written by:
photos by:
January 21, 2009
Originally published in California Dreams
These twin sun-drenched San Diego abodes prove that two decks are better than one.
Twin houses face off in La Jolla across wide-open walls and decking. The design held such appeal that the architect claimed one 2inn for himself.
Twin houses face off in La Jolla across wide-open walls and decking. The design held such appeal that the architect claimed one 2inn for himself.
Photo by 
1 / 11
The Mariscals' daughter, Olivia, whiles away the afternoon in the breezy living room. She sits on a sheepskin-covered Flag Halyard chair by Danish master Hans Wegner.
The Mariscals' daughter, Olivia, whiles away the afternoon in the breezy living room. She sits on a sheepskin-covered Flag Halyard chair by Danish master Hans Wegner.
Photo by 
2 / 11
Maricarmen looks out toward the ocean from inside the sliding glass NanaWall.
Maricarmen looks out toward the ocean from inside the sliding glass NanaWall.
Photo by 
3 / 11
Unlike many other houses, whose views occur only out front, the 2inns offer a glimpse of the Pacific through the house and from the backyard.
Unlike many other houses, whose views occur only out front, the 2inns offer a glimpse of the Pacific through the house and from the backyard.
Photo by 
4 / 11
Sebastian's office is downstairs in a long, open space that doubles as a playroom.
Sebastian's office is downstairs in a long, open space that doubles as a playroom.
Photo by 
5 / 11
The Mariscals' bedroom opens out onto a small triangular patio. The exterior's ipe cladding also makes up the walls and floor of the master bedroom, further inviting the outside in.
The Mariscals' bedroom opens out onto a small triangular patio. The exterior's ipe cladding also makes up the walls and floor of the master bedroom, further inviting the outside in.
Photo by 
6 / 11
The kitchen is done up in Gaggenau and Bulthaup.
The kitchen is done up in Gaggenau and Bulthaup.
Photo by 
7 / 11
Olivia's bedroom.
Olivia's bedroom.
Photo by 
8 / 11
The master bedroom. The diminutive dimensions of the private upstairs level are meant to push the Mariscals toward the common areas.
The master bedroom. The diminutive dimensions of the private upstairs level are meant to push the Mariscals toward the common areas.
Photo by 
9 / 11
The master bedroom is surprisingly small.
The master bedroom is surprisingly small.
Photo by 
10 / 11
Sebastian and Maricarmen take in the scenery from the comfort of their exposed living room. The couple sits on a Polder sofa by Hella Jongerius for Vitra.
Sebastian and Maricarmen take in the scenery from the comfort of their exposed living room. The couple sits on a Polder sofa by Hella Jongerius for Vitra.
Photo by 
11 / 11
Twin houses face off in La Jolla across wide-open walls and decking. The design held such appeal that the architect claimed one 2inn for himself.
Twin houses face off in La Jolla across wide-open walls and decking. The design held such appeal that the architect claimed one 2inn for himself.
Project 
2inns

Like Finns and their saunas or Brits and their follies, Californians are inseparable from their decks. Perhaps we view them as some final expression of manifest destiny, as if to say, We’ve pushed as far west as we can and, as these partly shaded wooden platforms we’ve constructed demonstrate, we’re never leaving. In fact, we’re going to enjoy it as much as we can. Copious sunshine, cool evening breezes, and a single-minded compulsion to grill salmon steaks have enshrined the deck—distinct in the Californian’s mind from a patio, courtyard, or porch—as a part of our cultural character. We spend hours fussing over them and millions of dollars caring for them, and some of our most precious redwood forests have been milled for the sake of their construction. They are our ideal living rooms, and when summer comes—or in those spots where it never leaves—there is scarcely a use for any other part of the house.

Though he was born in Mexico City, San Diego–based designer and developer Sebastian Mariscal has readily absorbed this Californian obsession with deck life. A veteran of the local architecture scene, the 38-year-old Mariscal has designed a pair of identical houses called 2inns (pronounced “twins”) on a La Jolla hillside overlooking the Pacific. The Mariscals moved into one of the 2inns in November 2006; David and Liz Baun now occupy the other. When asked about the concept for his new home, like a good Californian, Mariscal responds, “What I wanted was to create a big deck with a canopy. That was the basic idea.”

Sparing all manner of hardwoods, local and exotic alike, Mariscal opted to make the main level of his house—home of the grand deck, the 2inns’ organizing feature—out of nearly nothing at all. “The three levels of the house are rooted in a particular material,” he says. “The bottom floor is grounded by the cement; the top is made of wood, like the trees; and the middle, where you have the deck, is air.”

