architect orange county - architect laguna beach

Ocean Home

An architect known for his ‘romantic” modernism and an interior designer known for her “organic” modernism joined forces in 2019 to create a dynamic home in California’s Corona del Mar


«I blend romance with modern design.’ says architect Geoff Sumich.» There’s always warmth with wood or stone: Trained in modernism in his native New Zealand. the architect arrived in California during the 1518os. only to find clients demanding Tudor and French Country homes. For 15 years. he cut his teeth on classical architecture.

-When I finally broke out to do the modern work that I wanted to, I hid the traditional work from my clients for three or four years: he says. ‘Then I put it on my website because it actually informed my modem work: Interior designer Lisa McDennon earned a degree in fine arts from VC Irvine and another in interior design from the Interior Designers Institute in Newport Beach. When she set up her flan in 2000.

she began to explore a contextual. coastal dyle of her own. “It reflects the surroundings and natural organic elements:she says. “I balance the architectural structure of the house with the client’s personal style.” In this case, the client was developer Tom Nicholson. whose work is well known in Newport Beach and Corona del Mar. While the building’s bones were designed first by architects at Toblesky Green in Yorba Linda. Nicholson asked McDennon and Sumich to finish the home for himself and his wife. Halfway through the design process though. the couple elected to sell it.

architect orange county - architect laguna beach
Architect Orange County - Geoff Sumich Design

home builder digest

The Best Residential Architects in the Gateway Cities, California

Geoff Sumich Design was founded over three decades ago on the strength of principal Geoff Sumich’s approach to “romantic modernism.” Using this philosophy, Geoff references and incorporates elements of the past while celebrating the simplicity and minimalism of modern design through the use of materials such as stone, wood, and steel. These are allowed to age in a natural and maintenance-free manner and then placed in the context of simple and clean modern space

Geoff is personally involved with every aspect of the home and encourages the involvement of clients in the entire process. As a result, Geoff is able to address the thousands of big and small questions that arise, ensuring the execution of the design and the success of the project. Because of the impeccable results of Geoff’s approach and process, the firm’s work has been featured in the pages of Architectural Digest, Prospertere, The Orange County Register, Ocean Home magazine, Riviera magazine, The Los Angeles Times, and Bluedoor Magazine.

31511 Camino Capistrano, Suite A, San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675

Architect Orange County - Geoff Sumich Design
Geoff Sumich design - Architect Orange County - Architect Laguna Beach - Romantic Modernism - Architect Newport Beach


Geoff Sumich Design

Walking into the gorgeous new Geoff Sumich-designed house in Cameo Shores is like checking into a modern boutique hotel set above a faraway tropical sea. The house offers that sublime sense of arrival, that feeling of “ahh” as soon as you pass over the threshold. There will be time to explore the indulgent open spaces throughout the five-bedroom, two-level Gorham Drive home, and to appreciate its masterful design and prescient focus on health and wellness. But the ocean air draws you inexorably and directly toward the perfectly framed view of the Pacific Ocean and the liquid beauty of the back patio with its inviting infinity pool.

This view, this air and sunlight, is why people have moved to Orange County for the better part of a century, and why those who are fortunate enough to live anywhere in the world continue to come.

The kitchen, master suite, and open space living areas unfold to the fluid textures of the infinity pool, including Baja step and spa. The patio features a Fesboc outdoor kitchen fabricated in Spain. There is a full-service bathroom around the corner just past the grill. The cantilever roof overhang adds an additional element of privacy, framing the ocean view.

Geoff Sumich design - Architect Orange County - Architect Laguna Beach - Romantic Modernism - Architect Newport Beach

“The home was a collaborative effort to craft a sanctuary that embraced its natural surroundings, celebrating the circulation of light, air and water” says Tim Tamura, managing partner at VALIA Properties. “Its form is thoughtfully restrained, tranquil and supported by technologies for healthier living.” 

Romantic Modernism

Tamura worked closely with architect Geoff Sumich to fulfill the vision of Chris Marsh, the owner and developer of the property, which is listed for $17,995,000.

“From inception, the overarching design principle was to develop an architectural form to celebrate water, light and air,” Marsh says.

