The gated oasis of Emerald Bay is home to unique residences, numerous amenities and, most important, friendly neighbors.
By Tanya Yacina | Photos by Jody Tiongco
Behind the gates of Emerald Bay, you’ll find a tight-knit community wrapped in character and charm. Residents can be found walking or driving golf carts to the half-mile, private-access beach; playing tennis on one of six professional tennis courts; swimming at the pool complex; or attending one of the many community concerts or children’s events.
“Since I moved here from Ladera Ranch, I feel like I’m on vacation every day,” says Emerald Bay resident Ken Stetter. Located in north Laguna Beach, the exclusive community spans both sides of Coast Highway and encompasses roughly 500 homes that express the many different architectural aspects of the Pacific coast.
FAMILY FACTS: Stan and Ellen Gordon
DAY JOB: Stan is an attorney and entrepreneur; Ellen is in real estate and business consulting.
SPACE: Approxi-mately 3,900 square feet, three bedrooms, three baths
HOUSE TIMELINE: Built in 1941, purchased in 1976, remodeled in 2005
FABULOUS FEATURE: Many of the rooms are unique sizes and shapes, where none of the walls are the same length.
Ellen and Stan Gordon were relocating from the Los Angeles area when Stan became part of a law firm in Santa Ana. They toured many homes in Laguna Beach, but weren’t drawn to any of them.
“It had been cloudy all day and the skies finally cleared, so we went back to our …[real estate agent’s] home in Emerald Bay to take a quick break and grab her sunglasses,” Ellen says. “We fell in love with her home immediately and told her to find us something just like it.” The Gordons discovered that the agent’s home was for sale, and they bought it right away.
“Our house is well done architecturally,” Ellen says. “It was even featured in Architectural Digest in the early 1970s.” The home, an art deco, Mediterranean-style building, features terraced gardens on a corner lot. A unique property within the community, the house boasts rooms where each wall measurement is different from the next.
Floor-to-ceiling bookcases and a dual-sided fireplace separate the main rooms of the open floor plan. The full windows spanning the front of the house offer an ocean view from almost every room, while projecting light into each nook of the home and bringing in fresh ocean air. The Gordons remodeled their house 10 years ago and were conscious not to alter any of the rooms’ shapes or sizes.
“We wanted to keep the character of the home, but also needed to update the plumbing and flooring—we gutted it almost completely,” Stan explains. The home is lined with soft yellow and gray walls with crown molding; light walnut and marble-tiled floors; and various pieces of Asian-inspired artwork and furniture gathered on the Gordons’ international excursions. The couple also employed a local artist to faux paint many of the bathroom fixtures and furniture pieces.
“We raised our girls in this home and it holds many, many memories for us,” Ellen says. “As our children started to grow up, we involved them in the children’s programs offered in the community.”
Ellen helped pioneer many of the programs now offered in Emerald Bay, including the preschool in the firehouse.
“We love to have friends and family over—Ellen’s a great cook,” Stan says. The kitchen is Ellen’s workshop of sorts. The expansive, caramel-colored countertops offer plenty of space for her to whip up her next culinary masterpiece.
“Our home is comfortable and open, and great for entertaining any time of the year,” Ellen says.
FAMILY FACTS: Ken and Sanene Stetter, their children, Kasey (19), Kori (17) and Jack (5 months)
DAY JOB: Ken is president and Sanene is senior director of By George LLC, a boutique creative agency in Orange County.
SPACE: 1,963 square feet, three bedrooms, three baths
HOUSE TIMELINE: Built in 1958, purchased by Sanene’s family in 1972, Sanene moved into the home in 2003, Ken joined in 2012
FABULOUS FEATURE: A central courtyard with a calming fountain and manicured landscaping.
Sanene Stetter moved into her family’s Emerald Bay home when she was in her late 20s. “After divorcing from my first marriage, my grandparents allowed me to move in to get back on my feet—with my two dogs,” Sanene explains. “I was only supposed to be here for a short while, but … I’m still here.”
