My wife Mary discovered this property, an old fisherman's shack built around 1930, on the west side of Highway 1 in Bodega Bay. The building was in as poor a condition as you could find a structure and still call it a structure. It had not been lived in for four years, but from the looks of it the ten years before that must have been pretty rough. Its timber foundation had largely rotted away, leaving the house sitting in water at high tide. The original redwood siding had been covered up at some point with a particularly bilious green shade of composition shingles, now so weathered and curled that they gave the siding a strange 3-dimensional effect reminiscent of dragon scales. The doors and windows were rotten, the roof leaky, and the interior plan a rabbit warren of tiny spaces.
I felt like we were nuts to even consider buying such a mess, but there was one thing that kept pulling us back in—the site was incredible. The house sits on the edge of the bay in a protected cove that looks out over water, wetlands, and parkland. Aside from one house that sits adjacent, no other man-made structures are visible. It sits right in the heart of the town of Bodega Bay—you can walk to stores, restaurants, and even a golf course—yet you feel like you’re alone on the edge of the continent. The design opportunity was just too good, the chance to do something extraordinary too seductive, so we decided to try and save this tired little house.
Our idea was to design a simple, modern beach house. We were not allowed to enlarge the footprint or change the massing, but beyond that we were permitted to introduce new fenestration and exterior materials. The primary design idea was to keep three facades quite plain, but to then make the entire west end glass, thereby visually opening out to the deck and the Bay beyond. The whole design is about the relationship between the building and the coastline, so each of the rooms on the south side has a sliding glass door that opens out to a narrow deck overhanging the water (at least at high tide). Even the toilet has a view of the Bay; in fact the only room that does not have that view is the second bedroom.
In the end I think everyone is happy. The County and the California Coastal Commission both have praised the design. We and the friends we share it with enjoy entertaining there. At times we rent it out as a vacation rental and everyone seems charmed by the location and aesthetic. And of course our black Lab Curly thinks it is the best place on earth. It is hard to argue with a dog.