The Laguna Beach contemporary is stepped and set back to reduce the appearance of mass. (Vincent Ivicevic) — Cut into a steep hillside, this contemporary home in north Laguna Beach reflects the changes the city made to its municipal code in 2002, commonly known as the “mansionization ordinance,” to reduce the appearance of mass from the growing number of stacked homes.

Developer Jeff Day and his associates purchased the 1949 home that stretched across two lots, tore it down and subdivided the lots equally. Paul McClean of McClean Design was hired to design both homes.

The contemporary combines nautical elements with natural materials.

“One of the issues with a four-story structure is that we were trying to soften the impact and make it as different as we could from the house next door,” McClean said. “The curves bring movement into the design; otherwise it tends to look kind of boxy and static.”

Because of the hillside, several large retaining walls were constructed. Along the back and sides the wall heights vary, stepping down in areas and back up in others. Altogether, 800 cubic yards of concrete were needed. The grading, excavation and retaining walls, Day said, added six months to the project.

“We thought it was important to pull the house away from the retaining wall,” McClean said. “So even with the tall retaining wall in the back, it’s better to have the courtyard space, so you don’t have the feeling of living in a hill.”

The courtyard features a fireplace, built-in barbecue and bar area with access to the kitchen.

From the driveway, stairs lead up to the first level. An 800-square-foot guest suite over the garage has two bedrooms, a bathroom and a kitchenette with a stacked washer-dryer and a patio with an ocean view. Its private entrance provides flexibility for guests and family members who aren’t using the main section of the home.

A short flight of steps (or the elevator) opens to the main level where the living room, dining area, den/office and kitchen are. The loft-like space measures about 1,500 square feet and features mahogany floors and cabinetry and sliding doors and windows. Frosted glass is used to create privacy while allowing in light. The desert suede-color paint complements the natural look on the exterior.

A 600-plus-square-foot deck covered in ceramic tiles offers a panoramic view of the Pacific.

The top floor has the master suite, a second bedroom, two bathrooms and a laundry area. The master bathroom features a limestone countertop, frameless walk-in shower and a spa tub with an ocean view as well.