Since the early 1980s I have been fortunate to work with a handful of America’s most creative architects. Much of what they do is aspirational. I thought it might be fun to share a few projects we have photographed recently that have a marquee nature which speaks both to great design and their uniquely beautiful sites. The three projects featured here fall under the category of “California Dreaming.” Their quintessential California settings enhance their sublime architectural statements. This is our way of saying Happy New Year!
Pelican Point House, Eric Miller Architects
Just south of the famous Point Lobos State Reserve along California’s legendary Big Sur coastline is a small outcropping of seaside homes that were first developed as vacation homes in the 1920s by artists and eccentric “swells” of the era. It was a place where the road ended until Big Sur was opened up by a paved highway in the early 1940s. Through a bit of good fortune, architect Eric Miller’s client acquired an interesting ocean front cottage perched on a granite cliff with the Pacific Ocean as his front yard. Miller and his client spent nine years developing a new house for the site that took full advantage of the site’s spectacular vistas, modern building materials and unique marine environment. Miller’s client, a retired executive, gave him license to create a high-tech, modern hideaway in his private nature preserve. Miller literally carved the house into the granite hillside using the excavated stone for stairs, pathways and garden seating. Walls of glass faced the lagoon and ocean while stainless steel and copper cladding faced the hillside. Miller cleverly offset the house’s spectacular public spaces with intimate gardens and exterior seating areas. Miller’s Pelican Point house is an exclamation point on “surf meets turf.”
Diamond T Ranch House, Holdren + Lietzke Architecture
California’s Central Coast is a patchwork quilt of rugged mountains and green valleys. Sitting high on a ridge is Diamond T Ranch, which has views of the valley below, and the adjacent Santa Lucia Mountains. The owners of this land are winemakers producing one of the more notable vintages in the region. They hired architect Craig Holdren to design a modern ranch house for them in the middle of their vineyard. The owner is both a rider and collector of vintage Italian motorcycles. He wanted the house to serve as both a living space and an exhibit hall for his extensive motorcycle collection. Working with vernacular board and batten ranch house themes and a serious amount of recycled lumber, Holdren created a delightful house that is part garage and part living quarters with views to die for. The main hall is filled with vintage cycles, riding memorabilia and paneling recycled from Montana snow fencing. French doors open onto a well-scaled patio that could host either a silk stocking charity event or a biker bash. A great place to either hang your hat or park your bike.
Philomena Farms, Swatt | Miers Architects
Just west of Palo Alto is the hidden town of Portola Valley. It’s rolling green hills and easy commute to the heart of Silicon Valley make it a very desirable place to live. It is home to some of Silicon Valley’s most significant characters. Nicole Vidalakis, a Stanford psychologist and art collector hired architect Robert Swatt to build a house for her young family. She told Swatt, “She didn’t want a house, but a work of art that she happened to live in.” She has an extensive collection of mid-century art and furnishings that needed a home. She wanted a house that was made of rugged building materials like concrete, glass and steel. Swatt’s answer was a glass and steel structure with a concrete spine that runs the length of the building. A lap pool intersects the building at 90 degrees and is offset by a flat circular steel umbrella painted cobalt blue. Almost everywhere you turn, a noteworthy piece of Modern art or a Period piece of Modern furniture catches one’s eye.