Upon move-in, Sanene began making small renovations to the home. “There’s now all new black, ceramic tile flooring in the living room and the master bedroom has a dark wood laminate,” Sanene says. The house also has been painted inside and out—blues and yellows inside and a crisp white on the exterior. The central courtyard and closed-in backyard also have undergone landscaping upgrades, and an outside Jacuzzi was recently added.
Sanene’s husband, Ken, moved into the house about three years ago and the couple has continued to make updates. “We re-did the guest bath by upgrading the glass shower stall and fixtures, and we are about to completely renovate the kitchen area,” Ken explains. “Since we’ve blended our families, the decor is very American modern—there’s a place in our house for teenagers, sports fans and newborns alike.”
The couple recently welcomed the newest addition, Jack, to their family. They transformed what was once a guest room into a nursery with baby blue walls, bright white furniture and an overstuffed couch. “We hope he’ll someday love what we’ve done as much as we do,” Sanene says.
“One of my favorite original pieces in the home is the stained glass in the floor-to-ceiling sliding door off the courtyard,” Sanene says. Her great-grandmother designed the bamboo pattern and had it custom-made in the 1970s. In addition to two large sliding doors, the courtyard is surrounded by floor-to-ceiling windows that display the relaxed interior of the home.
When Ken moved into the residence, he brought along a collection of sports memorabilia. Three large paintings of New York Yankees players occupy the far living room wall and are framed by bookcases which house other sports souvenirs and family photos. A historical stadium chair, obtained from the former Yankee Stadium, sits nearby. The eclectic mix of contemporary decorating styles and colors in the home creates a family-friendly atmosphere. Sanene notes, “At the end of the day, I can truly say we’ve made this house our home.”
FAMILY FACTS: James and Judy Montgomery
DAY JOB: James is in the homebuilding industry; Judy is a tutor.
SPACE: 3,600 square feet, five bedrooms, four baths
HOUSE TIMELINE: Built in 1980, purchased in 1982
FABULOUS FEATURE: Ten large windows span the front of the house, showcasing the ocean view.
Judy Montgomery is well rooted in this area: Her sister is just across the cul-de-sac and her parents lived in Emerald Bay for more than 40 years. “We love Emerald Bay because of the camaraderie and sense of community you find here,” Judy explains.
“When we were growing up in San Marino, we’d always come down this way for a visit, even when my parents weren’t living here full time,” Judy says while sitting at the sizeable wooden kitchen table where she typically tutors her students. The Montgomerys moved to Emerald Bay in the early 1980s after Judy’s husband, James, finished his time in the Navy and took a job with the Irvine Co.
The two-level, Spanish-style home boasts a generous view of the Pacific Ocean and the picturesque beach from large windows spanning the face of the house. The soft white and yellow walls reflect the comfortable airiness of the home.
“The only thing we’ve remodeled since we’ve lived here is the flooring in the master bedroom,” Judy explains. “The original tiles were replaced with travertine. Other than that, the structure is the same as it always has been—we’ve decorated in our own unique style.”
Judy frequently fills the home with furniture and decor she finds at consignment stores and through friends. Much of the home also features art from Africa (one of her daughters lived there for some time). Honey-colored oak floors complement much of the first level, including the dining area, living area and office. A sunken, casual living room, accented with whites and reds, and a formal living area with touches of navy and dark wood are separated by a dual-sided wet bar and two fireplaces.
The sparkly, wrought iron chandelier dangling over the expansive dining table grabs one’s eye immediately. “I like to change things up,” Judy explains. “This room’s decor has changed quite a bit, depending on the season or what I’ve found on my hunts.”
The loft-like master bedroom is housed on the top floor, showcasing equally impressive views and sunlight levels. Three additional cozy bedrooms, perfect for their children and grandchildren’s visits, and a wine cellar/storage area are found on the full, finished basement level. Many of the walls of the home are filled with sentimental art pieces created by the couple’s family.
The outdoor area also receives much attention. “I love to garden,” Judy says. “I spend a lot of time outside in the entry space and around front.”