Countered Culture

Meats and service take top priority at The Butchery


Written by Susan Irby

  Brian Smith (L) and Robert Hagopian (R), owners of The Butchery. Photo courtesy of The Butchery

Brian Smith (L) and Robert Hagopian (R), owners of The Butchery. Photo courtesy of The Butchery

To stop at one of The Butchery’s three Orange County locations is to step into a niche butcher shop with meats and service a cut above the local meat counter. After the success of its first location in Costa Mesa nearly eight years ago, co-owner Robert Hagopian says, “We’re a butcher shop, that’s what we do.” From the Snake River Farms American Wagyu beef to the Salmon Creek Farms bone-in pork chops and signature marinated chicken, The Butchery’s specialty cuts and unique products are of the utmost quality, separating it from the crowd. Adds Hagopian, “Today’s customer wants quality, and they desire knowledgeable, attentive service.” For this reason, The Butchery hires highly skilled culinary students and chefs as the core of its staff. One such staff member is General Manager Ryan Calhoun, who says, “Our goal is to educate customers so they know what they are eating, and to offer tips and techniques on how to prepare their selections.” In addition to prime protein, The Butchery offers a distinguished array of fine wines; a full deli with options including the mouth-watering speck prosciutto, porchetta with rosemary, and an assortment of gourmet cheese, such as Truffle Tremor, Saint Agur French blue, and well-loved Humboldt Fog goat. More adventuresome palates will enjoy foie gras and exotic meats (wild boar, elk, bison, venison and beyond). Finally, for a show-stopping cut, indulge in the Tomahawk, which weighs nearly three pounds on average and features a bone worthy of the dinosaur age. 


Crystal Cove, 8058 E. PCH, Newport Coast, CA ~ (*Locations also in Costa Mesa and Brea)

Bucket-List Books

A bibliophile's lit picks for your library


Curated by Jenn Thornton

  Photo courtesy of Bloomsbury

Photo courtesy of Bloomsbury

Havana: A Subtropical Delirium by Mark Kurlansky

Taking the pulse of multifaceted Havana, New York Times best-selling author of Cod and Salt, Mark Kurlansky, achieves an electrifying rhythm with his latest—an energetic and thoughtful travelogue he peppers with cultural history and poignant observations of a resurging colonial city. Included is a miscellany’s worth of material that coalesces into an extraordinary soup—a work that is, like the city at its heart, vibrantly alive. $26.00,


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.


28885 Woodspring Circle, Trabuco Canyon, CA 92679 ~ 714.305.2861 |

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.