A new home on the Pacific designed by veteran oceanfront architect Mark Singer balances privacy with wide-open vistas of sea, sand, and sunsets. by J. Michael Welton
As far as walls go, this one, at 992 Oceanfront in Laguna Beach, CA, is a monument to multi-tasking.
This wall doesn’t merely support the roof above. It serves as a shield from surfers and beachgoers hustling along a heavily traveled walkway to the south. It creates a comforting enclosure for a private courtyard with an infinity pool and spa, all tucked in between a garage to the east and living quarters to the west. Its windows above open up to the courtyard and pool below. And best of all, it’s a foil to some of the finest ocean views on this planet.
Stone masons built the wall using rough-cut, buff-toned Texas limestone, carefully eschewing the traditional use of grout between joints. It runs perpendicular to the Pacific Ocean for 126 feet east to west, along the southern elevation of the new home there. Directly opposite it are the wide-open views that make this home, priced at $15 million, even more memorable.
“It’s simply breathtaking,” says realtor Jacqueline Thompson. “From almost every angle in every room, you can see straight to the ocean and to the crashing waves. But there’s a lot of privacy.”
“It’s only steps to the ocean,” says architect Mark Singer, who designed and built it last year. “You can go down for a swim and come back for a shower—or go for a swim, ocean to pool.”
This is a home that’s simple and clean in its celebration of what’s outside, and like its long-running wall, it’s happy to play second fiddle to its place in the sun. The entire design is dedicated to the concept of creating privacy while organizing and capitalizing on open space to the west and north.
“When you have a painting on your wall, the frame around it enhances it,” Singer says. “This house enhances the ocean experience by framing it in its simplicity.”
Inside the home’s 4,300 square feet, the look is stripped-down and contemporary, allowing sunlight to dominate during the day. Even the fireplace in the master suite, where the limestone wall comes to its end, is low-key, encouraging the play of natural light and shadows upon it.
Singer, who’s been specializing in oceanfront architecture for 30 years, likes to juxtapose the contemporary and the antique in his designs. He deliberately limited his material palette in this home to enhance its sense of elegance. Aiming for a look that is peaceful and sculptural, he splurged only on items like a primitive, Spanish-style garage door made of cedar imported from the forests of western Canada.
It’s all sited on a steep lot, with a house that moves in sections down to the ocean. It starts with the garage standing 52 feet above sea level, then the courtyard at 35 feet, and then sloping down to the living quarters at 23 feet. The lot is 50 feet wide, and the home itself is 40.
“The public spaces are wide and flow very well,” Singer says. “It’s a perpetuating experience that pulls you through. And as you move through, your questions [about the design] get answered, so that you understand the whole thing.”
That limestone wall serves as guide and interpreter all along the way, until your eyes arrive at the sun setting over Catalina Island. “People’s mouths drop,” says Thompson.
And for good reason.