A Sea Ranch Courtyard House Embraces its Spectacular Surroundings

A Sea Ranch Courtyard House Embraces its Spectacular Surroundings

By Melissa Dalton
Using cement panels, cedar, and glass, Turnbull Griffin Haesloop design a home that speaks to Sea Ranch heritage and suits the owners’ quest for downtime.

Ludwig Lin, an anesthesiologist and critical care specialist, and Kieron Leslie, a British-trained dermatologist and Professor at UCSF School of Medicine, had long visited Sea Ranch for their weekend getaways. The community drew the couple to its natural beauty—it’s set on 10 miles of Northern California coastline—and Ludwig is a long-distance runner and Kieron is a swimmer, so the area’s numerous trails and three lap pools suited how they like to unwind.

After years of visits, the couple found a buildable, triangular lot bounded by golf courses on two sides and anchored by a copse of Cypress trees at the southern edge, with views to both the Pacific Ocean and the Gualala River. From the start of the project, Ludwig and Kieron wanted their home to honor the community’s rich architectural vernacular as well as the beauty of the land—and they teamed up with San Francisco firm Turnbull Griffin Haesloop Architects to execute it.

"We wanted to create a house that did justice to the incredible landscape of the Sea Ranch, and also to its immediate surroundings—a combination of bright open space looking toward the ocean, but also an area that was sheltered and shaded by a gorgeous stand of Cypress trees," say the couple. "We also wanted to preserve and honor the tradition of Sea Ranch architecture—Kieron is a huge history buff, and he had started reading about the origins of the Sea Ranch build paradigm, as well as the utopian ideals upon which it was founded in the 1960s."

In response to the unique layout of the site, the firm positioned the home to take advantage of the long stretch of fairway, aligning an axis of glass parallel to it. The long gabled form of the home hosts the shared spaces, including the living and dining rooms, kitchen, and study, which has extra crash space for guests.

Windows wrap the length of the wall in the main section of the house and overlook the green space. "It’s a very unusual setting for the Sea Ranch—and Kieron, who’s from England, absolutely loves it because you get these beautiful big green meadows," says architect Eric Haesloop.

The firm then endeavored to "break the house apart so that the site could flow through," says Haesloop. A smaller connected, flat-roofed "cube" has a bedroom and bathroom, and a separate gabled building occupied by the master suite is nestled into the copse of trees.

This approach serves many functions. The three forms fashion a protected courtyard that provides privacy from the golf course and shelters the outdoor living space from coastal winds. The separate suite also gives Ludwig, who is an early riser, a peaceful retreat away from the main social areas.

This view shows the two forms backed by the Cypress trees. The main social areas are to the right, and the bedroom cube is to the left.

The house is broken up so that the natural site flows through the courtyard, which has a fire pit and a hot tub.

"The master bedroom is tucked into the trees, which kind of anchors the whole composition and is also appropriate because it’s more private," says Haesloop. It also provides the couple with a shower that looks out into the woods.

"The owners requested that we explore fire-safe alternative cladding materials that would complement the Sea Ranch vernacular but require minimal maintenance and age well," says the firm. To that end, ribbed cement panels from Equitone cover the wall and roof planes. The architects paid special attention to how the roof cladding "folds down" to meet the wall for a crisp silhouette.

The firm took inspiration from early barns in the area. "They’re very lightly built here because we don’t have snow," says Haesloop. "So then the eaves are very tight. There are no overhangs. So, we were interested in using the Equitone to fold down to the land."

On the exterior, the firm balanced the Equitone panels with vertical cedar fins interspersed with expanses of glass. "The Sea Ranch used to be a ranch for grazing," says Haesloop. "So, there are still some beautiful barns that they’ve restored. Our thinking was that the syncopation of the wood posts is almost like barn framing."

The open-plan living area has concrete floors and Douglas fir accents.

Shop the Look
The Sea Ranch: Architecture, Environment, and Idealism
This large-format and generously illustrated book captures the visionary approach to the land embraced in designs for The Sea Ranch, the planned community that has become a touchstone of 1960s West Coast modernism.
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As a Brazilian designer who was a member of the “Paulist brutalist” avant-garde in the 1950s, Paulo Mendes da Rocha gained international fame when he received the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2006.
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Natural leather handle. Pewter & Graphite Colours.

The study has a fold-down bed for extra guests. "We knew that we wanted a space that was open and inviting, and that would suit our wishes to spend relaxation time together, as well as with cherished house guests," say the homeowners.

"I love the fact that our wonderful architects were such good listeners," says Ludwig. "The house has many details that are specifically tailored to our lifestyles and personalities. For example, there are quiet spaces where I can take naps, but also inviting group spaces that welcome conversation and conviviality."

A built-in window seat across from the kitchen gives guests a spot to sit close to the cooking action.

"I think my favorite part of the house is the dining area in the great room," says Kieron. "It points one’s gaze toward the majestic canopy of the cypress hedgerow abutting the Gualala river; I never tire of that landscape. Also, in the stillness of the early morning, the deer graze around the glass box that is Skyfall, and I feel like roles have reversed and they have come to visit their human zoo."

SkyFall Residence floor plan

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