This Laguna Beach dream home was built on a budget — and lots of D.I.Y.
Scott and Naomi Schoenherr are artists with a hillside home that matches their creativity. The Laguna Beach home was designed by architect Geoff Sumich.(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)
An antique pendant light from Japan hangs in the dining room in Scott and Naomi Schoenherr’s Laguna Beach home.(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)
Architect Geoff Sumich said the couple “wanted to capture the feeling of a Japanese farm house,” a nod to Tokyo-born Naomi Schoenherr’s roots.(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)
A teapot from Indonesia stands next to a wood stove in the living room of the Schoenherrs’ Laguna Beach home.(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)
An open-beam ceiling and giant glass panel windows are part of the open-plan dining, kitchen and living area at Scott and Naomi Schoenherr’s home.(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)
A large studio/workspace occupies the lower floor, and the upper floor is dedicated to living spaces.(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)
A ceramic Rolls Royce, titled “Forever Love,” created by artists Scott and Naomi Schoenherr is displayed in the studio in the lower level of their home.(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)
A papier-maché owl under a glass dome suggests a little whimsy in Scott and Naomi Schoenherr’s living room.(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)
The gardens are alive with metal sculptures and flowing bamboo at Scott and Naomi Schoenherr’s hillside home.(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)
Wisteria blooms along a second-story railing at the artists’ home.(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)
The master bedroom in Scott and Naomi Schoenherr’s home.(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)
High windows surround the bathroom, giving plenty of light and a view of the hills.(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)
A retro-looking plate by artist Fred Stodder hangs in the bathroom in Scott and Naomi Schoenherr’s home.(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)
Artists Scott and Naomi Schoenherr hold their chickens, Bella and Luna, in their backyard.(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)
Antique wooden gears from Japan hang on a kitchen wall.(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)
A hand-crafted wooden fruit bowl catches a ray of morning light on the dining room table in Scott and Naomi Schoenherr’s home.(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)
Scott Schoenherr stands on the front porch, near windows designed for the views of the hills.(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)
Naomi Schoenherr and her husband, Scott, have a studio and office on the bottom floor of their hillside home.(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)
Artists Scott and Naomi Schoenherr in their art-filled home.(Mark Boster / 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. 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.”
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.”
Some helpful online sites and sources to consider:
Eco design: www.sustainabilityworkshop.autodesk.com. Tile installation: www.tileoutlets.com. Concrete sealing: www.concretenetwork.com. Radiant heating: www.radiantcompany.com and www.radiantec.com. Irrigation: www.irrigationtutorials.com. Drip Irrigation Products: www.dripworks.com and www.dripirrigation.com. Water conservation: www.bewaterwise.com. Native Plants: www.laspilitas.com and www.californianativeplants.com. Landscape Lighting: www.familyhandyman.com. Frosted Privacy Window Film: www.homedepot.com.