The general contractor and interior designer shares what she loves about working in Laguna and creating custom dream homes for clients.
By Sharon Stello
With more than 1,000 custom homes and remodels under her belt, Julie Laughton continues to seamlessly handle both the design and construction aspects of projects throughout coastal Orange County as well as Beverly Hills, Hollywood and Pasadena.
As CEO of Julie Laughton Design Build, she’s committed to making the process as easy as possible for clients. “I love helping people make their dreams come true for their remodels or custom home projects,” she says. “I have been doing this for 35 years and I still have passion for what I am doing.”
Over those three decades, a few memorable projects stand out in her mind, including the Mediterranean-style 1928 Wallace Neff home, which was featured in the movie “Monster-in-Law,” and the English Tudor hilltop estate of Disney Imagineer Tony Baxter.
Originally from Le Mars, Iowa, Laughton’s family goes back five generations in this small town. “The Laughton farm is still active and in use today, almost 150 years later,” she shares.
Laughton graduated from Iowa State University, where she studied architecture, landscape architecture and interior design, then moved to New York City, spending nearly seven years working for the top five developers in Manhattan, before moving west.
“I relocated to Los Angeles on a whim after visiting a college buddy in La Jolla,” she recalls. “Less than two years later, I moved to Newport Beach, briefly, and Laguna Beach was where I found my new home.”
While eventually moving inland, her business office remains on Forest Avenue in downtown Laguna, where she oversees the full design and build process for homeowners.
“I realized my true passion was how individuals work and live in a space,” she says. “That led me to interior design. My skills in architecture and interior design combined with becoming a licensed general contractor solved all the issues my clients were experiencing running their projects.”
In addition to this work, Laughton has a podcast, “Julie Laughton Living,” which is about “building the life, business and luxury home of your dreams.” Available on her website, julielaughtonliving.com, as well as on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and other platforms, Laughton shares tips and experiences from more than three decades in the design-build industry.
Laguna Beach Magazine: What do you like about working in Laguna?
Julie Laughton: I like Laguna, because it reminds me of my hometown in Iowa. It is small, charming and friendly. But of course, all those cornfields were replaced with that gorgeous ocean view.
Any go-to stores or restaurants in town?
JL: I don’t go out in the evening as much as I used to, so my go-to spot for breakfast is the Heidelberg [Cafe] and, for lunch, the Lumberyard.
What do you think makes you stand out from other designers and general contractors?
JL: I am both a designer and a licensed general contractor and offer a one-stop shop. On a typical custom home build or remodeling project, a homeowner has to deal with seven to 11 different people. I give them one point of contact and steward the entire project on behalf of the homeowner.
Have you noticed any home design trends lately?
JL: People are going back to painted cabinets in a color as opposed to the standard bright white. [Also,] there is a lot more wood being used and soft, organic paint colors.
Anything else you’d like to add?
JL: I am living proof that construction is not just for the boys anymore. I encourage more women to look into a career in construction and project management: It’s a great way to make a living, make a difference and fill a need.