“It is possible at once to lose and to find yourself” at California’s Sea Ranch, said Patricia Leigh Brown in The New York Times. This 10-mile-long “utopia by the sea,” two and a half hours north of San Francisco, is an “unspoiled swath of California coast” that just happens to be home to some of the most iconic houses in America. Though getting there requires threading the needle of a “stomach-churning, acrophobia-inducing sliver of Highway 1,” the destination itself is a balm. In the early 1960s, a coterie of “A-list” architects—including Charles W. Moore, William Turnbull, Donlyn Lyndon, Joseph Esherick, and Richard Whitaker—followed the wind to California. Observing the way “its salty gusts sculpted the cypress trees,” the visionaries conceived a style that “poetically echoed” its force.
No home reflects that environmental aesthetic more than Moore’s Condominium One, “an austere, Shaker-like ode to nature’s power” that’s unassuming on the outside and spectacular on the inside. An expression of Moore’s “infinite capacity for joy,” the home is a wondrous “indoor fairy tale” with papier-mâché ponies, a winged cow, and a four-poster bedroom loft held up by logs. “Daydreaming is the emotional agenda” at Sea Ranch, and that’s the mood captured in Obie Bowman’s Walk-in Cabins, a “remote gathering of 15 troll-like dwellings in a kingdom of redwoods,” reachable only by foot. While Condominium One disappears into the rugged coastal bluffs, the Walk-ins “settle into the landscape, like quail nesting.”
The same goes for Turnbull’s Binker Barns, which are scattered among lustrous Douglas firs. Each barn is “poetry in wood,” from the front doors “artfully carved in quilt-like patterns” to the interior bridge leading to the bedrooms. With plank walls and crisscrossing beams, it feels like a “chic abstraction of Nebraska.” The barns are an idyllic place to have a glass of wine and gaze at the seals “sunning on the rocks like old couples by the pool in Miami Beach.” As you listen to the wind whip through the pines, you’ll never want to leave this serene community, “where man and nature are engaged in an intricate dance.”
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