The Sea Ranch, California

This development of fifteen “walk-in” cabins on a rugged forested hillside was guided by the primary concern for minimizing the visual and physical impact on the land. Coupled with this concern was the developer’s desire to provide retreats that might increase one’s experience of the natural environment, yet remain within the limits of good marketability.

Since the forest and its aesthetic qualities would have been severely damaged by standard streets and subdivision, automobiles were restricted to a single parking area. Access occurs by means of a series of foot trails and a limited use/emergency road. Furthermore, the lots (2000 sq. ft.) were made just large enough to accommodate the cabins, leaving nearly 90% of the land in perpetual natural reserve.

The architectural problem was how to provide a small (600 sq. ft.) low cost design that would lend itself to a variety of land slopes and view orientations, and sit comfortably when seen either alone or in groups. The solution is a square plan, two story structure that maximizes the volume enclosed relative to exterior wall area, and is very flexible for siting, thus requiring minimal tree removal. The simple, unpretentious forms are covered with natural redwood boards and shingles, helping the cabins recede congenially into their setting.

Entry is through a sliding barn door into a single large space. Behind the rear wall is the kitchen, bath, stairs, and storage areas. The open bedroom gains privacy from its location above these spaces, and a pair of bunk spaces open off the stairway. Since low light levels are common to the north coast forests, a pair of clear skylights are placed over the bedroom, allowing filtered light to fall into the bedroom and over and through the open guardrail to the main space below. The skylights also complement the window views with glimpses of the soaring redwoods above. The ceilings have exposed rafters and the walls are rough sawn Douglas fir plywood throughout.