Coastal Retreat

This modern getaway in coastal Sea Ranch is representative of the architect’s distinctive regional style. Each volume is reminiscent of the vernacular, barn-like structures found in this iconic California locale, but with a decidedly modern twist consisting of seamless material transitions and minimalist detailing.

By thoughtfully structuring the floor area into two distinct cedar clad wings, the two-bedroom, two-bath residence lives larger than its 1,800 square feet. One wing houses the social living spaces, while the other encapsulates the private bedrooms. The two wings are connected by a light-filled corrugated weathering steel entryway with split floor levels that gently follow the site’s steep topography. Each wing is intentionally positioned to maximize views of the rugged California coast and beyond.

Matching the simplicity of the architecture, the home’s quiet interior material palette consists primarily of simple elements like concrete flooring, plywood walls, and industrial Stonco lighting fixtures. The result is an understated industrial coastal aesthetic that plays harmoniously with the surrounding natural elements, satisfying the clients’ desire for a bit of respite in the unique Sea Ranch community.

Design Challenge

The clients wanted to limit the size of the house, while maximizing the functionality, so smart space-saving design decisions, including a study space carved out of the massing above the staircase, allowed the architects to design the relatively compact house to “live" more spaciously. There are several design aspects that allow the home to maintain a low energy use, and limit its environmental impact. The architect incorporated time-proven passive solar concepts to maximum effect. The south-facing windows are strategically positioned to capture the sunlight with the concrete slab at the first floor, allowing the effective thermal concrete mass to retain heat during daytime, and release it during the cooler nights. The non-air-conditioned home is cooled only via exterior fenestrations, which allow for passive cooling with natural cross ventilation. The operable skylights release the rising heat and circulate cool, fresh air through the lower openings that face the breezy coastline. The material in this house, situated on the humid coastline of the Pacific Ocean, were selected with two goals in mind, natural performance and low maintenance. The cedar siding is not only a durable material in exterior conditions, it also eliminates the need for refinishing and repainting, which is typical for most alternatives. These factors also apply to the corrugated metal siding. Durable for centuries, the metal also gains a natural patina that celebrates the age of the building. In lieu of gypsum board, the majority of the interior walls are finished with plywood, which has a lower carbon footprint and eliminates the need for future painting.

Physical Context

While the property’s dramatic seaside location offers sweeping ocean views to the west, the home’s proximity to busy Highway 1 was a concern for the clients and meant it was necessary to screen the street-facing, east façade. The design solution was to preserve existing trees and conservatively punch openings to protect the residence from the noise and visual clutter of the abutting roadway.