Architecture Design


Modern retreat finds the right fit in Three Arch Bay 

By Jenn Woolson

After two years of careful planning, design approvals, and construction, this new home designed by architect Horst Noppenberger offers a unique blend of contemporary aesthetics and functionality within a picturesque coastal setting. Located in Three Arch Bay at the southern edge of Laguna Beach, the 4,500-square-foot house, constructed by D. Shipp Corporation, perfectly harmonizes modern design within a traditional neighborhood. 

Noppenberger says original sketches for the house faced opposition in Three Arch Bay. “We finally arrived at a design that was still very modern and contemporary, but we definitely had to dial it back a bit,” he says. The result is a house with a visual lightness created by a generous use of glass and dramatic cantilevers. That lightness is contrasted with stone walls that create an earthbound permanence, rooting the house into the site.

The three wings of the house are built around a central courtyard with a pool and outdoor kitchen.

Designed as a vacation home for a family of six from the Bay Area, the property captures the essence of indoor-outdoor living. The layout follows Noppenberger’s signature style of positioning the living spaces around a central courtyard. In this case, one that faces south, inviting natural beauty—including two mature Torrey pines—inside. A spacious pool and outdoor kitchen and dining area with large sliding glass doors opening from the kitchen create a seamless connection between interior and exterior spaces. 

With a respectful nod to the neighborhood’s traditional charm, Noppenberger’s carefully crafted design honors the existing architectural character of Three Arch Bay and thoughtfully introduces modern elements. By incorporating traditional materials such as stone walls and a limestone staircase that climbs from the street to the elevated site, the house merges with the landscape. Dark travertine and wood along with a standing-seam metal roof of charcoal gray combine to evoke a certain emotional aspect that blends seamlessly with the site. White stucco walls provide a visual transition between the wood and the stone and provide a canvas for the play of light and shadow from the trees on the property. 

An impressive limestone staircase provides a dramatic ascent from street level to the elevated site.

The C-shape layout of the house comprises three wings. The front wing contains the communal areas: kitchen, dining, and family spaces. As you venture further back, a second wing unfolds to reveal five bedrooms, offering a clear separation between private and shared spaces. Between these wings, a transitional area serves as a home office. The house’s design facilitates cross ventilation, enabling natural cooling and optimizing the flow of air. Adding to that are movable, slatted wood screens that allow the owners to modulate privacy and orchestrate the sunlight that comes into the house.

Recognizing the importance of the kitchen as a social hub for a family that loves to cook together, Noppenberger ensured an open and seamless integration between the kitchen and adjacent dining and family areas. “It’s nice to imagine the kitchen as a stage where the owners can entertain, whether they’re together as a family or with friends,” he says. The open design makes it easy to engage everywhere in this communal heart of the home. 

From the street, the house appears as a single-story structure, but reveals a two-story layout toward the back. The upper level is dedicated to the master suite, offering a private sanctuary separate from the rest of the house. The master bedroom opens onto a green roof planted with succulents—an intimate outdoor space to enjoy Orange County’s signature sunsets.

The house also boasts a basement, which was converted into a spa with a sauna, a hammam, and a place for massage and relaxation, making it a true Coastal retreat.

Architect Horst Noppenberger

Horst Architects | 247a Forest Avenue, Laguna Beach | 949.494.9589 |

D. Shipp Corporation | Laguna Beach | 949.715.0741 | 

Aria Design | Laguna Beach | 949.376.5996 |

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