Inside An Out-Of-The-Box House In Laguna Beach


contemporary exterior neutral pool sitting...

An architect designs a surprising beach house in Laguna Beach on a seemingly unbuildable lot.

contemporary living area blue accents...

Architect James R. Harlan imagined a stunning waterfront home in Laguna Beach for his client, with whom he collaborated to furnish the residence. In the living area, a pair of Flexform sofas and a coffee table, all from In-Ex, rest on a custom patchwork rug from Decorative Carpets. The fireplace wall displays sculptures made from eroded teak mortars by Jerome Abel Seguin. By the Fleetwood windows are a Saarinen table and chairs from Knoll.

contemporary neutral dining room chandelier

Above the built-in buffet conceived by Harlan in the dining area is a Robert Greene painting from Robert Miller Gallery in New York City. Beneath the Lindsey Adelman chandelier from Twentieth are a table and chairs from In-Ex. Suspended nearby is a wood surfboard.

contemporary dining area couch seat...

Lithographs, from Robert Motherwell's Beau Geste Suite, purchased at Leslie Sacks Gallery, reside in the breakfast nook just beyond the kitchen. A. Rudin fabricated the banquette, where indoor-outdoor Christopher Farr fabric from Thomas Lavin covers the cushions. Hovering above are a trio of pendants from Plug.

contemporary neutral bathroom blue tile...

Harlan lined the Japanese-style soaking tub in the master bathroom with the same blue-glass Bisazza tile that he chose for the pool. A Toto sink and Dornbracht faucet, found at The Bath Company, match the clean lines of the Caesarstone-topped vanity. The rug is from Decorative Carpets

contemporary neutral kitchen

The Bulthaup kitchen features stainless-steel counters and a walnut breakfast bar top paired with leather Walter Knoll counter chairs from In-Ex. Gaggenau manufactured the cooktop and hood; the convection oven and refrigerator are Miele. Underfoot are custom terrazzo floors by JZ Terrazzo.

When a longtime client asked architect James R. Harlan to build her new home on a very tricky lot in Laguna Beach, California, he didn’t hesitate to say yes. The property came with approved building plans but they weren’t up to the exacting standards of the architect and his client.

“She wanted a sophisticated beach house,” says Harlan, “so we created a complex house for a complex site.”

To anchor the home to the property (and meet neighborhood height regulations), Harlan devised a series of pitched-roof levels that progress down the hillside. He started at the street level with the garage and office, then brought the main level down, placing the primary rooms with the pool terrace, and then adding a lower level to incorporate additional entertaining space, a guest room and a deck–the house sits just eighty feet above the water, so offers unimpeded ocean views.

Inside, Harlan and the owner devised a sandy-hued palette, uniting the rooms with touches of blue. Melding natural materials and a few ethnic textiles with contemporary furnishings gave the modern beach house a Bohemian edge.

“Every house I do is different but this one was a huge departure,” says Harlan, who lives in Pasadena and Palm Springs, and who has authored several books on midcentury architecture. “I was happy doing my Miesian boxes, but this house has really set me in a new direction. Someone said it’s my Falling Water.”

The home has proved such a success for the architect that its lead to a new project in Palm Springs with exaggerated, abstracted pitched roofs inspired by the Laguna Beach home. “It’s all about the integrity,” adds Harlan.