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By Wendy Bowman | Photo: Bret Gum | April 22, 2015
Perched above the Pacific Ocean, a midcentury home receives a fresh update and a world-class art collection to rival the spectacular views.
Gary Foster’s 1950s hillside home on north Laguna Beach’s Panorama Drive may be at the ocean—complete with spectacular views of Catalina, Crescent Bay and the Pacific—but it’s no typical Southern California beach house. Instead, it looks more like it was plucked from the Hollywood Hills, where Foster, a senior vice president of corporate communications at Clean Energy Fuels Corp., previously resided.
Wanting to keep the midcentury lines of the home—which was designed and built in 1958 by local painter Jack Dudley—Foster called on designer Michael Fullen to lead the project, as well as architect James Ward Henry II and Robinson Builders, all of Laguna Beach, to oversee the renovation. The team started with an addition at the front of the home to accommodate a formal entryway, powder room, wet bar, television room and additional storage. White walls and a mix of white oak plank and Crema Europa limestone flooring create a clean and fresh feel, while complex details in the millwork and finishes add visual interest. In the adjacent living room, the architect salvaged the original aggregate fireplace with built-in clock and wood beam ceilings. In keeping with the original design, large sliding doors create a seamless flow onto the patio.
Just off the refreshed kitchen, white oak stairs lead to a lower level, revealing Foster’s office, which features built-in steel-and-wood shelves designed to hold an impressive book collection. A balcony running across the entire back of the home leads to the master bedroom and a guest suite. Though the house retains much of its vintage charm, Foster was talked into one very modern twist: a full automation system that controls everything from the windows to the TV.
For the interior decoration, interior architecture and cabinetry, Fullen was a perfect fit. His designs are “contemporary but comfortable and warm,” notes Foster—just the feel he was after. Fullen, who opened his firm, Michael Fullen Design Group, in 2002, is known for his mix of organic materials, fine finishes, indoor-outdoor living and creative cabinetry—an aesthetic that has brought him commissions including a Wisconsin lake house and the Corona del Mar home of a former Angels baseball player.
Chief among the homeowner’s requirements for the project was space to showcase his ever-growing art collection, which includes large-scale works by Ed Ruscha and Greg Miller and pieces culled from his travels to Europe in the ’80s and ’90s while coordinating press activities for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. To let the artwork shine, the designer focused on clean-lined contemporary furnishings from A. Rudin, Knoll, Holly Hunt, Kipp Stewart and rugs from Aga John.
“To me, this is not a beach house,” says Fullen, of the now nearly 2,000-square-foot home. “It’s more ‘coastal modern.’”
Foster moved into the home in June of last year and happily states that the outcome is “a really good mix of old and new”—everything he had hoped to create. “I wanted some ’50s furniture to go with the house, newer furniture of today and a lot of upholstered furniture.” The designer also incorporated a number of Foster’s heirloom pieces. “Sometimes it’s hard to articulate your vision, but Michael picked up very quickly what I liked,” he explains. “To bring that all together sometimes doesn’t work, but I’m very happy with the finished product.”
But the beauty doesn’t stop there. It continues right outside with breathtaking landscaping by Fosters’ Gardens of Costa Mesa. The terraced yard below the home now boasts olive and citrus trees, grapevines and cacti, and a custom-designed bronze fountain, titled “Trinity,” by local sculptor Archie Held. There’s even a mini dog park created for Sadie, the 5-year-old golden retriever, who also calls this hilltop paradise home.
“It’s a house that’s very personally curated with art and furniture Gary loves,” adds the designer. And it’s a home that’s now ready for a bright new future.
James Ward Henry II
Robinson Builders Inc.
Fosters’ Gardens, Costa Mesa
Lee Stanton Antiques
Art Conriquez of Bayshore Tech
Living room sofa
Knoll from Jules Seltzer
Living room daybed
Living room Optic Lens table
Master bedroom art deco club chair