Ridgewood Heights is an often-overlooked niche neighborhood, an offshoot of the Bixby family of neighborhoods, just north of Bixby Terrace and Bixby Knolls; it’s sometimes called Bixby North.
It’s a quiet neighborhood bordered by San Antonio Drive to the south and between Atlantic and Cherry avenues. The streets are lined by mature trees and the houses are well-maintained family residences.
Standing out a bit, though not ostentatiously, is a mid-century modern home, painted in a cheerful bright yellow and called “The Sunlight House” by its architect Paul Tay, a true master of the form and whose numerous houses in Long Beach and beyond are celebrated for their flawless following of the form that focused on functionality, clean horizontal lines and a sense of minimalism and sleek style that fit in well with the emergence of the booming optimism and changing attitudes of America in the middle of the 20th century.
It’s sometimes called “The Bernice Tay Residence,” named for Paul’s mother, a notable local Realtor of the era who was the home’s first listing agent and owner of record of her son’s creation.
Tay’s Sunlight House, at 1106 E. 45th Way, is on the market now, listed by mid-modern expert and specialist Doug Kramer at $1.249 million, making it one of the pricier homes in Ridgewood Heights, and deservedly so.
Tay homes are a notch above the crazily popular Cliff May houses in East Long Beach’s Ranchos neighborhood in both quality and style.
The three-bedroom, two-bath, 1,774-square-foot home was designed in 1952 when the young Tay was still working with mid-modern architect George Montierth, then Long Beach’s official city architect, in Downtown’s Ocean Center Building.
The home lives up to its name, with a brilliant white-and-yellow exterior, a flat pitched roof and a yard covered in white rock and dotted with drought-tolerant plants. Inside it’s painted white throughout, with oversize or floor-to-ceiling windows in every room, supplemented by clerestory windows letting in even more sunlight.
The open-plan living room and kitchen features a dramatic wide flagstone fireplace whose stonework extends through to the exterior.
“Each fireplace in Paul Tay homes is a unique signature of his work,” says Kramer. “Some are stone, some have a metal facade; they varied significantly and all are prominent and very tasteful.”
Typical of mid-modern, the ceiling is soaring with exposed wooden beams. The same style of ceiling is repeated throughout the house.
The backyard is pure SoCal with multiple conversation/lounge areas including a large covered and illuminated patio on a wood deck next to a long, two-hole putting green that’s surrounded by a white-rock border.
“I really like the neighborhood,” said Kramer. “It’s not well known; it kind of flies under the radar.”
While in Long Beach, Tay worked from the compound he designed at 3369 Crest Drive, by a San Diego Freeway on-ramp near Wardlow Road and Long Beach Boulevard. He designed more than 30 homes in Long Beach, including models in Park Estates, Alamitos Heights, Bixby Knolls and Los Cerritos.
He left Long Beach and moved to Mendicino in the early 1970s and called that city his home until his death at 97 in 2021.