The Home of “The Man Who Built Big Sur” Lists for $7M

The longtime residence of late architect Mickey Muennig comprises three curvaceous, glass-roofed structures situated on 30 acres overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
Text by

Not every house comes with a bed suspended in midair from a glass ceiling, but in late architect Mickey Muennig’s longtime Big Sur residence, such eccentricity is only the beginning. Muenning, who was a pioneer of California’s iconoclastic organic architecture movement, designed enough homes in this pristine coastal setting to become known as "the man who built Big Sur." From the early 1970s, Muennig amassed a portfolio of striking houses with unconventional forms that frame scenic views and blend in with the landscape using mostly timber, stone, and glass.

Architect Mickey Muennig, who passed away last year at the age of 86, designed enough homes in Big Sur, California, to become known as "the man who built Big Sur." In 1975, Muennig purchased roughly 30 acres on Partington Ridge Road and started building the first of three separate, curvaceous buildings that comprise his longtime home. 

Originally from Joplin, Missouri, Muennig graduated in 1959 from the University of Oklahoma, where he was a student of architect Bruce Goff, a contemporary of Frank Lloyd Wright. There, Muennig was introduced to the philosophy of organic architecture, a design approach largely credited to Wright, which encourages architects to design buildings that integrate seamlessly with their natural surroundings.

The Glass House, which served as Muennig’s primary dwelling for over a decade, features a bed suspended by steel rods from the 16-foot-diameter glass ceiling. A fireplace is built into the structure’s stone base.

Muennig, who passed away last year at the age of 86, arrived to Big Sur in 1971 after attending a retreat at the Esalen Institute. In 1975, the architect purchased roughly 30 acres on Partington Ridge Road and began designing his own home comprised of three curvaceous, passive solar structures. He started with the 16-foot-diameter glass teepee known as the Glass House, which served as Muennig’s temporary home before it became his studio. 

Funky details—such as the colorful ceramic backsplash—remain intact in the Glass House.

Muennig’s initial purpose for the greenhouse-like structure was to study the effectiveness of passive solar heating and explore the advantages of living in a tiny space. "It was definitely a small place to live," Muennig said in a 2009 Dwell interview. "But I felt happy in it." A bed floats above the live/work area suspended from the glass ceiling by steel rods. A fireplace is built into the stone base of the structure above the concrete floors.

The 2,000-square-foot main house features a large skylight situated above an indoor garden. Ocean breezes flow into the dwelling through the arched entryway.

In 1985, Muennig started building the 2,000-square-foot primary residence into the hillside about 50 yards from the Glass House. The main house consists of one large room with a massive skylight that crowns an indoor garden at the center of the living spaces. An open kitchen with a long, undulating countertop and an elliptical island sits to one side of the garden across from a cozy living area with a fireplace and an office with a built-in desk. In one corner of the structure, a hallway leads to a bedroom and bath.

The kitchen flanks one side of the tropical garden in the primary residence.

The kitchen, living area, and office are situated around the indoor garden and reflecting pool. 

A living room with an arched fireplace is flooded with natural light.

The office features a built-in wooden desk. Concrete floors extend throughout the living spaces in each of the three structures.

Muennig built the main house with an earthen roof. A tree grows through the roof from the interior on one side of the structure.

The green roof of the main residence is tucked into a gently sloping hillside.

The sprawling property also includes what’s known as the Caretaker House: a two-story structure with a striking spiral staircase and glass walls. Multiple skylights facilitate a further connection with the Big Sur landscape, where craggy, oceanside cliffs become rolling hills covered with redwood and oak tree forests.

The floor plan of the Caretaker House has the shape of a nautilus shell. On the far side of the structure, colorful glass bottles are set into the exterior wall.

A spiral staircase, welded balustrade, and exposed wood beams create a loftlike aesthetic in the double-height space.

A covered patio with outdoor tub exemplifies the entire home’s rustic spirit.  The listing also includes a large pond where residents can swim in the summer months.

Architect Mickey Muennig’s longtime residence at 50854 Partington Ridge Road in Big Sur, California, includes three separate buildings—each with one bedroom—spread across 30 acres.

50854 Partington Ridge Road in Big Sur, California, is currently listed for $6,950,000 by Jeannie Ford of Sierra Sotheby’s International Realty.

Know of a home for sale or rent that should be featured on Dwell.com? Find out how to submit to Dwell.                

Related Reading:

How an Unsung Architect Gave Big Sur Its Look

Big Sur: Coastal Commissions

Published

Last Updated

Get the Real Estate Newsletter

From midcentury classics to the best contemporary spaces for sale, see the latest listings for modern homes on the market around the world.