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

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

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 visit

Comments on: "Architect Robert McGraw to rebuild Rosalind Russell's home, lost in fire"

Email Subscriptions