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The online Los Angeles based Magazine VoyageLA featured Bob in this April 2018 article.


Q: Your designs are beautiful. Which style is your personal favorite? A: Contemporary. I love it and grew up with it. It’s a more honest style and lends itself to density, a way to design on smaller lots, which for Laguna is perfect. Classical style blends symmetry in its floor plan yet requires a large amount of space. An ocean view is the important feature for homes in Laguna, yet lots are as small as 20’ x 55’ wide. Contemporary gives me the freedom to design an easier way to make symmetry work for these smaller sites. For instance the entrance might be constructed on the level above the living area so an ocean view can greet anyone walking through the door versus the more classical style of first floor entry. Q: How would you describe your work? A: It is functional, comfortable, inspiring and affordable. I believe quality is never an accident and is always the result of high intentions, sincere effort, intelligent direction and skillful execution. It is contemporary decoration, still a lot of functionality but very beautiful; a new out-shoot of architecture. If someone wants a classical style house, we try to stay reasonably true to the history of the architecture, for instance utilizing a lentil over the door, but creating it with faux stone. Q: You also design commercial. Anything in the works?

One on One with Robert McGraw – Coastal Real Estate Guide


Jul 31, 2014 /  251 views

Houzz Pins Architect With its Badge of Honor

By Gina Dostler Laguna resident and architect Robert A. McGraw wraps the city around his life and work, designing beautiful homes and commercial buildings from his ocean view office since 1987. He has served on the city’s Design Review Board, Heritage Committee and functioned as the architecture advisory consultant for the gated community Three Arch Bay in South Laguna. His own works include home improvements, historic restoration and original designs. This year, an award from the popular home design website Houzz made him the current favorite. Q: Are you happy you won the 2014 Houzz Award? A: Of course. It’s a survey and analysis of 16 million monthly users so it means my work has been well received. We are very happy to be honored in this way by Houzz and its followers. The website is actually really handy. I started looking at it a couple of years ago. It allows people to research an enormous amount of pictures related to the home and place the ones they like in their ideabook, making a one-stop-shop compilation of designs and items for the home. Q: How does that help you as an architect? A: I got calls from people who visited the site and liked my photographs. It really helped that we have a broad spectrum from Tuscan style new homes to modern remodels. When I can view their files with their permission, I really get an understanding of what they want. I also started to hear how for the last 10 years the renovation of a home has changed hands to the lady of the house, leaving her in charge of researching and making choices for the designs. Houzz provides the perfect tool for this. Some of the photographs on the site even have prices included, which helps construct a budget.

A: We are redoing the well-known Royal Hawaiian restaurant. The owners are working to bring a very established L.A. restaurant chain into the mix. For the design, we are making it smaller, giving up quite a bit of square footage. Right now nothing opens in front of the building. But we are going to eliminate the current mezzanine dining area and open up the whole front building with a folding door system. We’ll change the entrance a little bit and level out all the floors. It’ll take about six to eight months for completion once the design is approved. Q: Designing in Laguna can be very challenging. A: Yes. Laguna is intense. There was a study done of nine cities and Laguna was the most contentious. The neighbors have a great deal of say with what gets built. There is a Design Review Board to make sure everything meets code and protects the village atmosphere of the city. When designing, you have to be aware of privacy, cannot block the view, adhere to maximum heights and other guidelines. I currently have a design that is for a very contemporary house in South Laguna and is in the review process waiting for approval. So there are many factors that play into creating and designing homes.

Coastal Real Estate Guide

Robert McGraw is recipient of Best of Houzz 2014 Award. 


Robert A. McGraw, Architect of Laguna Beach Receives
Best Of Houzz 2014 Award


Annual Survey and Analysis of 16 Million Monthly Users

Reveals Top-Rated Building, Remodeling and Design Professionals

Orange County, CA, February 4, 2014 – Robert A. McGraw, Architect of Laguna Beach has been awarded “Best Of Houzz” by Houzz, the leading platform for home remodeling and design. Mr. McGraw, a leading residential and commercial architect in Laguna Beach,  was chosen by the more than 16 million monthly users that comprise the Houzz community.