On the first floor—site of the main social space, kitchen, and dining area—three of the four walls are formed by a 25-panel retractable glass NanaWall. Sliding on a hidden track and tucked out of sight in a glass storage closet, the NanaWall allows the glassed-in common space to morph into a massive outdoor living room in a matter of minutes. Suddenly, as the house opens up to the enviable Southern California climate, the ocean is no longer an abstraction viewed through a pane of glass from the couch of a climate-controlled interior. Recognizing that the best feature of his house wasn’t necessarily the architecture but what lay miles beyond it, Mariscal designed the 2inns to make their vistas things less seen than experienced.

Stunning views of the Pacific are not reserved solely for the front facade. The effect created in the living room remains surprisingly strong from the back patio, a modestly sized space that includes a fire pit, a barbecue, a light well leading down to the semi-basement, and a steep, grassy hill. “I wanted to achieve something that most houses cannot,” Mariscal explains. “And that was to have a view from the backyard. Most are totally hidden, but here we have a view straight out toward the water, framed by the architecture of the house."

Unexpected moments abound in the 2inns. Take, for example, the earthen alcoves dug into the grass slope. What could be perceived as unintended hollows are in fact benches and seats carved into the hillside, ideal spots for conversation—the Mariscals entertain often—or simply beholding the vast ocean. Once again, architecture helps frame the view.

Up the concrete stairs, in the private spaces of the second floor, the Mariscals’ three diminutive bedrooms sit above the large common room. (“I never want my bedroom to compete with the social spaces of my house,” Mariscal contends.) The modest master bedroom opens onto a triangular sliver of a patio, at the tip of which rests a small ipe seat. Facing north, instead of directly west toward the ocean, the small seat points up the coast, toward La Jolla’s center and the beaches beyond. Clad entirely in that same ipe, the walls of the bedroom flow un­interruptedly into the facade of the house. Only the sliding glass door suggests a separation of the interior and exterior, an effect repeated throughout the house. “It’s like this wooden box was scooped out of the building’s third level, and what was left, the void, has become my bedroom,” Mariscal says.

That scooping, metaphorical or otherwise, was Mariscal’s own doing. His firm, Sebastian Mariscal Studio, is as deeply involved in the construction of its projects as it is in the design. Seeing each house, condo, or hotel through from conception to completion gives Mariscal something he likes and talks a lot about: facts.

“We do about 70 percent of the construction with our crew,” he reports. “Construction is facts. Knowing that I have to build it really affects how I design a building, and being at the job site has been my best education.” Mariscal is not the only one in his firm who resides in their work: “Most of my office lives in the Billboard Lofts,” he says, referring to an apartment building he designed in downtown San Diego. This has helped Mariscal and his colleagues understand the many facets of putting together a house. “Our cycle helps us so much,” he says. “Being builders, we learn how a building reacts in space, and as residents, how it reacts to the process of using it. It’s all more facts.”

Another surprising fact is that each 2inn totals 4,500 square feet. The top floors manage to feel intimate, however, as does the warren of small rooms below. A good portion of that downstairs space is occupied by the garage, a tidy box that houses Mariscal’s Mini Cooper and a welter of sporting equipment belonging to his two children—Mateo, 11, and Olivia, 9—as well as the laundry room, a small bathroom, and an office for his wife, Maricarmen. The biggest space, however, seems to be the domain of Sebastian and his children, and is reserved for some combination of work and play.

A long, narrow, concrete-floored room runs the length of the house, commencing with a huge sliding glass door that opens onto the grassy front yard separating the house from the street and ending with a small courtyard that looks up to the back patio above. In between is an admixture of playroom and home architecture office, where Hannah Montana, in all her bright pink finery, holds court alongside a low Eames elliptical table, and Olivia and Mateo’s matching iMacs carve out their own space among a jumble of architecture books. A piano, a pair of worn leather chairs, a massive flat-screen TV, a bookcase, and a prototype for a minimalist child’s chair round out the space, giving it the feel of a slick bachelor pad inhabited by a pair of grade-schoolers.

Though Mariscal may not have total control over his office space, he’s loath to leave it. When I ask him if he aims to move into his next architectural project, he doesn’t rule it out, but says that his family is very happy here. They like the easy, expansive, urban life it affords, “within walking distance of the restaurants and life of the village [La Jolla].” He quickly adds, “I also love that the high school is just across the street. No one will ever buy or change that land. My view is perfectly secure.” And so, it seems, are this pair of houses, this pair of decks, and this small group of Californians.

Join the Discussion

Loading comments...

