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Laguna Beach architect Mark Singer designs a house to frame the environment's beauty.

Laguna Beach architect Mark Singer designs a house to frame the environment's beauty.

Aside from a small figurine tucked in a corner, there's little art in the sunlit living room of Lorraine Cramer's oceanfront home in San Clemente. That is, unless you count the triptych of expansive windows framed by rugged stone portals.

"Each of these is a painting of sea and sky. And you get a different view depending on where you stand," Laguna Beach-based architect Mark Singer says of the windows and the views, extending south to Trestles, the renowned surf spot, and north to the Dana Point Headlands.

Then again, the spacious, airy living room can be viewed as a mixed-media work of art on its own. It's a play of light, line and texture, from the cool sheen of poured-in-place concrete flooring to the warm mahogany ceiling to the craggy, ledger-stone walls that split the difference.

In fact, Singer experimented with textural variety throughout the 3,800-square-foot, two-level dwelling. He started with the street facade, which mixes ledger stone with glass, topped off by a width of copper that defines the roofline.
A forecourt eases the transition from outdoors to indoors with the sound of gently splashing water from a sequence of miniature waterfalls.

In the house proper, natural light from a generous skylight floods the entry and hallway. Walls finished with an ivory-tone Venetian plaster take on a soft glow. Bits of mineral in the floor made of the quartzite flagging catch the light and sparkle.
Pleasing as such details may be, they are sometimes easy to overlook. The eye is drawn by what's ahead.

"On a nice sunny day, when you walk through the front door, and look through, all you see is the ocean," Cramer says. "It's a wonderful scene as you walk down the hallway."

And that's by design. "Every oceanfront lot is deep," Singer says. "My job is to make the journey from front to back as effortless and as fun as possible."

The house by the sea in the Cyprus Shore neighborhood is the second home he's designed for Cramer and her late husband, Peter. Although Peter died just before the house was completed, he loved what he saw in progress, Cramer says.

Singer says he learned an important lesson from the way the project began several years ago. At the time, he'd been working on an oceanfront house in Newport Beach, but found the clients to be so abrasive and uncooperative that he quit the job and returned the retainer. The next day, he got the call from Peter Cramer.

"It was like Deepak Chopra saying, ?Let out the bad, and in comes the good stuff,'" he says. "It's a good lesson in life and in running a business."

That willingness to take a risk -- and the knack for finding felicitous solutions -- characterizes Singer's work on the Cramer house in other ways, as well.

For example, he designed the master bedroom with sliding panels that open directly onto the living room. The two rooms share the ocean view, along with the fireplace and TV-viewing area.

"In a modern house, it's more about spaces for living rather than formal, defined rooms," he says. "Taking that concept further, why can't part of the living room be a sitting room for the bedroom?"

The concept works well in practice for Lorraine Cramer. "Since my bedroom's here, I hear the ocean at night," she says. "It's a nice sound, and it just lulls me to sleep."

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