The Best Of Houzz award is given in two categories: Customer Satisfaction and Design. Customer Satisfaction honors are determined by a variety of factors, including the number and quality of client reviews a professional received in 2013. Design award winners’ work was the most popular among the more than 16 million monthly users on Houzz, known as “Houzzers,” who saved more than 230 million professional images of home interiors and exteriors to their personal ideabooks via the Houzz site, iPad/iPhone app and Android app. Winners will receive a “Best Of Houzz 2014” badge on their profiles, showing the Houzz community their commitment to excellence. These badges help homeowners identify popular and top-rated home professionals in every metro area on Houzz.


“We are very pleased to be honored in this way by Houzz and it’s followers! Houzz is a valuable resource for our practice. Not only are we receiving clients and inquiries from the site, our clients can use Houzz to put together their wish lists as we design their homes and that is a real aid to communication.”

“Houzz provides homeowners with the most comprehensive view of home building, remodeling and design professionals, empowering them to find and hire the right professional to execute their vision,” said Liza Hausman, vice president of community for Houzz. “We’re delighted to recognize Robert among our “Best Of” professionals for customer satisfaction as judged by our community of homeowners and design enthusiasts who are actively remodeling and decorating their homes.”


With Houzz, homeowners can identify not only the top-rated professionals like Bob McGraw but also those whose work matches their own aspirations for their home. Homeowners can also evaluate professionals by contacting them directly on the Houzz platform, asking questions about their work and reviewing their responses to questions from others in the Houzz community.


About Robert A. McGraw

Robert McGraw Architect is a full service architectural firm in Laguna Beach, California, dedicated to high-quality personal service and the design of inspired, functional, and affordable homes in the Southern California region. Bob is active in the local community and has served on many civic boards including the Design Review Board of Laguna Beach and has an understanding of the planning and zoning processes which are so vital to building in Southern California’s Oceanside communities.


About Houzz

Houzz is the leading platform for home remodeling and design, providing people with everything they need to improve their homes from start to finish – online or from a mobile device. From decorating a room to building a custom home, Houzz connects millions of homeowners, home design enthusiasts and home improvement professionals across the country and around the world. With the largest residential design database in the world and a vibrant community powered by social tools, Houzz is the easiest way for people to get the design inspiration, project advice, product information and professional reviews they need to help turn ideas into reality. 

Follow Robert A. McGraw, Architect on Houzz

October 12, 2012

Architects at Home, By Somer Flaherty/ Photos by Robert Hansen

Take a look inside Laguna Beach designers' dwellings.

Architect Robert McGraw chose his home in  the Alta Vista neighborhood, keeping in mind the real estate philosophy: Purchase the worst house on the best street. The awesome ocean view didn’t hurt either.

The remodel of the original 1,200-square-foot home was corralled by what he says were few but restrictive existing conditions—the small lot, carport location and the original 1959 design and layout done by Fred Briggs, a Dana Point architect who more than two decades ago was selected as one of Architectural Digest’s 100 foremost architects.

Like any construction project, the process had obstacles—he asked for the removal of existing crawl space vents so new ones could be installed, and instead ended up with 40 feet of new fencing gone (“fence” and “vent” sounded similar). Robert admits that if he were to do it all over again, there are things he would change. But even with the challenges, the McGraws were rewarded for perseverance. The resulting 2,400-square-foot, three-bedroom house gives them an extraordinary space in which to live, entertain and raise their daughter, Annika. Robert, who served on the Laguna Beach Design Review Board and the Laguna Beach Heritage Committee, and functioned as the architecture advisory consultant for Three Arch Bay, calls the new design “mid-century contemporary with a dab of rustic thrown in.”

From the perspective of repurposing a structure while maintaining the basic intent of the original designer, the space represents his aesthetic. “To have made [it] mine completely  would have meant a lot more demolition, time and expense,” he explains. “That’s the other part that represents me: how frugal my approach is to building.”

                                                                   To see original article, 

Laguna Beach Magazine
Twig to Wildland
Adding Another Twig to Wildlands
July 10, 2012

The Laguna Canyon Foundation, the city of Laguna Beach and the California Coastal Conservancy added two acres of sensitive coastal sage scrub and oak woodland habitat, as well as a scenic public trail, to Laguna’s open space with the recent $325,000 purchase of the McGraw Property.

The property was acquired from local architect Robert McGraw and made possible by Proposition 12 funding through the state Coastal Conservancy.