Water is featured in the pool, reflecting pond, and of course, the ocean. Light floods through the home, thanks to high ceilings, porous architecture, and skylights that serve as windows to the sky. And, due to the open plan design, ocean air flows through the primary living areas, offering seamless indoor/outdoor living that is quintessentially Californian. It’s all delivered with materials—wood, stone, landscape—that celebrate nature.

geoff sumich - architect orange county - Architect Newport Beach - Architect Laguna Beach - Romantic Modernism

A focus on light and air as essential elements of healthy living is in the DNA of California architecture and design, as seen in the work of midcentury masters like Richard Neutra and Rudolph Schindler. The resulting Neutra-designed Lovell Health House in Los Angeles, built in 1927, and the Schindler-designed Lovell Beach House in Newport Beach were among the most influential modern homes of their era, or ever.

The Gorham Drive home could be similarly significant for those seeking a healthy home, circa 2020. The home goes above and beyond the healthy attributes of light and air circulation alone. It employs cutting-edge technology, including a “first-of-type wellness system from DELOS to provide pure water supply throughout and actively-monitored clean air to the living areas of the home,” Marsh explains.

The system includes sensors that continually monitor and measure concentrations of five critical air pollutants; a three-stage air filtration process; and water filtration at point of entry and point of use. Plus, the home includes a circadian lighting system that transitions dynamically throughout the day. The system is designed to promote alertness and clarity during the day, while helping enhance sleep at night, by helping regulate the body’s natural circadian rhythm.

Marsh, who is the president of the Irvine Company Apartment Development Division, has 30-plus years of experience in construction, design, and development.

“Good clients make good projects, and Chris is a good client,” Sumich says. “He knew what he wanted, but he didn’t tell me how to do it, and that’s the signature of all good clients. He’s a champion guy.”

Tamura agrees. “To refine spaces, reducing the unnecessary takes rigorous attention to detail and thoughtful execution. Chris was relentless in his pursuit.”

Tamura’s VALIA Development Consulting team contributes a deep understanding of what the market wants and demands in the programming, layout, and design of a luxury home. “We’re in a unique position to interface with a very targeted audience. By listening to the market, you’re able to conceive amazing homes that not only deliver on their needs but exceed their expectations,” Tamura explains. “We work to craft beautiful homes that are intuitive, live well, and over time become more appreciated.”

That level of involvement results in happy clients. The projects Tamura and the VALIA Development Consulting team are involved in typically generate the highest sales numbers in the market.

The success of the collaborative effort—which also included builder Winkle Custom Homes, Michael Fullen Design Group, SCAPE Gallery art consulting, Lisa McDennon Design, and a myriad of artists and craftspeople—is apparent throughout the home. But the attention to detail is especially apparent on the lower level.

“Light also flows into the lower level from a large round skylight set above a stunning and dramatic circular staircase. The skylight, stairs, and even the handrail are minor marvels of design and engineering.”

“The media lounge features a second living wall beyond, one of many vignettes designed to add additional interior views throughout the house, while maintaining privacy.” 

“Chris Marsh wanted the downstairs to be as interesting or as spectacular, if not more spectacular, than the main level,” Sumich says. How to pull that off on the lower level without the Pacific Ocean views? With simple, bold architectural statements that bring air, light, and nature to the lower level. An open-air atrium with a reflecting pool and a two-story green wall creates a calm and contemplative space at the heart of the home.
“Our intention was always to bring nature into the lower level,” Sumich says. “Now, with people spending more time in their homes, what better thing than to have nature inside your house? A week or so after the green wall was installed, I was standing there inside the house when two hummingbirds flew down, just a few feet from me. That wall is living.”
The wellness spa opens onto the open-air terrace with a two-story verdant living wall. The room above is the meticulously finished autonomous guest casita/office, adjacent to the main level of the residence.

On the opposite side of the interior terrace, a classically stacked block wall offers a bold, midcentury modern-like statement. The wall is a signature element of the Sumich repertoire: the veil. “The three architectural elements I use are walls, voids (glass or openings), and then something in between where you want light but also privacy,” he says. “That’s the veil.” The lower level with wine wall, media lounge, and billiards table, is informal yet as spectacular as the main level.

