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California Dreamer

Thursday, December 5th, 2013

By Gwendolyn Purdom
Photos by Aaron Letiz and Carlton Graham

 When Carlton Graham starts on a new residential design, the Laguna Beach-based architect asks his clients to give him the project address so that he can visit the site alone. “Before they tell me anything about the site or their ideas, I just want to walk the property myself and see what kind of feeling I get,” Graham says. “When I walk around, what strikes me with a clear head, without any of their thoughts?” It’s just one way Graham, of Graham Architecture, lets the California environment dictate his work. “I get a lot of clues from the site, the location, the views, the climate, the topography, the terrain, and the colors,” he says.

Architecture wasn’t originally Graham’s ambition. The Austin native wanted to be an artist. But by his college years, architecture’s combination of art and business seemed more and more appealing. Today, Graham says he taps that artistic inclination daily in his work: “It’s like making real 3-D sculpture that you can walk inside of.”

The palette Graham uses has been described as “warm modern,” but Graham says it entirely depends on the all-important setting and the client. For homeowners enamored with their travels to the island province of Bali, Graham incorporated Indonesian-style accents. Design choices for a property perched on a coveted and (almost unheard of in Southern California) beachfront double lot played up the house’s rare location.

Pick up a copy of the November/December issue of Design Bureau to read this full story in good old-fashioned print.

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