Our version of a classic Sea Ranch house, this is a carefully-considered home that is inherently tied to the land. The owners approached us asking for a residence that would take advantage of an incredible site – an 80-foot bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. This context provided potential for a beautiful space with spectacular views; however, building a house with access to these views was a known challenge due to Sea Ranch’s many design guidelines and regulations. In the end, we gave our client a home that drew on local building traditions, but also incorporated unique design ideas that thoughtfully responded to the restrictions of the site (both regulatory and environmental).
The entry to the house begins off the main road where a driveway veers through a wooded path to the residence’s covered garage. Once parked, residents and visitors continue on foot via a pedestrian passage that cuts through a lushly planted mound (existing on site) and leads to the main entry deck. The house sits quietly against the mound enclosed by cypress and pine trees. Inside, the entry opens up to the second, main level. The combined living room/dining room/kitchen occupy an expansive space that looks directly onto the Pacific Ocean. The plan steps back at the master bedroom and bath, where the view opens west to the coastline. The first floor houses a family room, guest room and bath. Interior finishes are a nod to the wooded surroundings: 2-inch knotty pine panels line the walls, end-grain wood flooring, mahogany trim and Douglas-fir beams are visible throughout. The connection between the house and surrounding landscape is further mediated by several outdoor spaces including a large ipe wood deck looking south towards the water, a sheltered back deck accessed from the master bedroom, and a hot tub deck on the first level.
During the design process, the first challenge was locating and orienting the structure to gain visual access to the waterfront. Though the project site spanned a sizeable area, limitations came from the existing residences in the periphery whose views were to remain undisturbed. In addition, a large patch of protected land lay 20 feet from the property’s setback constraining build-able land by the water. We designed the house’s footprint to fit snuggly between the restricted land and setback—opening the main façade directly towards the ocean. To further maximize views, we found the opportunity to build up despite Sea Ranch’s height restrictions. Height is measured from the highest point of existing grade. Building the house against an existing mound allowed us to place the main level on the second story, dramatically improving views while remaining within the guidelines. To mitigate excessive sun exposure and adhere to Sea Ranch’s ban on overhangs, all south-facing windows were recessed creating ample shade in the house interior.
We see the end result as a home adapted to its environment, use and context.