fan-shaped fireplace screen, which has a bronze seashell at its center base.
To the right of the fireplace, a carpeted staircase curves at the base, leading to the upstairs bedroom areas. Here you will encounter perhaps the most striking décor inside the beachside home — the variegated blue underwater seascape mural, painted on all the walls of one of the guest rooms. The room's bunk beds offer ample space for guests to lounge and enjoy the view with its painted bubble-emitting seaweed. Here guests can enjoy the mural's variety of saltwater fish and a sea turtle — unless, of course, they fear the great white shark that peers out from behind the top bunk. The north wall of the seascape depicts a sunken galleon, adding to the underwater theme. Ceramic seahorses — a larger yellow and a smaller blue one — add to the underwater effect near the closet door. Youngsters can appreciate the small clownfish, a reminder of the animated motion picture, “Finding Nemo,” near the floor beneath the room's window.
Both the upstairs and downstairs bathrooms share similar features — walls tiled about halfway up in shades of tan, with diagonally inlaid smaller tiles forming the top border. Accent rugs are aquamarine. A large piece of azure coral provides one of the accents in the upstairs bathroom. Zeller says that she especially appreciates the upstairs bathroom near the master bedroom.
“Once you get upstairs after a day at the lake, you don't want to go back downstairs,” she says.
Near the master bedroom, another guest bedroom carries out the beachside theme. On ample glass shelving set in chrome, seashells rest along with large coral specimens, shell picture frames and shell figurines. One shell figurine depicts a couple on a motorcycle, whose wheels are mauve and white shells. In that room, the bed covering is decorated with shells and seaweed of mauve and various shades of blue or green on a white background.
The master bedroom's South Seas nautical theme calls to mind a pleasant breeze at the beach. On the east wall hangs a metal sculpture of three palms. The nearby king-size's white bed covering displays a palm-embroidered foot runner across its length. The four-poster bed, constructed of ash, rests beneath a window, inset with a tropical stained glass seascape scene. Sheer aquamarine curtains drape above and to its sides.
Outside the master bedroom on the hall wall, the nautical theme continues with rustic metal sculpted fish. The display also includes a skiff with oars and a life preserver. Its bottom serves as a family photo frame. A couple of other wall décor items there display nautical knots. The knots idea is carried over outdoors, too. Knots of rope such as those used to anchor ships to piers hang outdoors along the shiny black metal hand rails that go down the back patio's concrete stairs to the lawn.
The view of the sloped lawn and lake beyond is even more impressive from the home's upper deck, whether you step onto it from the master bedroom or its outside staircase. To the east you may also glimpse the two adjoining studio apartments that serve as guest houses. For privacy each has its own entries. Beside the apartments, any overflow of guests can also be accommodated in the trailer and motor homes, each of which can sleep eight.
“This is relaxation time with family and friends,” Zeller says about her sun-kissed yellow beachside home and its matching colored apartments and mobile dwellings.
Fun at her house takes other forms, too. She tells of the time when they unrolled a large strip of black plastic for a makeshift slip-and-slide going down the length of the yard toward the beach.
“You ended in the sand if you didn't bail off before you got there,” Becky laughed, referring to the sandy beach. “Our future is a zip line. That's our next goal.”
She explained that they would like to string a line from which a handle can suspend near the top of the lawn down to the water — a bit more sophisticated than Tarzan style. Brice added that there could be a possibility of a water slide instead, but he said that any structure that extends into the lake will require official permits.
Is it any wonder, then, that the Zellers' family and guests enjoy this rustic beachside place, just as do their patrons at Waylon's Water World near Z Fun Factory, both of which they own?
Perhaps one of the wall plaques bordered on each side with powder blue seahorses in an upstairs bedroom says it best: “Heaven Is A Little Closer In A Home By The Water.”