Historic North Laguna
With spectacular views, hiking trails and a small paradise of coves and beaches, to say that north Laguna is picturesque would be an understatement.
By Laura Gosselin | Illustration by Ken Harris | Photos by Jody Tiongco
North Laguna is a quiet little historic neighborhood, with an eclectic mix of charming cottages, contemporary estates, Cape Cod-inspired beach homes and ocean view condos just steps from the beach and five short blocks to town, with easy access through Coast Highway. Within walking distance to beautiful coves, Heisler Park, Main Beach, as well as art festivals and the village, north Laguna residents get the best of both worlds—the bustling feel of village life—with the serenity of magnificent sunset views of the ocean and Catalina Island.
Paulette Adams lives in a historic board and batten beach cottage high on a bluff at the corner of High Drive and Cedar Way. You’ll know this home belongs to an accomplished artist the moment you pull up, as the address is creatively inscribed on a mosaic brick and ceramic seashell wall.
The cottage is located in a historical district originally called Laguna Cliffs, sprinkled with eclectic 1920s-era bungalows including craftsman-style and California bungalows, and Mediterranean and provincial revivals.
Susanna H. Lankershim-Van Nuys originally purchased the property for $10 in gold coins in 1911. Almost a century later when Paulette first laid eyes on the property, although both the interior and exterior of the home needed extensive repairs, she was attracted to the history, character, details, quirkiness, charm and potential of the cottage.
Upon moving in, she made some cosmetic changes inside the main house by tearing out old carpet and repairing the original wood floors beneath, and hiring plumbers and electricians to bring the place up to code.
“It was non-stop work for six months before I was able to move in,” Paulette says. “The guest house was my second project, and the yards and garden came much later.”
The work paid off and Paulette has transformed the cottage into a quintessential charmer. The sitting room has a bay window facing the ocean. French doors open into the garden; the walls, upholstery and window treatments are all shades of white, making the space bright and airy. Wonderfully unique wicker chairs and tables, as well as a comfy recliner perfect for napping, make the space cozy.
Filling in the ground of the courtyard with quaint old bricks and adding a scalloped wooden fence for privacy, Paulette has created an indoor space outdoors. Once barren, the courtyard is now brimming with more than 50 potted plants, a vintage cement birdbath and a unique collection of furniture for entertaining. The side patio, home to a large purple wisteria plant stretching across the front of the covered patio, is lit by a romantic crystal chandelier. An old cement water fountain across from the outdoor dining room set, white iceberg roses and other various cottage-style flowering plants and vines overlapping brick planters further add to the cottage’s charm. To share the outdoor oasis she has created, Paulette hosts an annual Art in the Garden event for local artists to come paint, create and mingle with neighbors.
Next door to Paulette on Cedar Way, sisters Barbara and Joan Corman live in an original 1920s cottage, purchased by their grandparents in the early 1950s after they fell in love with Laguna Beach.
“It’s nothing special, a single-walled construction on a raised foundation,” Barbara says. “But what makes our home unique are the touches and all of our family memories.”
The family ties start with the front patio that their grandfather, Hazen Aiken, poured using tiny pebbles. He spelled out everyone’s names, finishing with a self-portrait and his handprints. The main house, built with two bedrooms and one bath downstairs and two rooms upstairs, was left unfinished. Barbara and Joan’s parents added a second bath and two more bedrooms in the ’90s. The property also includes two apartments Hazen had built above the garage in the ’60s so there would be room for family and a little rental income to cover the taxes.
Joan lives in the main house, while Barbara and her teenage daughter Lauren live in one of the above-garage apartments. The shared living room, with a quaint rock and cement fireplace to one side, houses Joan’s art studio on the other.
“We have had ongoing repairs and renovations to keep the main house standing,” Barbara explains. Her apartment, which is the same as when built except for an upgraded kitchen, is bright and beachy. After moving in 1998, she tiled the kitchen with white glass, sea glass and green tiles, refinished the original oak floors and furnished the living room in shabby chic decor, accented by antique family quilts. Three original paintings by their mother, who passed away eight years ago, don the walls. One is a watercolor of Divers Cove and one is an oil pastel of an abalone shell.
What Barbara enjoys most about her home is its location and proximity to everything. “We walk everywhere in Laguna as did [our grandmother] who never learned to drive. The opportunity to live here was a gift from my grandmother who worked so hard to purchase it. I plan to pass this property onto my grandchildren,” Barbara says.
Across the street, Ralph and Marie Simpson live in an original Sears kit home, built in 1927. The architect, who also designed Los Angeles Union Station, had sold the design of Marie’s home to Sears, and the home became known as one of the 70,000 Sears catalog homes that were sold in North America between 1908 and 1940. Shipped via railroad boxcars, these kits included all the materials needed to build a house. As their popularity grew, Sears began offering payment plans in 1916, which ultimately led to the end of the Sears catalog home’s 32-year run, as many defaulted on payments during the Great Depression.
Marie learned her home was one of these Sears homes when two sisters, who formerly owned the home, stopped by to reminisce.
“I was working in the yard one day, and I watched as two elderly ladies dressed in their finest, each wearing white gloves, tried to parallel park their very old Plymouth in front of our house,” Marie recalls. “One of the ladies got out of the car and said, ‘we were hoping someone was home and would like to tell you the history of this house.’ ”
The 1,000-square-foot, one bedroom, one bathroom plus den house has been home for Marie and Ralph since they purchased it in 1981. However, Marie notes that at times, it felt like it was more than just the two of them living there.
“There really was a ghost,” she explains. “We think it was the person who lived here before we moved in. He met an untimely death. Ralph and I could feel him on our bed sometimes. … One day my brother was napping on our bed and he told me he felt the cats on the bed. I told him that was impossible; they have been outside all day. The ghost has been gone a long time now. Someone told us it is because a lot of love fills this house.”
With ample light that fills the home through the many windows, Marie looks out on her beautiful garden as the ocean breeze spills in through the kitchen and dining room windows all day long.
“The yard is just big enough to enjoy gardening and playing, and not too big that it’s overwhelming to take care of,” Marie says.
Decorated in a casual, summer beach cottage style, each room is a little different with wall colorings or furniture style—a little rattan, a little contemporary—just put your feet up and relax. LBM