A tall, five-level residence made of tall vertical wood pillar and cubes of glass and windows.
The Ray Kappe-designed home at 218 Rivo Alto Canal is on the market, listed at $4.5 million. Photo by Bryan Kopecky.

A house like the one at 218 Rivo Alto Canal in Naples would appear to be a more comfortable fit in the hills and canyons around Hollywood, perhaps high up in the hills off Woodrow Wilson Drive or in the canyons of Laurel and Topanga.

But, miraculously, the California modernist home has carved out a space for itself along Naples Canal with a solid view of Alamitos Bay.

Ideally, the tall and slender wood-and-glass structure would perhaps prefer to be alone amid stands of towering pines, or even redwoods, along with scattered ferns and other woodland flora.

But if the three-bedroom, three-bath home is going to be in Long Beach, its location in Naples is the best place for it, with the slow, bucolic kayakers and paddle-boarders gliding past within easy view of the living room and a gentle sea breeze weaving its way through the home’s numerous windows and accordion doors that can be opened to launch the living area into the outdoors.

The home, known originally as the Penn/Crowell House, named for its original owners, is one of the most imaginative homes on the island that’s well known for its imaginative residences.

A tall home on the Naples Canal made of tall vertical wooden pillars and glass with large glass cubes attached.
A Ray Kappe-designed five-level home for sale along the waterfront on Naples Island in Long Beach, Wednesday, June 14, 2023. Photo by Thomas R. Cordova.

Designed by the renowned post-war modernist architect Ray Kappe, who died in 2019, it’s an impressive marriage of wood—originally redwood and since redone with more resilient Brazilian ipe wood—and a nearly opulent amount of glass, including two massive boxes hanging from the third floor down to the second, jutting from two sides of the building. Besides serving as a key part of the striking design, the function of the cubes, which are open at the bottom, is to disperse the buildup of heat as well as enhance air circulation in the interior. The combination of the geometric shapes gives a sort of Jenga effect with its jumble of disparate roofs, columns and decks.

The stairs linking the five levels of the home at 218 Rivo Alto Canal, Wednesday, June 14, 2023. Photo by Thomas R. Cordova.

Inside, the floor plan consists of a series of intersecting spaces, with a handsome wooden stairway tying the home’s five levels together—a sub-level wine cellar; the living/dining/kitchen area; the second floor with a an office with an expansive view of the water as well as two large bedrooms; the third floor, given over to the primary suite with access to a balcony; and finally the rooftop terrace with an unimpeded 360-degree view that stretches over the surrounding rooftops to the mountains, Palos Verdes Peninsula, Alamitos Bay, down the coast and over the Pacific to Catalina.

A rooftop view of the canal leading into Alamitos Bay.
The view from the top roof terrace of 218 Rivo Alto Canal, now on the market listed at $4.5 million, Wednesday, June 14, 2023. Photo by Thomas R. Cordova.

Although many of Kappe’s homes were built in the more rustic areas of LA County—his designs lend themselves to uneven and terraced terrain that’s generally inhospitable for builders—the Rivo Alto home, built in 1976, is one of three Kappe homes on the canals of Naples. The Willis A. and Katherine Stoner house was built at 5679 E. Corso di Napoli in 1956 and sold in 2021 for $4.4 million; the George Padgett Residence at 5610 Naples Canal was built in 1987 and is still owned by the family.

Realtor Greg Bingham has listed the home at $4.5 million, which is a bit pricey for most of us Long Beachers but pocket change for buyers from the South Bay who have been swooping into our waterfront areas of late to pick up relative steals.

“That’s where most of my customers are from these days,” says Bingham. Not so much from Orange County, but a lot from Palos Verdes and the pricey parts of the South Bay,” where prospective buyers looking for homes on the water don’t blanch at a price tag in the mid-seven figures and consider Long Beach to be a bargain—something that’s beginning to change a bit as more people discover the once fairly well-kept secret of the seaside neighborhoods of the Peninsula and Naples.

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Tim Grobaty is a columnist and the Opinions Editor for the Long Beach Post. You can reach him at 562-714-2116, email [email protected], @grobaty on Twitter and Grobaty on Facebook.