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HOMEOWNERS — Kim and Tom Bengard

LOCATION — Laguna Hills, California

NICKNAMED — "The Ritz Carlton" (with its 12 massive cantara-stone columns, the porte cochère looks like the entrance of the Ritz)

BUILT — 1989

STYLE — Mediterranean with red-clay tile roof and French-limestone floors

LIVING SPACE — 6,400 square feet with six bedrooms and six baths

FAVORITE AREAS — "I love every part of the house. If we're at the barbecue or piled on our bed watching a movie, that's the most fun place to be. The party is where the people are."

HER FAVORITE PASTIME — Being home with family and friends ("We love entertaining with the whole family!")

HIS FAVORITE PASTIME — Barbecuing and hanging out with the kids

WHY FRONTGATE? — "I'm always searching for some useful or unique item that will make life easier or more lovely — that's why I shop Frontgate. The products get delivered to my front door, and the quality is always more than I hoped for." — Kim Bengard

Courtyard

Gameroom

Master Bedroom

Laguna Hills, California — The Bengard home has always been a busy, fun-filled place, abuzz with the arrivals and departures of four active children, numerous friends, and an intriguing array of visitors. "We've seldom had a quiet moment in what seems like a serene home," says Kim.

Though most of the children are grown and gone now, memories of the home in its heyday run strong and deep. "I just loved being around when all the activity was going on: courtyard fountains running, a breeze blowing, kids coming and going. There was always a surfboard or sandy beach towel just outside the door. Even now, the kids always come home on the weekends."

When Kim and Tom purchased the house back in 1995, the family was initially taken aback by the grandeur of their new surroundings. "Our second son said, 'What are you thinking? Why would you move us here?' We'd been living in a house one-third the size, but the neighborhood had gotten pretty rough. None of our four kids had ever seen or been in a house this nice. They were uncomfortable with it."

But Kim loved it, and she knew the family would, too. "It was awe-inspiring. I felt so blessed to live in such a pretty place. I wouldn't have changed a whole lot if I'd built it myself. Maybe better acoustics and a bigger office, but everything else worked so well."

She and Tom hadn't looked at many "big houses" — maybe just five or six. But then the realtor brought her here to this Mediterranean–style home in Nellie Gail Ranch. (Nellie Gail was America's first female rancher.)

"When I saw this one, it had so much potential. The builder-developer who originally lived here hadn't completed the house before leaving, and the subsequent owners hadn't improved it." Where other prospective buyers saw water damage, neglect, and unfinished interiors, Kim saw possibilities. "We completely gutted and remodeled the kitchen. We were able to go in and polish the gem that was already here."


The family enjoys entertaining next to the five-foot,
stone-edged swimming pool. Shop Pool & Beach.

She and Tom did everything they could to make their new surroundings family-friendly, installing a house-wide intercom through the phone system. "When you move a family into a really big house, you can get disconnected," says Kim. "We needed the intercom to stay in touch with each other."

They also decided not to put down carpeting. "The limestone floors were easy to take care of," says Kim, "and they allowed our kids to rollerblade from the front doors to the back courtyard.

"The house looks fancy, but it's really comfortable and easy to live in. We had kids and dogs and athletes, and they all just kind of flopped everywhere and anywhere. Nothing was ever out of bounds. Visitors would ask, 'Do I have to take my shoes off?' and I'd say, 'Are you kidding me? Maybe leave your skateboard at the door...' We didn't change our life to live here. We just lived how we lived."

FRIENDLY, FUN, AND FAMILY-ORIENTED

The house reflects its owners' principles and personalities. The wide-open floor plan, with all first-floor rooms connected through columns and arches, mirrors Kim and Tom's openness to all who cross their threshold. "The house is so friendly and fun and family oriented," says Kim.

At the top of the brass-railed walnut stairway is a balcony inscribed with the famous quotation from Romeo and Juliet: "Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou, Romeo?" Kim and Tom met in a community-college theater class, and the moment Kim saw "the Romeo-and-Juliet balcony", it inspired her to pay tribute to Shakespeare and, at the same time, her courtship with Tom. "The boys thought it was so lame — until they started dating. Sure enough, the girls would come in and say, 'That's so romantic!'"


"I felt so blessed to live in such a pretty place."

Handpainted along the kitchen soffit is yet another quotation, this one from the New Testament: "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control" (Galatians 5:22). "The kids would sit there and read it, day after day," says Kim. "It's a nice family kitchen." The dinette has a two-story ceiling that opens onto the teen room upstairs, adding to the home's bright, airy "atrium feel."

