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Sea Summit at Marblehead

A luxury community in San Clemente takes sustainable development into new terrain

Coastal views are the starring attraction in almost every room of every home. While the architects created homes in a variety of traditional Spanish architectural styles, interiors are more contemporary and designed for open-flow living.

For some environmentalists, a visit to Sea Summit at Marblehead may leave a sense of longing that more coastal developments in Orange County didn’t follow a similar approach: Instead of replacing acres of flora and fauna with water-guzzling sod and golf courses, developer Taylor Morrison is seeing whether nature and luxury housing can live in harmony.
Walk through the 248-acre community perched on the coastal bluffs of San Clemente, and you begin to see the results of more than 40 years of planning and refinement. While all 309 homes are yet to be built, the overall concept is fully formed: Residents will live next to 116 acres – almost half of the entire area – of restored habitat.

“We were stunned that this kind of site was still available,” says Chris Barlow, project director with Irvine-based Robert Hidey Architects, which designed homes at Azure, one of four Sea Summit neighborhoods. “The natural habitat – the ravines, bluffs and canyons – is incredibly special. We knew right from the beginning that a strong connection to this setting had to be the top priority for the design.”

Topography dictated the orientation of the homes, which are priced from the $1 millions to the mid-$2 millions. Barlow and his team determined how to best capitalize on views of the ocean and nature preserve from almost every room in the two-story, Spanish-style houses, regardless of where they were positioned in the development. “We actually created two versions of the second floor,” Barlow says. “There’s one where the master bedroom and bath are at the front of the house; and another where they’re at the back. We did that so regardless of which home you live in, your master bedroom will look onto the ocean, day and night.”

Architects also connected the inside with the outside in each home with a series of what Barlow calls “impactful outdoor spaces.” In addition to backyard areas, they also created side courtyards, interior courtyards, Juliet balconies and cantilevered balconies. “This all underscores a truly exceptional setting,” says Barlow.

Upon move-in, residents will have more to explore beyond their property lines: Four miles of public trails weave through the preserve, connecting five parks. Homeowners will experience resurgent native vegetation including coastal sage scrub, the iconic yet hard-to-find plant that for many signifies the Southern California oceanfront. Other species, such as Blochman’s dudleya, support threatened wildlife like ground-nesting bees. Eight acres of new wetlands are now home to endangered birds, such as the California gnatcatcher, already making a comeback at Sea Summit. All of the open areas are monitored in perpetuity by biologists from the Center for Natural Lands Management.

“When you have something this special, you want it to be there for a very long time,” says Barlow. “We feel that way both about the houses and the setting.”

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