Orange County’s Top Design Talent Creates a Home Worthy of Its Location
By Alexandria Abramian
Mark Hammond has found everything from an octopus to stingrays and even a sand shark swimming in his Laguna Beach saltwater tide pool, maritime visitors transported by the waves into one of only six such pools along the Laguna Coast. The visitors rarely stay beyond one tidal cycle, offering a coastal experience as dramatic as the geysers that travel from sea level all the way up to the home’s second swimming pool, where a nearby blow hole projects salt water 30 feet in the air when the surf is up.
Those are just some of the many extraordinary details of this Laguna Beach home perched on a once-in-a-lifetime site above Three Arch Bay, listed for sale at $31.9 million. “This house was pushed further out on the bluff than the others, so it really lent itself to contemporary design,” says Hammond, CEO of The Retail Equation. He and his late wife Christina purchased the 1932 home in 2005, and then devoted the next eight years to creating a contemporary compound that would meld modern-day amenities with legacy features no longer buildable today.
That process involved tapping some of Orange County’s top architects and designers, who in turn navigated through Coastal Commission and city code requirements, a delicate dance that demanded that 50 percent of the original framing remain in place. “I have so much reverence for the site. You are hanging off a cliff,” says architect Chris Light of CJ Light Associates. “This was about taking a mountain cabin and transforming it into something really special.”
That transformation required what Light calls a “difficult surgery where you have to take everything apart and then put it together again, but in a different way.” Maintaining half of the original framing while at the same time honoring the homeowners association’s height restrictions only upped the challenge to create a home that now appeals to modern-day sensibilities: high ceilings, open plan living, and as much ocean view as possible, afforded by its enviable 80 feet f ocean frontage. Floors were lowered, ceilings were raised, walls opened, and rooms migrated: a new home gradually unfolded.
“Back when it was originally built, people just had different needs,” says Hammond. “From the perspective of people living here in 1932, there were only two other homes nearby, no neighbors. It was all wide-open view anyway. When we tore down the old structure, we found only one piece of steel that was holding the house up. Now it has around 30 caissons and tons of steel.”
The result of almost a decade of work is a two-level, 6,130-square-foot home where view-flooded upper floor rooms ease into one another without interruption, while disappearing walls mean that indoors and out are entirely blurred.
“This isn’t just the house, it’s the architect. Chris Light homes are some of the highest selling in Orange County,” says Amy Calvert, who along with Tim Smith of The Smith Group, holds the listing. “Chris yields higher-end buyers. When you bring his talent here to such an exceptional location, you get a property that is exceptionally rare.”
And yet the home is far from a look-but-don’t-touch museum environment. According to Hammond, function is just as important as form. The dining room, for example, opens to a covered patio, which connects to the upper swimming pool, meaning that meals, swimming, and lounging happen with minimal transitions. “People don’t really use dining rooms much anymore, but here people will come to the bar and then the dining room in a wet bathing suit. The design makes that so easy,” says Hammond, who also worked with Horst Architects and Arianna Noppenberger of Aria Design to realize the completed compound.
Downstairs, there’s a gym, theater, guest suites, and the master bedroom where Light says he saved some of the home’s “best views.” The lower level is also home to the new garage, once found on the upper street level, now located below in a “bat-cave”-like space designed specifically to suit Hammond’s car- and motorcycle-collecting proclivities. With room for six cars with a showroom-style auto turntable, Hammond’s collection of Ferraris and motorcycles are housed in a spotless, museum-like setting. “We even installed a jiffy lube down below,” says the owner. “I made that not to change oil like it’s originally designed but to keep all of the normal garage junk below grade so that this space always looks perfect, and bigger without stuff everywhere.”
But getting those low-to-the-ground Italian sports cars down a heavily sloped driveway required yet more work. And delays. “With an exotic car like a Ferrari or a McLaren and the elevation of the dropbown, you don’t have the clearance,” says Hammond. “So we made a wooden replica of a Ferrari and would roll it down over and over again until we got the slope right.”
“My goal was to create a home where 20 years later, people wouldn’t be exactly sure when it was built,” says Hammond. “People see it now, when it’s almost six years old, and they’re convinced it was just finished.”
949.981.9047 | smithgrouprealestate.com
CJ Light Associates
1401 Quail St. #120, Newport Beach
949.851.8345 | cjlight.com
247a Forest Ave., Laguna Beach
949.494.9569 | horst-architects.com
247 Forest Avenue, Suite C, Laguna Beach