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Beauty and the Beach

Contemporary living takes shape in South Laguna, with an effortless nod to beauty.

Architect Paul McClean started from scratch and created a strong modern aesthetic from the ground up. He incorporated glass windows throughout to give this home a contemporary, coastal feel.

A private sitting room with ocean views incorporates the Moodie sofa, Domo coffee table, Eric chairs and Dice chairs used as ottomans, all by Camerich.

Sliding glass doors unite indoor and outdoor space. A Park Life two-seater sofa, low dining table and Landscape club arm chair, all by Kettal, create a cozy sitting area among the elements.

Architect Paul McClean stands in the open kitchen and dining room that opens out onto the upstairs terrace he designed filled with Kettal furnishings.

The vaulted skylight ceilings, solid white oak landings and dramatic Foscarini metallic wave suspension light make this more than a typical stairway.

Portugese limestone and backlit mirrors in the bathroom set a certain mood.

Charlie Chaplin once said—to paraphrase—if a thing of beauty must be explained to be understood, its creator missed the mark. Chaplin would’ve loved this home, which sits just across the lane from his former Laguna Beach hideaway: Beauty here is completely comprehensible, no explanation required. The appeal of this contemporary residence is elemental—seen and felt in its pleasing geometry, which rises from its seaside site in such a natural way that it may seem to always have been here. Except, of course, that it hasn’t—and its seemingly organic creation was anything but effortless.

“It took us three and a half years working with the California Coastal Commission and the city of Laguna Beach just to break ground on the site,” says realtor and project manager Tyrone McKillen in his Irish brogue. Despite the challenges, McKillen (of Hilton & Hyland in Beverly Hills) was committed to contemporizing the residential landscape in this coastal city largely known for its charming beach cottages. “I’ve always loved Laguna Beach and its amazing weather, but have noticed a lack of modern architecture here,” says McKillen. “My goal was to create a house that takes full advantage of Laguna living, taking in as much view as possible.”

What did prove effortless in the process of bringing this stunning home to life was selecting the perfect architect for the project. McKillen’s natural choice was Paul McClean, a fellow Irishman known for creating modern homes that connect to the beauty of their natural environments.

“We strived for simplicity and an openness to the surrounding landscape that softens the division between indoor and outdoor space,” says McClean. “To accomplish this, we made extensive use of glazing systems to maximize views and provide a warm, light-filled, contemporary space.”

And so it is here, on a scenic South Laguna promontory overlooking the Pacific, that this vision of sophisticated ocean-view living has taken shape—literally. Artfully arranging an assemblage of clean, rectangular expanses, McClean created a three-level home that opens almost completely to spectacular ocean, whitewater and Catalina Island vistas. The design underscores the serenity of this tucked-away, ultraprivate location, with soaring ceilings and walls constructed of sliding and pocketing glass doors that disappear to create seamless transitions between 3,800 square feet of interiors and 2,000 square feet of terraces and courtyards that complement nearly every room in this four-bedroom residence.

“Paul has a very unique way of creating architecture inspired by its setting,” boasts McKillen. “With this site, he managed to maximize every square inch of view, livable space and decks so that the outdoor spaces feel just like part of the house.”

McClean and McKillen collaborated on the design and finish of the interior spaces, placing an emphasis on texture and natural materials to deepen the connection between house and site. There’s an interplay of matte and sheen, seen in the use of honed Portuguese limestone floors and polished marble countertops. It’s also seen outdoors in the concrete hardscape and glass terrace railings—a subtle reference to the juxtaposition of land and seascapes, where rugged cliffs meet shimmering waves, and man meets water. The team let the environment dictate their choices for the color palette. “It’s a beach house, so we wanted to keep it fresh and clean with lots of whites, which we warmed up with the white oak flooring,” notes McKillen.

The counterbalance of cool and warm, modern and welcoming, plays well throughout the residence priced at $6.75 million, where nearly every room enjoys showstopping ocean views and each bedroom feels like an indulgent master suite.

Other must-mention rooms include a cinema, an office with a private patio, and sumptuous, straight-from-the-spa bathrooms clad in custom-cut Carrara marble with sleek, oblong bathtubs and floating rectangular cabinets with sensuous, backlit mirrors.

A particular high point is the kitchen, McKillen’s favorite room, which presents as an impressively open and alluring space that encompasses an Ernestomeda  Italian design by Montanari Group with a full complement of Miele appliances and slab Crema Delicato marble countertops. This great room, which doubles as a kitchen suite, also includes a dining room and family room, and becomes even grander when the walls of glass doors are opened to the expansive ocean-view terrace, creating one of the most memorable indoor/outdoor rooms on the coast. 

“Usually when people think of modern architecture, they think of interesting design that’s not very livable,” admits McKillen. “In Laguna, we’ve managed to create something unique: a modern home that’s at once warm, livable and practical.”