A Delicate Renovation Revives a ’70s Beach House in Northern California

Butler Armsden Architects’ retooling of a Stinson Beach retreat allows one family to bask in the outdoors.

When Butler Armsden Architects was tasked with the renovation of a Stinson Beach getaway, they wanted to create a space that would reflect their clients—a vibrant, multicultural family with a primary residence in San Francisco. The clan’s spacious, shingle-clad home is located at the end of a sandspit facing north across the Bolinas lagoon, surrounded by wildlife and rich with natural beauty.

The Inlet House exterior is marked by cedar shingle wood siding and ample glazing that emphasizes the views and the feeling of living in a wildlife sanctuary.

By incorporating influences that reflect the owners—ranging from East Coast, midcentury modern traditions to a colorful South American upbringing—the firm was able to create a layered story which also paid respect to the integrity of the original 1970s beachside home. "We were very curatorial about what to make new and what to leave old," says founder and president Lewis Butler.

The kitchen features the original wood-paneled ceiling, polished concrete floors, custom cabinetry from Woodline Design, a black granite countertop, and stools from Restoration Hardware. 

The home’s original footprint was maintained, with the only significant changes being reconfiguring the home from three to five bedrooms, the addition of windows, and the removal of an exterior wall which blocked the central courtyard. The rich, wood-paneled ceiling remains in the open kitchen/living room, and tall wood columns that run the length of the living room were also left intact. The renovation is nuanced—in fact, part of the magic of the firm's work is that the updates perfectly integrate into the home and feel completely natural.

For the dining nook, Woodline Design created a custom table and banquette featuring cushions wrapped in Great Outdoors Shale fabric. The chairs are the Harp 349 by Roda. The "Fresh Crabs" sign adds a beachy, folk art feel. 

The influence of the beach is echoed in the living room's sandy, stucco masonry. A wall of windows brings a sense of the outside in. 

A three-dimensional bronze work of art by Denver–based Yoshitomo Saito hangs above the fireplace. From afar, it appears to be inspired by the surrounding bird sanctuary; however, up close, it resembles leaves. The wood-paneled ceiling and the wood columns are both original features. 

The elegant, modernist-inspired living space boasts vintage Barcelona chairs and a Cassina sectional. The French doors lead out to the courtyard. 

The courtyard sits in the center of the home and divides it into two wings, separating the family’s private quarters from the guest accommodations.  There are almost no hotel rooms in Stinson Beach, so being able to spend the night is exceptionally special. 

The bright and airy master bedroom features high ceilings and a spectacular view. 

A classic Eames rocking chair provides a seat in the master bedroom. 

The master bath is clad in plywood and features a custom vanity by Woodline Design paired with a Bourgogne limestone countertop with a honed finish by Fox Marble. The vanity mirror is a custom piece by Greg Nelson at GGD.

Reconfiguring the home from three bedrooms to five bedrooms ensured that there would be not only enough space for the family of six, but also for the guests they love to entertain on the weekends. 

A vintage car grill serves as a found art installation.   

The original layout included one bunkroom, but an additional one was added to provide more than enough room for all four children and their friends. The architects clad the room in plywood to enhance the seaside vibes and added plywood bunk beds which were designed to become bleacher seating when the children watch TV. 

The kids’ bathroom features bold, colorful stripes and Gym Hooks from the Danish Design Store.

An exposed beam adds depth and character to one of the guest bathrooms while graphic tiles echo the complex geometries of an extensive collection of butterflies that is on display.  Joe Fletcher

The geometric tiles play with abstraction and scale, riffing off a more literal interpretation of the client's butterfly collection. 

A view from above—this is the thin strip of sand on Bolinas Bay where Inlet House is located. 

Project Credits:

Architect of Record: Butler Armsden Architects / @butlerarmsden_architects, Lewis W. Butler and Dave Sturm
Builder/General Contractor: GGD, Inc/ Glenn Goodman
Structural Engineer: Strandberg Engineering /David Strandberg
Civil Engineer: AYS Engineering Group, Inc./Troy Pearce
Landscape Design Company: Dan Fix Landscape, Dan Fix
Interior Design: Butler Armsden Architects, Glenda Flaim
Cabinetry Design/Installation: Woodline Design/Jim Hinkle
Other: Fleetwood Windows & Doors
Photography: Joe Fletcher Photography

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