Designing Manzanita Beach House

DSCN0002In 1987 we were commissioned to design our first beach house. Our overjoyed clients had just bought a vacant lot at the top of a 100 foot tall, pinetree-laden dune overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Manzanita Beach on the north coast of Oregon.

Our client, a married couple, were decidedly unclear about their needs for the home except that the husband was quite clear about how much money he felt the household could budget for the construction. Once the three of us discussed this and reached a consensus it became possible to glean an approximation of how many square feet they could afford to build. Thus we crossed our first decision fork.

DSCN0013_5The next decision fork entailed sorting out their program: what rooms they needed and the specific requirements for each room. They knew their beach house needed a master bedroom suite with bath, two guest bedrooms, a guest bath, great room, laundry and kitchen, that each and every one of these room needed a view of the sea, if possible. We also discussed how their new home was to feel and as a result of the interview process came to the paradoxical conclusion that the home needed to be both intimate and spacious, at the same time.

Grappling with this paradox, I realized that the only way to have intimacy and spaciousness both at once was to cluster all the smaller rooms around a central, double-volume space. The rooms needed to have expansive windows facing west with few if any windows facing east. Thus the focus of this core space would be away from the land, and towards the North Pacific.

Our clients were unclear as to the exterior aspect of the home, and sorting this out, we discovered that their tastes were inclined towards a Craftsman Style aesthetic and a New England Saltbox aesthetic.

Our clients were unclear as to the exterior aspect of the home, and sorting this out, we discovered that their tastes were inclined towards a Craftsman Style aesthetic and a New England Saltbox aesthetic.

I placed their Kitchen south of this space, and above it, the Master Bedroom Suite. North of the central space I stacked the two Guest Bedrooms, one above the other, and the Stairway. I connected the two upper floor wings, north and south, with an open bridge flanking the east edge of the central volume. This resulted in a relatively long, narrow two-story home with every room facing west, and each of the intimate rooms situated north and south of the majestic, west-facing Great Room.

Our design was an instant success with our clients, who needed no convincing at all to realize how compelling their new home would be.

Manzanita Beach House, built the following year, has subsequently gone on to become a place of tranquility, where one can take a weekend break from the worries of the city. It has become a place of gathering, where families gather to commune and celebrate. It is a place of reflection, where one experiences the abundances of land and sea intimately, in all their splendor. And it is, in fact, a place of magic.

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2 thoughts on “Designing Manzanita Beach House

  1. James Schiller

    Nice pointers on designing beach houses. I am fond of beach houses and I love how properties in Charleston SC real estate look. As it pertains to interior design, the real estate in Charleston, SC usually follows a “southern” feel, with a lot of simple design elements: such as classic muted colors, hardwood floors, and features true to the roots of vintage Southern charm.

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