Julie Laughton

This design-build dynamo handles the remodeling process from start to finish

Photo courtesy of JLDB

Photo courtesy of JLDB

Discuss how the design-build industry has evolved since you started in the field. What is the most significant difference, and how have you adapted? 

I think the biggest thing is that I have evolved as a designer by becoming a general contractor. In doing so, I have been able to streamline the process for the client and quickly realized this is the best thing that could be done for a client overall. My clients have the luxury of only talking to me and not five other people. For example, the traditional way of working would be the client engaging in back-and-forth conversations with the other team members they have hired, such as the architect, interior designer, kitchen designer, landscape architect and general contractor. The traditional way is still frustrating and there are many ways to improve it, but it all starts with a good plan and working with quality people.

How does your background in commercial design influence your residential work? 

My background in commercial design made me the true professional I am today. It gave me professional business experience at an early age. I learned how to perform under the guidance and direction of some of the top people building in New York City at the time. 

What are the most memorable projects you’ve designed and built and why do they stand out for you? 

The most memorable are the historical ones, like the Wallace Neff home in Pasadena. I did research and worked with multiple craftsmen to duplicate several vintage details. My other favorite type of job is a typical mid-century home where I can blow out the walls and do any style the client wants, which gives me total freedom to create the finished look.

Tell us about some of the homes you’re working on right now. 

All of the homes are older remodels that are being completely transformed inside with lots of help from my structural engineer. I use a lot of steel, so I can take out walls and do open plans. More than half of the remodels are undergoing complete exterior makeovers with new outdoor living spaces and landscaping.

Describe your clients—and how do you think they would describe you? 

My clients are passionate about their homes and know what they want, but don’t know how to achieve it, nor do they have the time. They describe me as a very creative and talented person with a vision, who can see the end result before they see it. They also admire the speed at which I work at and my efficiency, which takes out all of the stress for them. I am constantly being called ‘Johnny on the spot.’ And my clients know that I am always available to them. As a true one-stop shop, there is very little for the client to do after the job starts, and they very much appreciate me handling the stress of the remodel for them.

How elaborate is your artistic process—do the ideas come easy? How do you know if an idea will ultimately make for a great design?

The ideas come easy for me. I see the space’s potential immediately. It’s like the space talks to me when I walk into the home. Then I just have to execute it all and engineer it. Once the plans are drawn to scale and the materials are picked, the design just sings to me and it feels right.

How hands-on are you when it comes to the building portion of your business? 

I am 100 percent hands-on. As the old saying goes, ‘The devil is in the details.’ Nothing gets done without my approval. As far as my overall company, I handle my own marketing, I take every initial phone call from the client personally, and I am the only one who meets and communicates with the client throughout the project. I personally draw all of the plans, create all of the design details and select all of the materials. I work with my engineer one-on-one so he’s clear on what I want, and I am clear on my options before the plan is drawn. Then I permit the job at the city and run the job personally from conception to completion on a daily basis. I wear my orange ostrich cowboy boots for a reason…because I spend a lot of time in the dirt at the job site. This girl from Iowa still has to maintain some kind of style while she is performing her duties in the design-build world.

What are the spaces and architecture that have had the most impact on your own work?

The Art Deco era for its style, and my love of all architecture in general.

What design and construction trends are you seeing right now? 

The trend is the use of cleaner lines and easier maintenance, but all still done in a warm, organic style. For example, I am using a lot more porcelain flooring that looks like wood. And I am using manmade solid surfaces more often than I am using natural stone slab such as granite and marble. 

Describe your dream property. 

A Dwell-like modern, cube-shaped house with all glass on one side overlooking a vast open view of either the mountains or the desert and no other houses in sight.

What’s your favorite part of your home?

It’s the fact that I didn’t use white paint anywhere. All of the colors I used are warm grays and natural earth tones, which create a very soothing environment. I also have a fantastic view of rolling green hills outside the rear of my home, which is like an Impressionist painting.

JULIE LAUGHTON

28885 Woodspring Circle, Trabuco Canyon, CA 92679 ~ 714.305.2861 |  JulieLaughton.com

Crown in the Canyon

A French Mediterranean estate transforms everyday living into art... and brings nature along, too

 

Written by Constance Dunn     Presented by Chris Valli, Surterre Properties

As you glide from the freeway towards Shady Canyon, it’s easy to see what inspired James Irvine and his partners to scoop up as much of this natural bounty as they could back in the late 1800s. Clean, gentle air whistles softly across the land and a peaceful expanse of rolling hills and valleys cradle a picture-book Californwwwia landscape, still vastly unspoiled. 

Once you enter the private community, there’s more of the same. Landscaped blocks of greenery and quiet, punctuated by a collection of homes, luxurious and symmetrical in their style, each a type of classic Mediterranean. Open-air floor plans, flush with courtyards and breezy alcoves, make it an architectural style ideally suited to Southern California’s kind year-round climate and pleasing scenery. 