“It may seem somewhat out of character for an architect to be ‘pro-open space’,” said McGraw, “but as a past Woodstock hippie, I have always been dedicated to retaining and managing open space for the good of all. Actually, it is essential for those of us who are involved in making new homes and renovating existing properties (including historic homes) in Laguna Beach to be strong voices for adding to and caring for our natural environment. I am proud to be able to be part of the conservation of Laguna Canyon.”

Max Borella, the foundation’s executive director, said the acquisition was complex because the property was entitled as a legal building site. “We placed a high priority on its preservation so it did not become developed at some point in the future,” he said.


Derek Ostensen, the foundation’s president and project manager for open space acquisition, negotiated and coordinated the deal with the foundation’s partners and funding sources. The land is adjacent to other lots also acquired by the city and contiguous to the Laguna Coast and Wood Canyon Wilderness Parks.

Over the past eight years, the three partners and Laguna Woods have added 250 acres of land to the wilderness park system.

Robert McGraw Architect designs redo of Von Hemert Interiors

March 20, 2009|By Laura Mickelson

Coastline Pilot

Robert A. McGraw Architect is changing the face of von Hemert Interiors’ 55-year-old store in Laguna Beach. Prominently located on North Coast Highway and Cliff Drive, the remodeled store will feature a classic Tuscan style, echoing the design of many homes along the Orange County coastline.

Robert McGraw collaborated with Barry, Mickey, Carrie and Kelly von Hemert—the members of the von Hemert Interiors’ family-owned business—to create a new presence for the store that would reflect the style of von Hemert Interiors’ sophisticated clientele.

“The simple, yet elegant style of Tuscan inspired architecture will provide a functional and aesthetically pleasing showcase for the imported and domestic home furnishings and accessories offered at von Hemert Interiors,” said Project Architect Robert McGraw. The structure will also complement the Robert McGraw designed craftsman style building at the Rohrer Gallery across the street.

Robert McGraw’s design solution for the von Hemert Interiors remodel will maintain the same footprint and height of the former structure, yet the 4,102-square-foot, one level store will provide a stronger street presence through a faux second level.


Robert McGraw’s design solution for the von Hemert Interiors remodel will maintain the same footprint and height of the former structure, yet the 4,102-square-foot, one level store will provide a stronger street presence through a faux second level.

The store’s exterior will be composed of natural stone, Stucco plaster and a Mediterranean clay tile roof. Visitors will enter the store through 8 x 10-foot custom mahogany and frosted glass doors adorned with decorative wrought iron grill work and surrounded by custom original tile from commissioned artist Omar Torres. Two large display windows on each side of the doors and smaller windows in the faux second level will be framed with matching wood. A trellis over each of the outlying display windows will provide symmetry around the central grand entrance.

Bob Kahle of Luminosity Lighting Design in Laguna Beach is providing the project’s interior lighting design. Through the mixed use of energy efficient fluorescent and low voltage spot lighting, Luminosity has created a glare-free and impactful look throughout the showroom. In addition, the two large picture box windows on Pacific Coast Highway will draw attention to the von Hemert's varying designs during the day and night.


A new Kalwall skylight will also be built to provide natural light to offset the artificial lighting. Interior design will be provided by von Hemert’s own interior design staff.

“The remodel of our Laguna Beach store will create a more pleasant and inspirational environment for our customers, so we can continue to provide exceptional customer service and an exquisite selection of one of a kind, hand crafted domestic and European home furnishings and accessories,” said Barry von Hemert.

A fourth generation, family owned business, von Hemert Interior’s has maintained a presence in Laguna Beach for over 60 years when the first Laguna Beach store on Thalia Street was opened by Barry’s father Ted von Hemert .

“My family has grown up around the Laguna Beach store, and we are here to stay,” said Barry von Hemert. “We look forward to serving our clientele in a new store better suited to their unique styles and tastes.”

To see the original article, 

Coastline Pilot - Von Hermert
OC Register - Fire Safe


Are you buying a home that’s fire-safe?

March 10th, 2009, 5:00 pm ·  · posted by KELLI HART KEHLER, THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

When Laguna Beach resident and philanthropic maven Rosalind Russell lost her home to fire in late December, the all-too fire-familiar city of Laguna reached out to help her.

Lovingly deemed the “goat lady” for her trips to Nepal to give goats to women in rural villages through her charity R Star Ministries, Russell lost everything in her hilltop home except for her cats.

