A Zen Retreat Champions Indoor/Outdoor Living in Coastal California
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A Zen Retreat Champions Indoor/Outdoor Living in Coastal California

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By Lucy Wang
Presented by LaCantina Doors
Designed for devout Buddhists, this contemporary getaway invites the outdoors in with massive, moveable walls of glass.

When a pair of San Francisco tech executives purchased a Stinson Beach property sandwiched between the Marin Hills and Bolinas Lagoon, it was clear from the get-go that the extraordinary site had all the makings of a serene retreat.

Yet, despite the pristine landscape, the existing 1960s home that came with the property was in desperate need of a facelift.

Inspired by a vision of zen living, the couple tapped architect John Kleman of San Francisco–based Kleman Design and interior designer Gary Wiss of Wiss Design Studio to bring their dream vacation house to life with a focus on indoor/outdoor living—a design he achieved with the use of LaCantina Doors throughout.

Located an hour north of San Francisco, the vacation home embraces views in two directions: the Marin Hills and a marine bird sanctuary to the east, and the sparkling waters of the Bolinas Lagoon to the west.

"Their goal from the very beginning was to make the house as calm and serene a place as possible by taking the site as sacred," says John, who began the renovation by stripping the decayed, shingle-clad structure down to its studs.

Relying on a natural materials palette, he reimagined the 1,700-square-foot building into a contemporary dwelling that defers to the landscape. "The building is meant to feel like a natural place, so it’s all about simplicity, directness, and honesty with the materials."

Examples of his restrained design approach can be seen in the low-maintenance, standing-seam metal roof as well as the new Western Red Cedar exterior siding that’s left untreated to develop a silvery gray patina over time.

Beautiful views of the Buddha statue and lagoon can be seen in the approach to the front entrance flanked by Japanese maples. The homeowners often leave the rear LaCantina doors wide open for continuous indoor/outdoor connection.

Moveable walls of glass were also crucial for tying together the minimalist indoor/outdoor design. John, who loved the "very crisp and contemporary detailing" of LaCantina Doors, knew from experience that their line of Aluminum Thermally Controlled folding and multi slide door systems would be perfect for enhancing the Stinson Beach House.

"Our work was aimed at removing everything not essential to reveal the potential of the building’s unique site—anything that was a distraction to the view was minimized," adds John.

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Minimally separated by LaCantina walls of glass, the interior white-washed fumed oak flooring flows into the Alaskan yellow cedar deck built at the same elevation.

The home’s simple, understated elegance also heightens the drama of the home’s focal point—a large Buddha statue on the water-facing deck that dictated the building’s single organizing axis.

Laid east to west, this critical axis divides the public and private zones and aligns the glazed front entrance with the rear LaCantina sliding doors. Careful alignment allows for striking views of Buddha to be seen from the living areas and even from the initial approach to the house.

"We worked everything around this axis," John says. "As devout Buddhists, the clients wanted to always be in view of Buddha."

Local landscape designer Michael Bernsohn composed a palette of native plants artfully arranged to soften the hard edges of the deck while providing privacy and protection from the wind.

In addition to framing views of Buddha and the lagoon, the LaCantina walls of glass and recessed sill were critical in establishing a seamless indoor/outdoor connection.

"When the couple live there, they live there with the doors open. They occupy both the interior and exterior space seamlessly," says John.

Inspired by tatami mats, the spacious rear deck comprises a series of cascading platforms built from Alaskan yellow cedar in alternating patterns and supported with low, board-formed concrete walls. The glazed doors along the east-west axis also frame views of the Marin Hills that can be enjoyed from the rear deck.

"LaCantina is my go-to spec," explains John, who also used LaCantina folding doors in the garage and LaCantina sliding doors in the master bedroom. "I like them because they operate very well and have a good reputation for durability and weather tightness."

Weather resistance was of particular importance due to the site’s waterfront location and exposure to extreme weather. Since his clients valued low-maintenance and a minimalist design, John chose doors from LaCantina’s Aluminum Thermally Controlled series with Weather Resistant Sills: "The doors aren’t under any protection, so we had to make sure they were very well-sealed for wind and water."

LaCantina’s stacking multi slide door systems were installed with a minimal-threshold Weather Resistant Sill built of extruded aluminum with a thermal break and a self-draining weep system.

By placing the kitchen next to the sliding glass doors, John has also made outdoor entertaining and dining a breeze. A vaulted ceiling and ample glazing imbues the open-plan living area, dining space, and kitchen with a bright and airy character that continues throughout the home.

To the north of the organizing axis is the private area that includes the master suite, guest bedroom, study, and a meditation room that can be converted into a third bedroom.

Custom-sized LaCantina sliding doors were also installed in the master bedroom.

Protected from the northeasterly winds, the deck enjoys ample access to sunlight. "My concept of the deck was to treat it almost like an infinity pool where there’s a very sharp edge and it being coplanar with the floor when you’re in the house looking out you can’t really see anything but the water," adds John.

"The result is a place of deep serenity in which the sunlight, ocean air and uncluttered views become the center of one’s experience," says John. 

Stinson Beach House floor plan.

Project Credits:

Architect: Kleman Design

Interior Design: Gary Wiss

Landscape Design: Michael Bernsohn

Photographer: Matthew Millman Photography

Door System: LaCantina Doors

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