Perhaps the most idealized, elegant version of this style exists at the end of a cul de sac, along a high elevation of the canyon, and with a bird’s-eye view stretching across miles of rolling hillside and including Newport Beach, Catalina Island and, on a clear day, even the water and downtown Los Angeles. It’s a stone-laden French Mediterranean estate, approximately 12,500 square feet and poised on over an acre of plush hilltop. If you’re fond of seeing neighbors at every turn, you won’t be so satisfied here: the nearest house is a short hike down the road.

Authentic Artistry

Sometimes attempts at grand properties fall flat because the bar is so high, and missteps—either in design, craftsmanship or good taste—become glaring, creating an irreparable chink in the armor. In this case, the result, was an authentic French-style country estate completed in late 2013 and perched in a perfect slice of California countryside. Its dyed in the wool, rusticated elegance comes from undisputed achievement on three fronts: craftsmanship, landscape, and design. 

Carlos Elenes of EBTA Architects, Robert Ferguson Company (construction), Carolyne Ferguson Design (interior design) and G. Grisamore Design (landscaping) produced the singularly realized vision.

The fine workmanship is visible to the eye, yes, but also palpable to the senses—and is consistent through the entire home. “The quality of the construction,” agent Chris Valli of Surterre Properties says swiftly when asked about highlights of the home. “Phenomenal craftsmanship. Phenomenal materials.” 

The most plentiful material, woven through the interior and cladding the exterior, is pale stone, a smart choice that, along with the clay-barrel roof, is impervious to heat and wind. Another dominant material is wood—ranging from rough-hewn, repurposed and aged to smoothly finished new stock. Valli points out an ancient wood-and-steel door sourced from an old building abroad. “A lot of the material was brought in from Europe.” Decor, from lighting and furniture to rugs, bedding and even floor tiles, if not custom-created for the home, is antique. 

Marriage of New and Old

The deft blending of new and old is found throughout the home. The family room is a place where crisp modern couches juxtapose against pale French Chambord oak flooring and a ceiling of reclaimed wood beams and tiered brass chandeliers. A painted Gustavian-style cabinet (think a restrained, Scandinavian version of French rococo) mingles with an antique French limestone fireplace. 

The colors throughout the home are an easygoing palette of creams, taupe and soft browns. It works, and spotlights the natural splendor that surrounds the place. This is where master landscaping kicks in. Like the rest of the home, the sophisticated duality between elegant and rustic is at play. European garden mainstays—slender Cypress trees framing the pool lawn, tidy boxwood hedges—mingle with scrubby olive trees, wild French lavender and lemon trees; the effect is free-form beautiful without ever being too precious.

The home’s thoughtful network of French doors and windows, plus a floor plan arranged around fresh-air courtyards enables an intimate interplay of indoor and outdoor spaces. The European-style kitchen, for instance, features a network of fine appliances (a decorative steel range from La Cornue is a highlight) and Cararra marble islands tucked under a curved, wood beam ceiling. It’s yet another grand, romantic space with close connection to the outdoors; this time via an adjoining morning room surrounded by walls of French doors to bring in sunlight and a panorama of valley views.

A Beautiful Break

For every grand gathering spot in the home, there is another offering peace and solitude. Poetic sitting areas and quiet spaces are found at every turn, including a studious office suite with full bath and separate entrance. “It’s a very flexible floor plan,” says Valli. “The layout is conducive to 90-percent single-story living. You’ve got two bedrooms upstairs, but the rest is down here.” Speaking of, the two upstairs bedroom suites (out of the home’s five) can function as a standalone visitor’s quarters, complete with a lounge. Likewise for the subterranean level, which houses a bedroom suite along with a gym.

The entrance of the home is fitting—one elegantly sculpted courtyard leads to another, then a row of doors welcomes you inside. It’s a first impression that is never diminished, and only builds while walking through the home and grounds.

In all, the property seems designed around letting one take a beautiful break from everyday life, which lies, conveniently enough, not too far from its custom, antique front doors. “It’s such a desirable area,” says Valli of the locale. “It’s one of the nicest places to live in the world.” Add to that a private golf course within the community, and being about 10 minutes by car from the beach or shopping. “We’re close to Orange County Airport, and you’d never know it,” he adds. “Bingo, you’re on a plane out of here in about eight minutes.” Heaven knows, though, why you’d want to do that if you called this address home. 

Eclectic, by Design

White Lilac cultivates a new brand of boutique at South Coast Plaza

 

Written by Jenn Thornton

WL-SLS-Store-45.jpg

White Lilac, a design company celebrated for its individually stylized settings, is bringing its brand of curated eclecticism to Costa Mesa with the opening of its spacious new showroom at aesthetic equal South Coast Plaza. “The brand provides the shopper with a unique vantage point on how to style their home in an entirely unique way,” says White Lilac President Sunny Ravanbach. “White Lilac is a mix of quintessential comfort and luxury, with hints of modern touches to make any home a reflection of the creative souls who make [it] their own.” Hence, the boutique’s inspired—and inspiring—visual feast. It’s a beautiful mixture of merchandise that, together, cultivates an upscale, beach-cottage vibe, with all items flowing together in signature White Lilac style: seamlessly. The chicly arrayed assortment includes furniture from White Lilac’s custom line along with classic fittings. These elements mingle with vintage French pieces, modern accents, an array of lighting, original artwork from European artists and coveted accessories, from candleholders to stemware and more. Purchase something haute off the showroom floor, or place an order for a piece in a particular fabric or style. Many finds are one-of-a-kind. So too, happily, is the shopping experience.