Now, with the help of local architect Robert A. McGraw, Russell is rebuilding her home – this time with new fire safety codes at the top of the priority list.

I asked McGraw about the newly adopted fire safety codes in Laguna Beach and our other SoCal cities, and also what people should be looking for when house shopping.

Q. Did Laguna Beach adopt any new fire codes that would comply with the new CA Building codes? And if so/not, what is the city’s fire code for houses? What is required?

A. Yes. Laguna Beach adopted all the new fire codes that are relevant to the Laguna Beach fire zone. Laguna Beach is in one of the high fire risk zones.

The list of fire codes is quite extensive and can be found in the new California Code Book. The most outstanding Laguna Beach code adopted is the sprinkler code which requires all new single family homes to install complete fire sprinkler systems.

For renovation projects, older structures with a valuation exceeding 50% of the existing structure are also required to install fire sprinklers throughout the old and new structure. To determine valuation, the old structure’s value is calculated based on square footage and that number is divided into the calculation of value of the renovated space and any new additions. The code established the dollar value to be used.

Q. Do you think this has anything to do with the city’s history with the fires?

A. All of California is subject to some degree of fire hazard, but some areas with specific features are more hazardous and at risk for fire than others. Some of the factors used to determine fire zones are: fire history, natural vegetation, terrain and typical weather in the area. Many of the residential areas in Laguna Beach are on slopes and are surrounded by large, undeveloped open spaces with natural vegetation which pose a fire risk.

Q. As far as real estate and buying a home goes, what should buyers look for to make sure their home is fire safe? If they are building a home?

A. To determine the fire safety of a home, the buyer should determine how close the home is to open space; how defensible that space is; fire department access; availability of water for hoses, etc. A buyer should also evaluate the home’s exterior materials. Houses that pose more of a fire risk have a wood shake roof, exterior wood siding and large architectural projections like decks above grade with exposed wood support systems and exposed wood roof overhangs. You should also evaluate whether there is adequate escape from each floor.

A new home will incorporate the new fire codes for their particular fire zone, which should help create a more fire safe home. The home owner will also want to ask the architect about their experience designing fire safe homes. A knowledgeable architect will share information about the latest building materials and design options available above and beyond the fire codes to help create a more fire safe home, such as home configuration with fire escapes, protected overhangs and use of fire friendly landscape materials.

Q. I also cover the San Clemente and Dana Point housing markets. Are you familiar at all with the fire codes in those cities? If so, do you know if they differ from Laguna Beach?

A. They definitely differ with certain building details. This is directly due to the fire zone area and also what the City/Building Department felt were important fire safety details to adapt. For example, the sprinkler valuation calculation is different in San Clemente than that in Laguna Beach.

Q. As an architect, what is a building flaw you notice in homes that may be a fire trap?

A. Homes with more potential for hazardous fire conditions have a lack of fire escape routes, unprotected overhangs and architectural projections as well as inappropriate landscape materials surrounding the home’s exterior.

Q. What’s an easy-fix thing people can do now in their homes to make them more fire safe?

A. Most homes catch fire from embers falling on the roof, so one of the most important fixes a home owner should make would be to replace wood shake roofs with non-combustible materials. A homeowner should also try to protect all exterior finish materials, roof overhangs and architectural projections with non-combustible materials.

Q. Anything else home owners or buyers need to know?

A. Home owners and buyers should discuss their homes or potential purchases with the local building official and the fire marshal before taking any action. Home buyers can also talk to a local insurance agent see if they will insure the property and if not what can they do to make it insurable.


Architect Robert McGraw to rebuild Rosalind Russell’s home, lost in fire

New home will be eco-friendly and meet updated California fire code

By news release

February 26, 2009

Laguna Beach, Calif., resident and R Star Ministries philanthropist Rosalind Russell recently hired Robert A. McGraw Architect of Laguna Beach to provide architectural design services for her Laguna Beach home that was destroyed in a fire on December 27, 2008. Ms. Russell is turning the tragedy of losing her home of nearly 30 years into an opportunity to update the house with eco-friendly and fire-safe design solutions. Her rebuilt home will also provide a home office for R Star Ministries, which in addition to aiding local charitable causes, gives women in rural Nepal villages a step out of poverty by supplying them with goats that can be used for commerce.

