A Southern California Midcentury Gets a Serene, Japanese-Inspired Treatment

Lucas Design Associates and Graham Architecture renovate a 1961 midcentury in Laguna Beach, imbuing it with a rich, layered atmosphere that showcases the owners’ antique collection.

Perched on the coastline and surrounded by lush greenery, Kevin and Holly Johnson’s home in the Woods Cove neighborhood of Laguna Beach, California, was built in 1961 and designed by noted midcentury architect J. Herbert Brownell. The two-story residence sits on a half-acre, wooded parcel that was once part of a botanical garden and enjoys a stunning panoramic view of the ocean. Lovers of modernist architecture, the Johnsons reached out to Lucas Design Associates (LDA) and Graham Architecture to renovate their property—tasking them with not only updating their home, but also infusing it with Japanese influences suited to the midcentury property. They also wanted the home to embrace indoor/outdoor living, reflecting their love of nature and the beautiful surroundings.

LDA and Graham Architecture's approach to Woods Cove Retreat was to honor the character of the original structure while focusing on maintaining privacy and functionality for this busy family of four. 

Visits to the Schindler House and the Eames House provided inspiration for the design of the remodel and helped show "how a modest scale can be both interesting and impactful."  In fact, many of the tenets of the Schindler Frame were embraced and adopted by the architects: floor-to-ceiling ribbon windows, a clerestory, large overhangs, and a low horizontal profile with varying ceiling heights. 

The grand entrance to Woods Cove Retreat welcomes the homeowners and guests. 

The residence features a diverse material palette that is somewhat unexpected for a Southern Californian home, starting with the shou sugi ban gate. Full of rich, multi-layered textures, the darker shade gives the home a subdued, Japanese vibe, and provides the perfect backdrop for the Johnsons to showcase their collection of antiques. 

Sliding doors enable seamless indoor/outdoor living.

Stained oak floors and cabinetry, burnished concrete block, custom back-painted glass, a Cor-Ten steel fireplace, and shou sugi ban wood all appear throughout the home. 

"We focused on integrating nature-inspired elements and modern accents in order to create a retreat for our clients, a sort of safe sanctuary immersed in a picturesque landscape," explains David Lucas, LDA founding partner and creative director. "Now they have a space that they can enjoy that reflects their passions and their life."

A quiet moment of light and shadow highlights the home's Japanese influence.

A concrete fire pit on the outdoor patio provides a place for outdoor entertaining, with ample space kept open for spontaneous dance parties.  The sofa is from Henry Hall's Tru/Pure collection with fabric from Christian Liaigre and McGuire. The Tekka side table is from Christian Liaigre. An Allan Gould midcentury modern iron-and-rope lounge chair and ottoman complete the scene. 

 The clients' passion for hosting family-style gatherings guided the design of a custom, 20-seat walnut dining room table from Meyer Wells paired with Hans Wegner chairs. The hemlock ceiling helps define the space. The Vibia Flamingo 1540 pendants are from Antonie Arola. The custom, modern farmhouse credenza is from Chadhaus, and the artwork is by Wolfgang Bloch.

A dual-sided, Cor-Ten steel fireplace serves as a divider between the open-plan dining room and the living room. 

On the other side of the Cor-Ten fireplace is the living room. The custom Augustin sectional and the cocktail table are from Christian Liaigre, and paired with Ib Kofod-Larsen's Seal chair and ottoman. 

Floor-to-ceiling windows frame the stunning, panoramic view. 

The kitchen sits just off the living room area for easy entertaining. The roller shades are from J Geiger.

The homeowners take a seat at the island of their kitchen.  

The kitchen features custom-stained, white oak cabinetry and honed granite countertops—plus plenty of storage. 

The kitchen barstools are from Ligne Roset. Vintage, Jacques Biny black enameled metal pendants from the 1960s maintain a retro feel. 

The existing footprint and scale of spaces was reworked to suit the clients’ specific needs. This included converting the indoor pool pavilion, which wasn’t in use, into a spacious and light-filled master bedroom suite. 

The clients’ eclectic collection of antiques made for interesting vignettes rich with form and texture. They are integrated along with new pieces, such as the Pirogue bench from Christian Liaigre and a custom nightstand from Meyer Wells. 

A sitting area in the bedroom features Christian Liaigre Album chairs with Kravet fabric on the body and Castel fabric on the cushions. The floor lamp is from Leflar and the roller shaders are from J Geiger.

The exterior is surrounded by lush greenery. 

The master bath is complete with a deep soaking Agape Spoon XL bathtub. The outdoor area is enclosed for privacy, enabling the extensive glazing. J Geiger roller shades offer additional seclusion.

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Dark oak cabinetry provides plenty of storage. 

Kevin scoured high and low for this 1956 Quadreflex mono speaker designed by Charles and Ray Eames for Stephens Tru-Sonic. 

A serene outdoor shower space is surrounded by shou sugi ban wood. 

Stairs lead down to the pool. 

A tall tree perfectly aligns with the lap pool. The pool furniture is from Modernica's case study line.

Project Credits: 

Architect of record: Carlton Graham of Graham Architecture / @grahamarchitecture
Builder/General Contractor: Hill Construction Company
Interior Design: Lucas Design Associates, David Lucas & Suzie Lucas / @lucasinterior


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