This Surfer's Beach House is More Than It Seems
The first thing you notice on crossing the threshold is what the house itself is deliberately turning its back on: the roiling, crashing surf of the Pacific Ocean. Ernest Born, an esteemed Bay Area architect who built the flat-roofed, two-story home for his family in 1950, could hardly have chosen a wilder, more windswept location—then a nearly deserted coastal road running along the westernmost edge of San Francisco—but his austere façade seems content to be merely backdrop for the elements.
The present owner, Tom Lloyd-Butler, first spotted the place after a day riding 20-foot waves on the far side of that road, called the Great Highway. "I was changing, and I looked up and saw this tiny ‘For Sale’ sign," he recalls. "It was totally different from any other house at the beach," cloistered by trees and with only two upstairs windows facing the view.
"I thought it would be plain inside," says Lloyd-Butler, a longtime San Franciscan who runs his own investment company. "And then I went in and was blown away by the architectural motifs and how simple and sophisticated the design was." Born had worked from a limited palette—Douglas fir, travertine, cork, brick, and aggregate stone near entryways to conceal the sand that eternally swept in—to great effect. "He didn’t use any fancy materials; he chose basic ones and then used them in really interesting ways," says Lloyd-Butler.