Project: Stinson Beach House
Architects: Butler Armsden Architects
Location: Marin County, California, USA
Photographs by: Matthew Millman
Stinson Beach House by Butler Armsden Architects
Butler Armsden Architects have designed the Stinson Beach House on Stinson Beach in Marin County, California.
It is designed with an H shaped floor plan where the living room is at the core of the home. The wings that surround it open up to stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and the landscape around the home.
The living room can also be extended by opening the sliding glass doors. This offers excellent flexibility that enables the homeowners to enjoy both indoor and outdoor living.
In 1950 a family bought a lot on the ocean at Stinson Beach in Northern California, but it wasn’t until over 30 years later that they began to plan a house for three generations. Besides the natural challenges of the coastal environment, there was the additional requirement of having the house carry forward the spirit of a William Wurster designed house built for the same family in Santa Cruz in 1935. The William Wurster house was well known as his only real courtyard house, and also for the large outdoor living room that was very unusual for its time.
The plan evolved into an H shape, with a living room at the center, and the wings creating outdoor spaces facing both the Pacific Ocean, and the coastal range, in either direction. Rather than having an outdoor living room, the traditional living room has large sets of sliding doors that open to a position that matches the adjoining windows exactly, creating a distinctly outdoor experience. Depending on the weather, the doors can be open to the ocean, mountains, or both which provides great flexibility for enjoying the outdoors, indoors.
The framing of the house is left exposed to the interior, which draws on the construction techniques used in early California beach houses where temperatures do no fluctuate in the way that they do in the valleys, and of course before modern building codes. The insulation was added to the outside of the framing at both the walls and the ceiling rather than in the wall cavity itself. Vertical grain fir wainscot hides the wires and pipes below the three foot level at the walls, and is used as flooring as well. Other materials are red cedar shingles, aluminum double pane windows, bluestone used at the courtyard paving, fireplace and countertops, and Alaskan yellow cedar at the wood terrace on the ocean side of the house.
–Butler Armsden Architects