As needed, she and Tom sought respite in the master suite, accessed via carved wooden doors paned with leaded glass. "It's bigger than our first home," she laughs.

The bedroom comprises a retreat sitting area with desk and wet bar, three-sided fireplace, and sleeping area with built-in entertainment center. The window-lined tub room features a Murano-glass chandelier and sunken whirlpool set in marble.

The view sweeps across the swimming pool and beyond stately palm trees to Saddleback Mountain, where indigo-streaked sunsets remind Kim of "purple mountains' majesty."

She also says this house has "the best dressing room ever — cherry cabinets with Swarovski crystal handles and knobs, peach-granite counters, a make-up vanity with hamper below, and a triple mirror so I can see every angle."

French doors in the bedroom open onto the outdoor Jacuzzi. "We've used it a ton," says Kim. "We'd all sit and soak together.

"We're water people. You could play volleyball in the five-foot swimming pool, but we used the spa the most. The dog loves it. The moment the heat starts to rise, she sits by her favorite jet and refuses to budge. We'd come and go, and she'd still be out there."

Upstairs are three of the kids' bedrooms, three baths, and a teen room, a "quiet area" with desks and computers for homework. Kim and Tom's oldest son took the first-floor maid's quarters with patio, bath, and private entry. Near his room is the billiard room, a.k.a. "the boys' hangout", where Tom, the neighbors, and their growing sons gathered to play poker.


The view sweeps across the swimming pool and beyond stately palm trees to Saddleback
Mountain, where indigo-streaked sunsets remind Kim of "purple mountains' majesty".
Shop Outdoor Living.

"I have loved every part of this house," says Kim. "If we were at the barbecue or piled on our bed watching a movie, that was the most fun place to be. The party was wherever we were.

"And we've had the greatest neighbors. We were all amazed to be living on this incredible street with these beautiful homes. It's a casual group — sometimes we'd all be out in the middle of the street in our PJs drinking coffee and laughing at ourselves, saying, 'We're living a fantasy life!' The whole street is really special."

OPEN HEARTS, OPEN HOME

Deeply grateful for their good fortune, Kim and Tom have been eager to share their abundance with others. "If you hold on tight, you won't get any more," says Kim. "What do we have that God didn't give us?"

Every Thanksgiving, the Bengard family sits down to dinner with friends and acquaintances who don't have family in town, as well as people who are displaced or can't get home for the holidays. "We have 30 to 40 people at the table. It's a time of celebrating our gratitude, of finding people to connect with who don't have anywhere to celebrate. My husband fries turkeys on Thanksgiving, and they're all gone before they get to the table. We'll never roast a turkey again!"

Kim delights in setting the stage for such gatherings. "The neutral palette allows me to redecorate all the time according to seasons or holidays. On Halloween, I decorate the whole porch with pumpkins and fall foliage and harvest décor and fruit — not scary things. Hundreds of trick-or-treaters come by!"

"On Halloween, I decorate the whole porch with pumpkins and fall foliage... hundreds of trick-or-treaters come by!"

Everyone finds a warm welcome here — especially the kids' friends. "This was always their hangout," says Kim. "And we've had all of the kids' athletic teams here — sometimes all at the same time — for cookouts, sleepovers, and award ceremonies." She and Tom have made a point of entertaining as a family. "We've had a ton of events here — fundraisers for local charities, political causes, even a Presidential candidate. We've hosted prom dinners and after-prom parties, international business associates, study groups, courtyard dinners, impromptu cocktail parties, and 4th of July celebrations.

"We have a total open-door policy all the time. We've even had troubled kids living with us. We see it as a ministry. We sold our manufacturing company in 1996 and started a foundation called "It Takes a Family". We'd seen kids who were from wonderful, affluent neighborhoods, yet were abandoned and worse off than kids in the rough neighborhood we came from. They're driving new cars, but they're bankrupt emotionally and physically. They have no family support. It's abhorrent. It was our kids who brought these youngsters home, and because of that we started the foundation. We've made it a focal point of our lives.

"That's why this isn't just a house. Although we feel amazingly blessed to have such a beautiful home," says Kim, "it's what we've done here that is most wonderful — the lives we've touched, the hope we've shared, and the lost souls we've encouraged."

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Interested in having your home featured in Frontgate?
Please send a few indoor/outdoor snapshots to:

Creative Director
5566 West Chester Road
West Chester, OH 45069
featuredhomes@frontgate.com

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