In order to achieve Ms. Russell’s fire safety goals for her 3,500-square-foot home, Robert McGraw, A.I.A. is employing the latest fire proofing techniques. Additionally, the home will need to meet the latest California Building Codes adopted January 1, 2009. The new codes incorporate various building requirements such as fire sprinklers throughout the structure and factory treated fire retardant exterior building materials.

“The Russell home borders an ‘open space’ so all windows and exterior doors will need to be fire rated,” explains Robert McGraw, principal of Robert McGraw Architect. “Many of the exterior design details will be developed to prevent fire vortexes or accumulation.”

“Although the design specifics for the Russell home are not yet completed, we are planning for a warm contemporary solution with open spaces complementing the incredible view of the hillsides and the ocean,” explains McGraw. “The design will incorporate natural materials and will employ as much natural light as possible, while staying within the physical parameters of the existing structure’s footprint and height.”

Russell is also committed to building a sustainable home with energy efficient products and systems. She installed solar in her home in 1982, but had some problems with it. Russell recycles, practices water and energy conservation and says that she has always been environmentally conscious.

“Now that I have the opportunity to rebuild, I am doing everything I can to design a home with a small carbon footprint,” explained Russell. “This is the best way to be responsible to our planet and it will save me money in the long run.”

Embracing Russell’s commitment to respecting and protecting the environment, the new home will feature a green design incorporating a variety of eco-friendly design elements and building materials with recycled interior finishes and a durable sustainable exterior. Russell and McGraw are also planning to incorporate energy efficient components into the home such as solar photovoltaics, LED lighting, advanced insulation and specialized water conservation and air conditioning and heating systems.

“The site constraints, sun, wind, shade and topography as well as solutions to capitalize on the incredible hillside and ocean views will determine the sustainable elements planned for the Russell home,” said McGraw.

Russell has hired two other local Laguna Beach companies as part of the team to rebuild her home. “Think globally but buy locally is my intention,” said Russell. Bob Lawson of Lawson-Burke Structural Engineers is providing engineering services for the home and Ron May Contractors, Inc. is the builder.

“I am thankful that Robert McGraw is providing me with much needed assistance on determining the home’s design,” said Russell. “He has also been helping to expedite the process so I can move back home as soon as possible and can concentrate on helping others through R Star Ministries.”

Construction on the home is scheduled to begin in fall 2009.

About Robert McGraw Architects

Robert A. McGraw Architects is an award winning design firm that offers a full-spectrum of architectural design services for both residential and commercial projects. Founded in 1987 and located in Laguna Beach, the firm’s services include remodeling, historic restorations and original designs. Also a Laguna Beach resident, McGraw has served on the Heritage Committee, the Design Review Board of Adjustment of Laguna Beach and has functioned as the Architecture Advisory Consultant for Three Arch Bay, a private community in South Laguna. McGraw has won several awards for his design throughout Southern California.

About R Star Ministries

Founded by Rosalind Russell, R Star Ministries supports local and world-wide charitable causes aiming at a more peaceful world. The Laguna Beach based charity’s global effort provides aid to the poorest and extremely dangerous regions of Kavre in Nepal (the third poorest country in the world) by collecting donations in the United States and abroad and using the funds to provide Nepalese women in rural villages with goats for commerce and as a micro-banking lending opportunity, thus creating future bankers and the how to of good business. The program gives women and their families a step out of poverty, raises self esteem and provides women with a voice, rarely heard or acknowledged in most third world countries. Each woman participating in the program receives two pregnant goats as well as training on how to care for and breed the goats. The recipients of the goats agree to treat the goats humanely by petting them daily and providing them with proper nutrition. They also agree to pay their gift forward within two years by giving two pregnant goats to another woman in a village that is selected by the group. The program is working in more than 13 villages and has spawned more than 8,500 goats.

R Star’s local ministries works with student interns from Laguna Beach High School and Soka University providing hands-on experience writing grants and conducting international charitable work. R Star Ministries also shares it charitable work with elementary age children from second grade upward in order to give them a global perspective on poverty, children’s lives in other countries and to learn how they can help bring peace to our world. R Star’s other local charitable efforts provide outreach to prison inmates and their families by conducting programs to encourage zero recidivism. The organization’s Purr Ministry brings joy and well-being to shut-ins through animal assisted therapy with felines providing much welcomed companionship and therapeutic aid. To learn more about R Star Ministries or to make a tax deductible donation, send an email to or

Russell's Home
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