Little Beach House

Photo by Jeanne RiceLaguna Beach: Detached studio bungalow in six-unit court
Occupants: Stephanie Rezentes and Ty Stewart
Rent: $850 per month

The closer I get to Laguna Beach, the newer everything becomes: Condos, beach houses, movie theaters, powerboat dealerships with huge watercraft beached within pushing distance of the Pacific—it's all a clean slate. Commercially unspoiled.

Progress is great, but I have to wonder if a Starbucks is really what was missing from Crystal Cove. Maybe the gorgeous view as you roll into Laguna is somehow heightened when glimpsed through a soy latte haze. No?

I'm heartened to find the urban renewal wizards have missed a tiny, ancient, six-unit bungalow court right on the Highway, near the city's northern border. Everything else is art gallery, art gallery, restaurant, art gallery—and then there's this cluster of homes, quietly tucked away. Not bothering anybody.

The finest of its six units is home to Stephanie Rezentes and her boyfriend, Ty Stewart, and they're quick to clue me in to the niceties of historic beachfront living. It's the only unit with hardwood floors and a gas fireplace. But the first thing I notice as I arrive is their proximity to the beach.

"We're five minutes from the beach," Stephanie exulted. "That's why I wanted this place. It took six months to find." Why else would you live in a beach city? As night falls, the marine layer intensifies and a fog creeps in, on little cat feet, making me wish I were at the beach, instead of five minutes away.

The second thing I discover, as I walk through their Dutch door and feel like a horse, is that this place is about half the size of my own 798-square-foot mansion. It's teeny. Tiny. Lilliputian. If the OC Weekly printed plans to build this bungalow—like Popular Mechanics used to—we'd have to include a magnifying glass with each issue.

Ty and Stephanie don't have a living room, a dining room or a bedroom. They have one medium-sized room taking the place of three. It's like a bed-sitter in England—where you sit on the bed because it's the only place to sit—or an apartment in Japan, where everything is carefully stacked, ordered beyond reason because it must be.

But I say all this like it's a bad thing; it's not. It just means they have less stuff than you do: No board games and outdated exercise equipment in the garage; no cell phone bills from 1999; less than five kinds of hair conditioner in the bathroom. Bet you're already envious.

"We've simplified," said Stephanie, Mistress of Understatement, who lived here before she met Ty. He's a touring musician with Buchanan, which makes things easier.

"The biggest thing is my gear," he told me as they sat on the couch in the living room area of the house which is to the right of the sleeping area, and just behind the dining area. "When I'm home, [the couch] gets pushed up, and all my gear goes in front of the fireplace."

For our photo shoot, his gear—amps and guitars—is stacked on the patio just inches away. And this little house at the beach is polished within an inch of its life.

The high four-poster bed is made up with a homey quilt. The couch is neatly lined up parallel to the fireplace but facing away. A string of clear twinkly lights winds around one of the exposed ceiling beams, shining up into the whitewashed A-frame roof.

When our photog takes the picture, everyone smiles—even the house. Cute! So cute!


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