Orange County is a bubble of ultra-weirdness in the already weird world of Southern California. Fast food restaurants and mega-malls huddle together and hug the I-5 freeway as thousands of soccer moms drive huge SUVs through yellow lights while talking loudly into cell phones. The only green that can be found is on the small grassy medians of busy roads and in the iceplant off the side of the freeway.
But, past the stoplights and cell-phone stores is a place that many people would never know existed. Tucked away from this Gap-clothing-commercial world is a hidden green valley where coyotes and deer are the local consumers. The Laguna canyon starts just minutes off of a busy toll highway that links Mission Viejo with Newport Beach. As you start driving into the canyon, you’ll soon realize you’re entering a world somehow separated from its surroundings. The hills of the canyon are covered in green, and the sun lights up the walls around you like a movie set. A few minutes into the valley and a small outcropping of little houses and shops pops up along the two-lane road that cuts through the canyon floor like a stream. Up through a maze of back roads and through a private gate you’ll find Donavon’s house.
As you drive up to the house you’ll be asking yourself if you made a wrong turn and somehow ended up in Northern California or in the hills of Switzerland. The modern, château-style house sits halfway up a small mountain and nestles itself in a grove of gently swaying trees. The roof is made up of steep slants, and every window comes complete with a plant box and a valley view. When you step through the front door, a distinct feeling of peace and calm surrounds you.
You’ll never see a house that so perfectly matches its owner. The house itself welcomes you the second you walk in, just like Donavon does the instant you meet him. The vaulted ceilings and glowing skylights lend the living room an almost spiritual vibe while the woven mat-like carpet gives you feelings of earthiness. Donavon beams while showing you around the house: “This place is everything I’ve ever wanted. It’s my dream house, and it just seems like the best place on Earth to raise my family.”
The house isn’t huge, it’s actually quite small for a modern home–three bedrooms, a nice kitchen, a garage, and a few bathrooms. By no means a mansion, but its charm and ambiance easily makes up for its size. As you make your way through the garage, past the wall of guitar amps, and into the backyard, the hillside in the back overwhelms you. At the base of the hill along the side of the house is Donavon’s eclectic and massive quiver of old single fins and collector boards, all ridden, waxed up, and ready to go. On the opposite side of the house is an outdoor table and a few chairs set under a tree. “This is the most amazing place just to sit and write music or just to relax and watch the sky,” says Donavon. “The neighbors are so chill and private. We could just walk around naked all day if we wanted to.”
The smile on Donavon’s face says it all as we finish up the tour. He’s found his dream house. The location could lead people to wonder about his surfing situation and ask him how far it was to the beach. It seemed like light years away from the condos and hotels of Laguna, but Donavon just laughs and points out that around the next corner of the highway, about a mile and a half away, is the village of Laguna Beach and dozens of fun waves.
Jealousy is the first feeling that comes over you as you drive away from the amazing house, but that is soon overtaken by happiness for Donavon and his family. His house is humble, warm, funky, unique, and friendly–just like he is.–C.C.