Latest Articles

modern fjallbacka sweden pine boxes vacation facade
Architect Gert Wingårdh creates a passionately outfitted vacation home for two midcentury furniture dealers on the western coast of Sweden.
May 29, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent driaan claassen cape town south africa ccourtesy of driaan claasen dualpage82
Driaan Claassen combines a variety of materials and a love of history to create distinct objects.
May 29, 2016
energy star dirk wynants extremis poperinge beligium sustainable farmhouse facade
The owner of an outdoor furniture company updates a 19th-century farmhouse.
May 29, 2016
Modern small sustainable weekend home with flat roof
Two linked 1,000-square-foot pavilions are greater than a sum of their parts.
May 28, 2016
inside out los angeles home barbara bestor hollywood outdoor facade charcoal paint pool
Architect Barbara Bestor transforms a Hollywood Hills home by opening up its interior to the site’s dramatic backyard topography.
May 28, 2016
right of laneway vancouver garden sliding glass western window systems door outdoor
A Vancouver garden blossoms alongside fresh development.
May 28, 2016
20160229 dgd highhouse 1777 1024x683
Two toddlers, a pup, and their parents fit onto a 16.5-foot-wide plot in an inner suburb of Melbourne.
May 27, 2016
rec
Every week, we highlight one amazing Dwell home that went viral on Pinterest. Follow Dwell's Pinterest account for more daily design inspiration.
May 27, 2016
capitol gains seattle multifamily living dining room wassily chair chaise le corbusier cb2
Two Seattle architects design and build a dynamic multifamily structure on a formerly vacant lot.
May 27, 2016
modern beach house thatch roof living dining bar cart
By eliminating walls and incorporating a series of interior gardens, architect José Roberto Paredes creates an eclectic and inspired El Salvador beach house.
May 27, 2016
7
A two-story Eichler in San Francisco gets a freshening up.
May 27, 2016
Bathyard renovation in Madrid, Spain
In Madrid, Spain, Husos Architects renovate a turn-of-the-20th-century apartment for a client with dual passions: her houseplants and a nice, long bath.
May 26, 2016
Exterior of Huneeus/Sugar Bowl Home.
San Francisco–based designer Maca Huneeus created her family’s weekend retreat near Lake Tahoe with a relaxed, sophisticated sensibility.
May 26, 2016
starting over sturgeon bay facade tongue and groove new growth cypress  0
After a devastating fire, architect David Salmela designs a house to replace a beloved lakeside retreat in Wisconsin.
May 26, 2016
Modern home with brick base and cedar rain screen on top level
An architect reimagines an outdated brick garage by designing a graceful new family home atop its foundation.
May 26, 2016
sardenya lr 7
A renovation brings light and order to a Spanish flat, maintaining its standout ceilings.
May 25, 2016
pow 5 25 1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
May 25, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent thom fougere winnipeg canada cthom fougere studio thom fougere saddle chair 2
Designer Thom Fougere plays with scale and typology to create playful furniture.
May 25, 2016
prs my16 0067 v001 1
In the worlds of architecture and design, we’re always looking for the best ways of supporting sustainable building practices. This awareness doesn’t have to stop at our driveways but rather, it can extend to the cars we choose to take us to the places we go each day. With Toyota’s 2016 Prius, the daily task of getting from point A to point B can now be experienced with a new level of efficiency, safety, and style.
May 25, 2016
mountfordarchitects western australia
On a narrow site in Western Australia, Mountford Architects makes the most of a tight spot—with an eye to the future.
May 25, 2016
San Francisco living room with Wassily chairs
Materials and furniture transformed the layout of this San Francisco house, without the need for dramatic structural intervention.
May 24, 2016
shiver me timbers tallow wood kitchen
A pair of married architects put their exacting taste to work on their own family escape in the Australian bush.
May 24, 2016
in the balance small space massachusetts cantilevered cabin glass facade
When nature laid down a boulder of a design challenge in the Massachusetts mountains, an architect’s solution elevated the project to new heights.
May 24, 2016
Wooden Walkways
A home in Ontario, Canada, demonstrates how factory-built housing can be as site sensitive as traditional construction.
May 24, 2016
15 icff 5
From Corian furniture to immersive installations, here are some of our favorite designs we saw at the 2016 shows.
May 24, 2016
gpphoto44
A home and community celebrate natural remove in unison.
May 24, 2016
With our annual issue devoted to the outdoors on newsstands, we did a lap of Instagram for some extra inspiration.
May 23, 2016
forest for the trees english prefab mobile home facade chesnut cladding
On the edge of a historic park in an English shire, a prefabricated home sets a new design standard.
May 23, 2016
tread lightly australia
A family home on Australia’s Mornington Peninsula is built to blend in with its lakeside setting.
May 23, 2016
jardins party dining room hay chairs local wood floor
A pair of architects help a client carve out an oasis of calm amid São Paulo’s bustle.
May 23, 2016