A young family knew what they wanted when they set out to build a new home in the seaside city of Encinitas, California: views of the Pacific (but privacy from the street), ample guest rooms (with a separate entrance) for long-term family visits, and a strong relationship with the site, a rocky slope overlooking the ocean. In other words, they wanted an interplay of opposites: open and concealed, integrated and discrete, airy and grounded.
How to resolve those tensions? They started with the site. The homeowners were fans of a contemporary, cedar-clad home down the street, so they hired its architect, Brett Farrow, to contend with the ups and downs of their lot. And it didn’t take him long to view the dusty pitch as an asset. Rather than grading the site, Farrow carved it into five terraces that step down from the street toward views of the ocean at the rear of the lot.
He set the house, a cluster of boxes wrapped in wood and glass, toward the middle of the site, which partially conceals the entry from the street. From there, you step down into living spaces set a bit further down the hill to give them great views of the ocean—with the master bedroom taking pride of place all the way at the back. "There are long lines of sight that turn mundane circulation elements like hallways into visual experiences," says Farrow. "I like to have surprises in the movement through a home."
For those visiting relatives, Farrow added an attached ADU on a second level above the entry. With its own front door and kitchen, it strikes the right balance between togetherness and privacy. All-in, the structure measures just over 3,000 square feet.
If the interior opens to surprising views, the exterior is straightforward by comparison. Aside from its cool concrete walls and large swaths of glass, the house is enveloped with western red cedar, a material Farrow admires for its raw and natural expression, versatility, and resistance to water and insect damage. "I love the way it evolves and develops over time," he says. "Plus, it’s an obvious choice when considering sustainability, because it both captures carbon and is planted new."
"Each board and plank is unique and has its own story in the grains and knots," Farrow adds. "You know what you’re seeing—it’s obviously not synthetic, and it brings a warmth to modern design, which can sometimes feel quite cold." Cedar also cozies up the interior, appearing on kitchen and bathroom cabinetry and on ceilings. "Large glazed areas complete the effect by bringing in intangible building ‘materials’ like sunlight and sea breezes," says Farrow.
With its cedar cladding, large operable windows, and decks looking out to the ocean, the home situates itself squarely in a tradition of California modernism. "It’s a home that’s very intentionally designed for coastal living," Farrow says. From its perch above the ocean, the house responds to ebbs and flows of daily life—as well as frequent houseguests—with unfussy drama, natural materials, and indoor/outdoor living at its best.
Learn more about western red cedar at realcedar.com.
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