People often talk about designing structures that are harmonious with nature – that leave minimal visual or physical impact on the environment. Decades ago, along a 10-mile stretch of Sonoma County coastline, a group of architects held that vision for The Sea Ranch. And today, much to our delight, even the newer buildings are held to a strict set of guidelines that are in keeping with the area's reputation for environmental sensitivity.
In 1963, the Oceanic California Inc. purchased the land, including the 5,200-acre Del Mar Ranch (which was translated to "The Sea Ranch"). The company hired a team of architects and planners to develop the community. Among them: Al Boeke, Lawrence Halprin, Charles Moore, William Turnbull, Donlyn Lyndon, Richard Whitaker and Joseph Esherick.
The homes blend into the landscape, rather from distract from it. They were built in clusters, with no fences or lawns around them. To enhance its feel as a nature preserve, all plantings in The Sea Ranch were – and continue to be – native.
The wooden exteriors are unpainted, and lack any eaves. Even the exterior lights (such as those on a deck) have a wood finish, to better camouflage them.
If you're in the area, we highly recommend making a stop at The Sea Ranch Chapel, which was designed by James Hubbell. Like the homes in the area, the non-denominational chapel was inspired by nature – most notably, with a roof that has a wind-swept feel. Inside, where 40 people can be seated, the benches and pillars are comprised of free-form redwood.
The Sea Ranch is about a three-hour drive north of San Francisco; most of that drive is scenic. In addition to the world-renowned Sea Ranch Lodge, visitors can stay in one of the many rentals available in the community. (We recently had the pleasure of spending a weekend in the "tree house" shown in the first photo.)