WHITE LILAC

South Coast Plaza, 3333 Bristol Street, Costa Mesa, CA | WhiteLilacInc.

Magnificent Marina

Marina del Rey offers an incredible summer escape, complete with luxe accommodations, culinary delights and activities aplenty

 

Written by Beth Fhaner

Marina sunset. Photo courtesy of Courtway Can

Marina sunset. Photo courtesy of Courtway Can

Ah, summer—the perfect time for basking in the sun and slowing down the often-frenetic pace of life. For anyone desiring some much-needed R&R this season, consider a getaway to Marina del Rey—a seaside community recognized for having the world’s largest man-made small-craft harbor. An easy drive from Orange County, L.A.’s premier waterfront playground offers numerous activities to satisfy both ocean lovers and landlubbers alike. 

The Ritz-Carlton, Marina del Rey serves as a convenient home base while exploring the local area, which also offers close proximity to Venice Beach and Santa Monica. Overlooking the marina, the elegant property boasts 304 recently updated guest rooms—many with water views and design elements that reflect the area’s natural environment, including sea urchin headboards and geode desk lamps. Other property amenities include lighted tennis courts, a fitness center, and a waterfront pool and Jacuzzi area with cabanas, in addition to Spa del Rey, which features a full menu of wellness treatments, plus a eucalyptus steam room. For an on-site dining experience, Cast & Plow serves local sustainable cuisine, with seasonal dishes hand-selected by Executive Chef Umit Kaygusuz. At this sophisticated resto, guests can indulge in a sunset dinner and cocktails while enjoying picturesque waterfront views and tabletop fire pits.

Deluxe King room. Photo courtesy of The Ritz-Carlton, Marina del Rey

Deluxe King room. Photo courtesy of The Ritz-Carlton, Marina del Rey

Additional spots for savory fare and libations around the Marina include Cafe del Rey, which offers coastal-inspired, contemporary California cuisine in a romantic seaside setting. Sinder Lounge (at the Marina del Rey Marriott) presents a stylish, hip vibe and tasty small plates and flatbreads, in addition to an impressive wine list, craft beer and hand-crafted cocktails. And don’t miss Killer Shrimp Restaurant & Bar, a dockside eatery with a mouthwatering signature dish, Killer Shrimp—fresh shrimp cooked to order in a secret spicy sauce, served with French bread. As a “dock and dine” destination, Killer Shrimp also features a public boat dock, so guests can work up an appetite by kayaking, boating or paddleboarding to their meal.

A Hornblower Brunch Cruise is another highly recommended, cuisine-centric activity. Guests are welcomed aboard with a bottomless glass of champagne and then invited to devour a scrumptious buffet—a variety of appetizers, classic American breakfast dishes and divine desserts. During the cruise, guests are treated to live music and invited to partake of the stunning views and ocean breezes from the top deck. Post-cruise, plan to spend some time exploring Fisherman’s Village, which hosts free live concerts weekends on the plaza and also features retail shops, eateries, and the Marina del Rey Historical Exhibit & Gallery.

Outdoor enthusiasts have a plethora of activities to choose from too, including on-the-water activities such as SUP, kayaking, parasailing, boating, sportfishing, gondola tours, and more. The UCLA Marina Aquatic Center offers sailing, rowing, surfing, kayaking, and windsurfing classes to both locals and short-term visitors, too. Yogis might also like to try a trendy workout that includes a yoga class on a stand-up paddleboard at YOGAqua. Landlubbers can rent bikes at Fisherman’s Village and explore the 22-mile Marvin Braude Coastal Bike Trail (also known as “The Strand”), or opt for a stroll through Burton W. Chace Park, a 10-acre, waterfront green space that also makes an ideal picnic spot. The popular Marina del Rey Summer Concert Series, held annually at Burton W. Chace Park, features live performances of pop, alt-rock, folk and classical music. For those desiring an eco-adventure, Ballona Wetlands includes 600 acres of protected habitat, highlighting hundreds of plant species and birds. A public walking trail runs along the perimeter, and docent tours are available as well. 

Parasailing for the outdoor enthusiast. Photo courtesy of Courtway Can

Parasailing for the outdoor enthusiast. Photo courtesy of Courtway Can

With The Ritz-Carlton, Marina del Rey’s convenient location and luxury accommodations, not to mention delicious cuisine and abundant water-based adventures, L.A.’s sparkling coast shines ever brighter. Marina del Rey’s moniker translates to “Harbor of the King,” and one will certainly feel akin to royalty while enjoying the Westside’s premier waterfront playground this summer. 

VisitMarinadelRey.com

Seaside dining at The Ritz-Carlton, Marina del Rey. Photo courtesy of The Ritz-Carlton, Marina del Rey

Seaside dining at The Ritz-Carlton, Marina del Rey. Photo courtesy of The Ritz-Carlton, Marina del Rey