A resort-like wellness spa opens onto the terrace. The calm and expansive room can be transformed into an autonomous space well-suited for multi-generational living. The two-story terrace also brings light and air into the lower level lounge, an alluring and sexy space that would not feel out of place in a James Bond film. The bar area includes a wine wall and billiards table, which opens onto a modern media lounge, rather than an insular screening room. Rich textures of wood and stone create an effect that is at once informal, and still exceedingly well-finished.

The skylight above the circular staircase includes structural supports also designed out of glass by architect Geoff Sumich. The chandelier is a Seed Cloud installation by OCHRE.

Light also flows into the lower level from a large round skylight set above a stunning and dramatic circular staircase. The skylight, stairs, and even the handrail are minor marvels of design and engineering. Descending the stairs is an elegant, practical, and aesthetically pleasing experience. Perhaps that’s because, like all good design, the painstaking attention to detail required to create a curved wall on a curved staircase with a curved skylight is superbly subliminal.

“Back in the day, lower levels were dungeons, with no light wells or anything,” Tamura explains of early efforts at adding subterranean levels in custom homes, both in Cameo Shores and nearby neighborhoods. Here, the design includes internal views of intriguing vignettes that include touches of nature, light, and air.

It’s an enriching environment that offers privacy and sanctuary, while not feeling closed in. “You’re not aware of your neighbors. You’re not aware of anything. It just takes you to a completely other place,” Sumich says.

Architect Orange County - Architect Newport Beach - Architect Laguna Beach - Romantic Modernism - Geoff Sumich

 BY Blue Door Magazine

Architect Orange County - Architect Newport Beach - Architect Laguna Beach - Romantic Modernism - Geoff Sumich

home builder digest

The Best Residential Architects in Huntington Beach, California Geoff Sumich Design

Geoff Sumich Design was founded by its principal designer, Geoff Sumich. Before running the firm, Sumich spent the early years of his practice designing traditional homes. Eventually he started to blend that traditional style with modernist designs. In most of Sumich’s projects, materials like wood, stone, steel, and glass are incorporated to bring a timelessness to his designs. In a sense, his work exudes the nature of evolution. Geoff Sumich Design has been featured in several industry publications, including Architectural Digest, Prospertere, The Orange County Register, Ocean Home, Riviera, Chome, Los Angeles Times, and Bluedoor Magazine.

A firm that specializes in residential architecture, Geoff Sumich Design is known for a style that incorporates romantic elements from the past while celebrating the simple clean lines of modern design. A great example is the residence he designed in Huntington Beach. A two-story home, this beautiful residence exudes Japanese elements much apparent in its floor to ceiling windows, wooden finishes, and interior design.

31511 Camino Capistrano, Suite A, San Juan, Capistrano, CA 92675

Architect Orange County - Architect Newport Beach - Architect Laguna Beach - Romantic Modernism - Geoff Sumich
Architect Orange County - Architect Newport Beach - Architect Laguna Beach - Romantic Modernism - Geoff Sumich

architectural digest


Trust in Simplicity

With a gift for romantic modernism, a passion for the Adriatic seaside, and a client of kindred spirit, Geoff Sumich built his favorite house.

When Geoff Sumich met the clients for whom he would build his hill-side villa overlooking the coast of Orange County, it felt like kismet. “We had the same passion for the Mediterranean,” explains Sumich, princk pal of Geoff Sumich Design. The couple wanted a house that would remind them

of their travels to the region, and I have a powerful affinity for the hillside villages of Croatia, where I’ve been many times.” A sloped lot on the Pacific Ocean cre-ated an ideal starting point for the seaside villa. “Our concept was to play with texture rather than color,” Sumich explains. We used limestone, stucco, glass, and white canvas. The color palette was beachy with subtle tans and beiges. We wanted a house where you’d fit In perfectly whether dressed for a gala or wrapped in a beach towel.” To evoke a “village,” Sumich divided the house into a cluster of buildings with varying textures, connected by narrow “streets”—hallways paved In cobblestone and encased in glass. A grotto carved into the adjacent hillside created a quaint town courtyard with a sitting area and fire feature.

