A room with a view is part of the California dream.
But which scene--sea or city--is most attractive depends on the owners' point of view. To some, nothing beats the serenity of the ocean. "It's dramatic," says Roger McKinnon, founder of Roger's Gardens and owner of Roger's Realty, both in Corona del Mar.
McKinnon's home on Ocean Boulevard in Corona del Mar provides an unobstructed view of the Pacific. "Every day it changes," says McKinnon. "It's never the same look twice."
Cityscape dwellers, on the other hand, extol the glimmer of the night. "It really is lovely," says Diane Hinch of Santa Ana Heights. "You can see just about everything from here. I think we have about a 200-degree view. The only thing we can't see is the Pacific Ocean. We know it's out there on the horizon, but we can't actually see the beach and the waves crashing in."
An ocean view during the day is "a beautiful view," Hinch concedes. "It's very serene and very relaxing. But at night, you really can't see anything."
The debate ranges on over which is best. It seems everyone has a decided preference for one or the other, a choice that no one can really explain. And not even experts can stay objective on the subject.
"The preference for cityscape or ocean-scape views has to do with your childhood environment," says Dorian Hunter, the county's only American Society of Interior Designers fellow, the highest rank a designer can achieve in the society. "If you grew up living at the ocean, you probably couldn't bear to leave it.
"Personally, however, I like a warmer climate, so inland is my choice. The ocean is too cool for the evenings to be on the patio and I don't think we have enough clouds to vary the ocean view here," says Hunter. "There are people who prefer to live on hills, some might even say it's truly upscale because you're above it all. Hill areas are more tranquil and there's less traffic. And a view is much more interesting if you're looking through trees."
Through her Fullerton-based interior design company, Hunter works mostly with clients who have hill-view houses that face the San Gabriel Mountains. "Maybe designers tend to select clients with similar interest," says Hunter.
The trend toward "nest building," in which homeowners entertain at home and spend most of their free time there, is a reaction to the traffic and smog here, says Hunter. "That makes the views from patios and gardens more important. People are taking an interest in wanting to appreciate what they have and staying put."
Whether it's the nocturnal glitz created by the Los Angeles basin or the sparkle of the blue Pacific, high-priced lookouts still uphold their desirability in today's sluggish real estate market, says McKinnon of Roger's Realty.
High up in their Santa Ana Heights home, Diane and Jim Hinch can see the John Wayne airport runways, Disneyland's Matterhorn and Anaheim Stadium and all the way down to the Queen Mary in Long Beach, the Los Angeles skyline, and, on a clear day (with binoculars), the Hollywood sign.
"Being from England, we grew up thinking Hollywood was the place to be," Jim Hinch says. "I've always been fascinated by the Hollywood sign--and from here, we can actually see it."
A bird's-eye view of Disneyland is another lofty thrill, adds Diane Hinch. "What's fascinating for us, and probably is for most people, is to think we can sit here on our patio and see the Disneyland fireworks every night in the summer. I like to mention that when I write to people in England."
Former Costa Mesa residents, the Hinches moved to higher ground three years ago. Like many of their seascape counterparts, the Hinches remodeled their home to optimize their spectacular vista. With help from Newport Beach interior designer Eva Lennen, the couple extended a white latticework-covered patio deck, which the Hinches jokingly call their "bird cage." There the couple sip tea in the evening, watching the night come to life as the sun sets over Los Angeles. "It's like sitting in a jewel box," Jim Hinch says.
While the Hinches enjoy the dazzle of the city, other Orange County residents claim the ocean is the place to be. "It's just plain thrilling," says Laguna Beach resident J.R. Johnson. "I sit out and listen to the surf pounding on the rocks below. Also, the weather is milder and far more pleasant. You don't get the swing of temperature that you get inland."
Johnson's Moss Point cliff-side home takes advantage of its location with a gazebo, rooms with views (including one from the master bathroom's tiled bathtub) and plant-accented walkout decks on all three levels.
The one drawback of such an up-close ocean home is the costly maintenance caused by the corrosive sea air, Johnson says. To minimize damage, John Garcia of Corona del Mar-based Planit Design Studio, has remodeled the home's bottom level with sun and salt air abuse in mind.