Dwell | A Midcentury Cabin at California's Sea Ranch Gets a Glowing Makeover

By Anna Squier

Photography by Drew Kelly

July 26, 2018

Originally designed by pioneering Bay Area architect Joseph Esherick, this 684-square-foot cabin has been lovingly restored and is ready for guests.

Located in the redwood forest of the famed Sea Ranch community along the Sonoma, California, coastline, this weekend cabin was originally built in 1968 to demonstrate how Sea Ranch design principles of living lightly on the land could produce a comfortable, affordable home.

Though the "MiniMod" cabin had fallen into disrepair, new owners—one of whom is the creative director of Oakland, California–based Framestudio—took it over in 2017 and vowed to preserve the historic importance of the dwelling while introducing contemporary updates. Modernizing it would include a fully functioning kitchen, the capacity to sleep six, and secure storage areas.

The design scheme restored many of the original details that were testaments to Joseph Esherick's architectural mastery. The 20-foot by 20-foot cabin includes three levels, all open to one another. Through the renovation of the home, the open-plan concept was preserved. To maintain the open feeling while also introducing functionality, the architects created a full-height partition that can close off the two bedrooms, or hide away within the Douglas Fir paneling when not in use.

Wood that was not original to Esherick's design was reclaimed and used in new ways. The new components, constructed from similar materials, were designed in contrast to the original components of the home. To create a functional kitchen, the original upper cabinets were restored, and the lower kitchen cabinets were replaced with Baltic Birch plywood cabinets clad in matte black laminate. Appliances were installed, along with storage drawers and toe kicks. The exhaust system was reconstructed to the original standards using an exhaust fan from the '60s.

On the upper level, the two bedrooms were left minimally designed. To increase storage space, the architects designed custom blue laminate cupboards to fit within the original closet alcoves. In the second bedroom, bunk beds hang off the side of the main volume. To increase the sleeping capacity, a built-in sofa was introduced on the main level, which includes additional storage and a pullout bed.

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