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Home Tour: Aman Resorts inspires a Laguna Beach renovation

The Zen vibe continues outdoors, where Zucker's design includes dry-stacked limestone pillars and soothing water features near the pool.
Leonard Ortiz

When Kathy Victor first walked into the house in Woods Cove in Laguna Beach, she knew she was home.
“When we bought the house, Chuck hadn’t even seen it yet,” she recalls. Her husband was in Europe on business. “I walked from the front door to the back door, and I called him and said: ‘I found the house we’re going to die in. This is the house we’re going to be in forever.’ ”
That was 2003, and the couple’s three sons were 8, 6 and 4. The California cottage had enough bedrooms for the brood and a “perfect” backyard, as Chuck Victor remembers.
“This house was about the backyard playground, the grass, there was a huge brick patio that we didn’t put furniture on, so the kids could keep it as a hockey rink. There was a zip line running from one end of the yard to the other, bounce houses, all kinds of stuff. It was a 100 percent kids zone.”

But as children will do, the boys grew up and the family’s needs changed. The Victors still loved the house, so they began to explore how to “take the space and turn it into something that would live with us as adults.”

In 2006, the couple enlisted Laguna Beach architect Tim Nicol and Mission Viejo landscape designer Scott Zucker (and eventually general contractor Andrew Williams) to help them reach their vision of turning their backyard’s “huge open space” into a “pleasure space, where our friends can come over in a casual, kind of barefoot way.” Then the 2008 recession hit, however; that crash put the project on hold until 2011.

“When we first started,” says Nicol, “it was a larger project. It was more house-related. Adding a second story, things like that. Then when we got going again, we really decided to stay with a single story and focus on the garden and having the house relate to the garden. It had this huge backyard, very unusual for Laguna Beach, but none of the living spaces opened out to this amazing backyard!”

“It was a pretty backyard, but they wanted a swimming pool,” Zucker says, “and Chuck wanted a pool he could actually do laps in. And they wanted a resort feel to the whole yard as well.”

And a very specific resort, too.

“I travel a lot internationally for work, and I started getting hooked on Aman Resorts, staying there a lot,” Chuck explains. “So what I was trying to bring to this were elements of that into our design. Not too Asian, not too South Pacific, but that kind of Zen feel, with the wood and the stone. Subtle elegances, but still looking very casual. So we used the Aman Resorts as our platform. I brought pictures back of all the places I stayed, and we incorporated our favorites into the design.”

The final indoor-outdoor design entailed cutting the cottage in half and redoing one whole side of the home (including tearing out the kitchen, a bedroom, bath and laundry room), ripping down the back wall and completely revamping the whole outside area, including adding a large outdoor entertaining area, the pool/hot tub, another garage and a freestanding guest room. The project was completed in 2015.

“Design, city approval and completed construction took four years,” Chuck recalls. “We stayed in the house during the construction, and we didn’t use the kitchen. They put a wall up at the end of the hallway and we lived over there while they did the construction.”

Nicol’s kitchen revamp and sliding mahogany panels and doors along with Zucker’s spectacular outdoor kitchen/bar, fireplace and seating area divided by a full-size pool table create an adult party space that just cries out for a gathering of friends. Travertine floors mean a bit of water spilling out from the stunning swimming pool doesn’t hurt a thing;
and the stone-lined outdoor shower means everyone coming in from the nearby beach or out of the pool won’t track sand or chlorine into the main house.

Zucker’s outdoor design includes dry-stacked limestone pillars, Jerusalem stone from Israel, dark ipe wood decking, rubble-style stone walls, and strategically placed potted plants, palm trees and water features around the pool that all combine gorgeously to create that Zen ambiance the family envisioned – and the owners are adamant about giving recognition for the truly breathtaking result to the two men who combined to make it a reality.

“Tim and Scott ooze patience,” Chuck says. “This is all to the credit of these two guys. They are just incredible to work with.”

And if all goes as planned and the Victors do stay in their Laguna home for the rest of their lives, Zucker and Nicol (who have obviously become part of the Victors’ extended family) may just have a lot more work to do, as well as a place to join the couple in retirement.
“We have the communal idea,” Chuck says with a laugh. “We buy up all the adjacent lots, all of our friends move into those and we create connecting pathways to the back. Then we hire our own home health care and we’re set. I think we’d all be perfectly content here.”

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