Design House Crowns a Laguna Hilltop

This year's Philharmonic House of Design overlooks Mar Vista Avenue, decorated by 14 interior designers with tour tickets benefiting youth education programs.

Welcome lookie-loos! Tis the season for house and garden tours and here’s one for a good cause. The annual Philharmonic House of Design, now in its 20th year, finally celebrates its debut in Laguna Beach, a to-be-expected month-long luxe open house extravaganza that kicked off last week.

Here, the house of 11,333 square feet has been taken over by 14 interior designers as individuals or teams, who turned the foyer and living room, dining room, family room and lounge, a kitchen and breakfast room, four bedrooms and adjoining baths, an office and even a “healing sanctuary” into their personal versions of Shangri-La. Tickets benefit the Pacific Symphony Society’s youth education programs.

Visitors get a rare glimpse of how modern day aristocrats might live. By paying $40 for a visit or $50 for several, visitors also support the Philharmonic Society bring classical music to local classrooms from kindergarten through high school and nurture the Orange County Youth Orchestra, now in its 42nd season. “We serve roughly 150,000 children per year,” said PSOC president and executive director, Dean Corey. Music programs like Venezuela’s “La Sistema,” made famous by Los Angeles Philharmonic  conductor Gustavo Dudamel, is a goal worth emulating in Orange County, he said.

House of Design visitors enter into an open, sun-filled foyer.

For example, the program begins with teaching children to listen, sends  “music mobiles” to schools, familiarizes children with orchestral instruments and in upper grades aims to integrate music appreciation with the rest of the arts, he said.

This year’s event is distinguished by a South Laguna house perched on an 11-acre lot at 31401 Mar Vista Ave. and listed for $18.9 million that has never been occupied, neutrally appointed to equal an artists empty canvas. In fact, one of the rooms created by Casa Siena Design, has been dubbed “an artist retreat.” In the spirit of luxe and imagination it brings to mind 19th century Paris, rather than canyon quarters.

The house can also be purchased fully furnished “as is” for an additional, negotiable sum during the next six weeks, said Carole Meikle, managing partner of Irvine listing agent Engel & Völkers, a German real estate brokerage.

The spacious kitchen with morning room created by Laguna Niguel designer Deirdre Eagles.The society has turned the main garage into a boutique featuring clothing designers, assorted home and apparel accessories. Guests can also purchase raffle tickets as well food and libations on the premises. All proceeds benefit the society.

A tour highlight is the “healing sanctuary” created by Robert Esterley a Kansas City, Mo., transplant who launched his Sacred Living brand in Laguna Beach. Although his room is relatively small, his choice of beige and gold hued furnishings along with well selected accessories result in a tranquil atmosphere. The adjoining bath features aroma and spa therapy products housed in an elegant new line from California Closets. “I wanted to bring affordable elegance into play,” said Esterley.

Costa Mesa’s Grace Blue Design team turned a bedroom into a spiritual sanctuary by creating an “intention wall” covered with countless wishes and affirmative mantras, which, in turn, have been re-painted with a coat of textured grayish-blue paint and festooned with sheet metal birds created by artist Jackie Coburn. The idea is for docents or designers to make visitors aware of the mantras in the hope that they might substitute their own. Seeing the sumptuous but graceful furniture and a tiny terrace offering peaceful respite, one might wonder how many will wish for the house when the tour ends on May 20.

Irvine’s Chris Kittrell provided the vision for the master bedroom, surrounded by sweeping views of the pool and coastline.

Paintings and sculpture from Laguna Beach galleries such as Peter Blake and sculpture from Dawson Cole Fine Art inject their own aesthetic in the living room and elsewhere in the home. A terrace features imaginative lighting and heating fixtures by Laguna’s Lightopia. Circling the house are terraces with canyon and ocean views, one of which borders an infinity pool. Except when hindered by a marine layer, there are awesome views from nearly every angle.

One in the network of city-required water cannons circling the property as fire protection.

Car collectors also get their due. Two garages can house up to 20 vehicles. And the developer even had those weary of fighting traffic in mind too. Steps from the main entrance is not only a motor court, but a circular pad suitable for a  helicopter pad. Alas, no such landing pads are permissible nor approved in a residential area, according to city officials.

Even so, visitors are prohibited from driving to the house since there is no neighborhood parking and the narrow access road will give hives to those prone to vertigo. Instead they board shuttles that require little or no waiting in the free Strands Beach lot, 34111 Selva Rd., in Dana Point. Tour the design house and meet designers, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., through May 20. For more information, call (714) 840-7542.


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