A Midcentury Cabin at California’s Sea Ranch Gets a Glowing Makeover

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By Anna Squier
Originally designed by pioneering Bay Area architect Joseph Esherick, this 684-square-foot cabin has been lovingly restored and is ready for guests.

Located in the redwood forest of the famed Sea Ranch community along the Sonoma, California, coastline, this weekend cabin was originally built in 1968 to demonstrate how Sea Ranch design principles of living lightly on the land could produce a comfortable, affordable home.

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The wood exterior blends in quietly with the surrounding timber.

The wood exterior blends in quietly with the surrounding timber.

Though the "MiniMod" cabin had fallen into disrepair, new owners—one of whom is the creative director of Oakland, California–based Framestudio—took it over in 2017 and vowed to preserve the historic importance of the dwelling while introducing contemporary updates. Modernizing it would include a fully functioning kitchen, the capacity to sleep six, and secure storage areas. 

The design scheme restored many of the original details that were testaments to Joseph Esherick's architectural mastery. The 20-foot by 20-foot cabin includes three levels, all open to one another. Through the renovation of the home, the open-plan concept was preserved. To maintain the open feeling while also introducing functionality, the architects created a full-height partition that can close off the two bedrooms, or hide away within the Douglas Fir paneling when not in use. 

Open wood stairs allow light to pass between levels.

Open wood stairs allow light to pass between levels.

Three levels intermix within the small footprint of the home, creating a loft-like feeling.

Three levels intermix within the small footprint of the home, creating a loft-like feeling.

Wood that was not original to Esherick's design was reclaimed and used in new ways. The new components, constructed from similar materials, were designed in contrast to the original components of the home. To create a functional kitchen, the original upper cabinets were restored, and the lower kitchen cabinets were replaced with Baltic Birch plywood cabinets clad in matte black laminate. Appliances were installed, along with storage drawers and toe kicks. The exhaust system was reconstructed to the original standards using an exhaust fan from the '60s. 

A small office space overlooks the redwood surroundings.

A small office space overlooks the redwood surroundings.

Large windows and sliding glass doors provide a direct connection to the outdoors.

Large windows and sliding glass doors provide a direct connection to the outdoors.

On the upper level, the two bedrooms were left minimally designed. To increase storage space, the architects designed custom blue laminate cupboards to fit within the original closet alcoves. In the second bedroom, bunk beds hang off the side of the main volume. To increase the sleeping capacity, a built-in sofa was introduced on the main level, which includes additional storage and a pullout bed. 

At the head of the bed in the main bedroom, a half-height wall overlooks the dining space below.

At the head of the bed in the main bedroom, a half-height wall overlooks the dining space below.

In the second bedroom, built-in bunk beds add an element of playfulness, decorated with black netting.

In the second bedroom, built-in bunk beds add an element of playfulness, decorated with black netting.

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Project Credits:

Original Architect: Joseph Esherick & Associates

Architect of Record: Framestudio

Contracor: Jesse Ososki Art

Landscape: Terremoto