Architect Orange County - Architect Newport Beach - Architect Laguna Beach - Romantic Modernism - Geoff Sumich

I think the key to this home’s beauty is its simplicity,” says Sumich. “Sometimes the best results come from restraint—resisting shiny things and trusting in simple, under-stated choices.” With so many stunning homes in his portfolio, one might wonder Why focus on this one, today? “Because this is the one I’d want to live in,” Sumich shares without hesitating. “This is the one that most epito-mizes my romantic modernism. This is my favorite house.”

Geoff Sumich Design, Inc. 31511 Camino Capistrano, Suite A San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675 949-496-8991

architectural digest – january 2020 – “home and design, orange county” – north laguna

Architect Orange County - Architect Newport Beach - Architect Laguna Beach - Romantic Modernism - Geoff Sumich

los angeles times

artists scott and naomi schoenherr are always on a budget — never more so than when they purchased their rugged, hillside lot in laguna beach, where they planned to build their dream home and ceramics studio. a friend had lost his home in the 1993 fire there and had offered them a good price on the land. “we waited almost six years — saving our pennies,” says scott, “before we could build.”

when they were ready, they called in architect geoff sumich in san juan capistrano to design their 2,800-square-foot dwelling — an open-plan dining, kitchen and living area with an adjacent master suite that sits atop their ceramic studio nestled into the hillside below. “they wanted to capture the feeling of a japanese farm house,” says sumich, a nod to tokyo-born naomi’s roots.

creating the artful, two-story, post-and-beam home and studio wasn’t easy. throughout the building and permit process that drew out over 6 years, they made tough choices to stay on budget. original plans that included a second bedroom and bath were revised when caissons on the hillside threatened to blow their budget sky high.

Architect Orange County - Architect Newport Beach - Architect Laguna Beach - Romantic Modernism - Geoff Sumich

although they had wanted custom doors, they settled for off-the-rack ones from ganahl lumber; straight glass over insulated panes for windows; plywood ceilings instead of tongue and groove douglas fir. selecting a limited palette of simple materials — concrete, plywood and western red cedar — allowed them to get a quantity discount, while also keeping costs low.

“in addition,” says naomi, “we did a lot of the work ourselves.”

to that end, they waterproofed their exterior retaining wall with a liquid rubber membrane, pre-sealed wood siding on the house, then installed and finished the outdoor deck. they also rented a ditch witch to install the water line to the house, dug trenches for irritation, then planted a drought-tolerant landscape that won roger’s gardens california friendly garden contest in 2007.

inside the house, they installed sinks and laid tiles. they also put down the black walnut flooring with the help of a floor installer friend. “he lent us his tools and got us started,” explains scott. “basically i would glue and lay the wood and he would hammer it into place and staple it down.” since they had purchased a no. 2 common grade wood, naomi selected and pre-arranged floor boards to minimalize any defects, then they sealed the floor with a clear satin polyurethane finish to make the floors look richer and more uniform. “our knees were pretty sore,” recalls scott.

naomi shopped around for good buys. it turned out to be less expensive to order the wood floor from a supplier in tennessee — even with shipping costs — than buying from a local showroom. ditto the western red cedar siding that came from washington state. although the artists make beautiful, multi-glaze tiles (their ceramic sculpture in laguna beach’s heisler park won them “artist of the year” in 2013), they opted to buy tiles wholesale from a friend’s shop. “we wanted to design our own,” says scott, “but it would have taken us away from making artwork that was paying for the house.”

the talented pair turned their creative energies to fashion an interior landscape of east-meets-west appointments as well. take the vintage mizuya tansu (japanese stacking cabinets) naomi’s mother had sent from tokyo. rearranged side by side and topped with granite, they form the kitchen’s unique center island.

in the master bedroom, frosted-glass windows produce the appearance of a transparent shoji screen. although the large fixed glass had to be custom made and frosted at the manufacturer, they reproduced the same look themselves on the side windows with a frosted privacy window film from home depot.

so, do you have to be an artist to help build your own home?

“it undoubtedly helps to have some real hands on experience,” says scott. “on the other hand, being artists made the project longer for sure… we’re both very particular.”

some d.i.y tips from the schoenherrs

artist naomi schoenherr advises when building your own home to be flexible and educate yourself. “talking to building trade professionals, reading books and taking on-line tutorials definitely helps the design process — there are always more than one way to do something.”

by barbara thornburg