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C At Home

Xanadu

With so many monochromatic stairs, paths and garden terraces, a walkabout here is like cycling through an M.C. Escher drawing.

Living in a cool but small abode that was not optimizing its location was reason enough for a pair of homeowners to raze their property high above North Laguna Beach’s ultramarine waters. What they kept: its sculpted concrete rotunda. (An architect and child of artists, who grew up in the house, had built it in his youth.) 

To design a dually ethereal and grounded contemporary residence is a difficult task, but Geoff Sumich was up to the challenge. The OrangeCounty architect sited a new domicile of textural interplay with unusually placed wide stone steps and native vegetation. He planned for two simple buildings connected by a tall glass box with glass rafters high overhead. While the Tyndall effect is simply a natural phenomenon, light shining through glass creates a bare aqua tint—here, almost a nod to the sky above and bay below. In a smooth stucco structure, the glass-walled dining space spills out onto the lantern-lit cobblestone courtyard. On the living room side, facing the ocean, enormous picture windows slide open. The other building, a more private wing constructed of rough stone, leads to the serene master suite and media room. Next to the long, narrow pool above the main house and courtyard areas, the dome’s open-air space is used as a lounge and powder room for swimmers. With so many monochromatic stairs, paths, decks and garden terraces, a walkabout here is like cycling through an M.C. Escher drawing. 

Sumich and interior designer Lynn Pries both sought out a subtle blend of new materials (lightly stained wood floors) against rustic and unrefined ones (a custom dining table with a massive slab from Northern California). Tightly edited spaces are open, yet defined for a sense of intimacy with comfortable furnishings and a clean looklike hidden appliances and subtle gray panels that slide to reveal a bar and television. “It’s a livable house,” says Pries, “not overly modern but still with a lot of warmth. If it were too cluttered, you’d distract from the view.” Indeed, it’s a doors-open kind of placeone where the subtle movement of simple white sheers catching the breeze is its own form of meditation.

By Alison Clare Steingold.
Photographed by Mark Lohman.

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