Santa Barbara Coastal Beach Guest House

This new guest house mimics the look and feel of the existing primary residence on this small coastal California property.
Coastal Walkway Between Beach Homes

Coastal Walkway Between Beach Homes

The narrow space between the main residence on the left and the new guest house on the right was developed into a shared entry and lush garden. Sweetwater Cherokee stepping stones lead to the Pacific Ocean.

Photo by: Ciro Coelho

Ciro Coelho

What were the main items on your client's wish list for the design of their home?

The owner wanted this new home to function as a guest house for the primary residence she owns next door, but it also had to be able to stand on its own as a fully functional residence. Because the property was only 35 feet wide, the pedestrian entries from the street were combined into a shared garden entry with pathways leading to either residence. The owner wanted the guest house to include two bedroom suites in addition to a second-floor master suite with ocean views. At the ground level, an open "great room" made good use of limited space and tied in well with the pool and outdoor entertainment area from the main residence while also creating a separate, private indoor-outdoor living space with bluff top ocean views.

What were the main objectives and goals you set out to accomplish?

The property needed its own direct beach access, so one of the first steps was to construct a beach access stair. We also removed the tall plaster privacy wall separating the two properties, thus visually melding them into one space with blurred boundaries. The space created between the homes was still somewhat narrow, but we created a modern take on the Spanish "paseo", sprinkled with tropical plantings and Sweetwater Cherokee stone pavers leading to the guest house entry.

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It was decided early in the design process that the home would maintain the modern simplicity and Zen-like feeling of spaciousness, comfort, and lightness of the main residence. We duplicated a number of details from the main residence, such as the stained exterior trellises, vertically proportioned openings on the second floor, ironwork, light fixtures, and more. It was especially important that the home be in keeping with the indoor-outdoor lifestyle common to Southern California.

What makes this home unique to your client?

This home functions as a respite for the owner from the heat and dust of her ranch in the San Joaquin Valley. Natural textiles, mixture of modern and heirloom art and furnishings, and warm, natural tones add warmth and create a softer modern feel.

What was your biggest obstacle in the remodel/redesign of the home, and how did you address it?

The original design proposed to push the 2nd floor master bedroom farther out toward the coastal views, but a compromise was made after input from the adjacent neighbor and the architectural review board. The bedroom was ultimately pulled back behind the living room below. The landscape architect, Eric Nagelmann, created a rock garden on the roof of the living room below using small beach rocks three large boulders to create interest. The result was a soothing, Zen foreground to the ocean/island views.

What was the inspiration for the style of this home?

The existing primary residence next door was the biggest driving factor in the overall style of the home. The narrow property also drove the floor plan layout to become linear and efficient.

This project features a primary and guest residence. How did you transition from residence to residence without losing the individuality of each space?

The primary orientation and view of each residence is coastal. Therefore, it was important that each home not only take advantage of these vistas, but also have both indoor and outdoor space that took advantage of the vistas while maintaining a sense of privacy.

What was your favorite room/space to design in this home? What was the most difficult? Why?

Kitchens are always among my favorite spaces to design. The kitchen has become so much more than a place for preparing meals. It's an important informal place to entertain and gather—even more so in an open floor plan like this home. This particular kitchen was challenging because it had to provide ample storage in a small space while not detracting from the adjacent dining and living areas. It was the owner's idea to keep it all white, which makes it feel bigger and helps the more functional elements blend. The oversized cooktop hood is functional because it provides the ventilation and ample task lighting, but set against the glass tile (which is reminiscent of beach glass), it becomes a real focal point too.

Was there a specific piece of furniture, fabric, color, texture or piece of art that was essential to bringing the design together?

The owner and her daughter were the driving force behind the interior furnishings, textiles, and art. I see a lot of the owner's personality and history sprinkled throughout the house. The furnishings are an eclectic mix of modern pieces alongside aged antiques, worn leather, molded plastic, animal skins, concrete, crystal and iron. It's a perfect combination that reflects the contrast of the ranch and beach—a relaxing and rejuvenating place for the owner to feel at home.

What's the best thing about this house, in your opinion? What is your favorite feature, element or detail of the space? Why?

I think the colored concrete floors bring a lot of dimension to the simple palette of the home. Using the same finish throughout a modest-size house really unifies it and can make it feel bigger than it actually is.

The best thing about the house is clearly the location. I think the architecture really takes advantage of the views, breezes, and coastal access.

Another favorite feature is the treatment of the long, narrow hallway. By introducing tall, narrow, floor-to-ceiling windows, the rhythm of the openings brings in light, casts shadows, and offers short, frequent glimpses of the narrow landscaped paseo entry.

How were you able to give the residences an open, airy feel, but still maintain privacy?

Large, stacking sliding doors create oversized openings and help to link not only the indoors with the outdoors, but the guest house with the primary residence. Stone pathways and landscaping make the connection inviting as well.

How did you use integrate your style into this project?

I believe the strength of my and NMA's work is that each project stands on its own. Each home we design or renovate is in direct response to the client's program, the site features, and the developmental constraints, rather than about pre-conceived notions of a particular style. Our work embodies diversity, integrity, timelessness and environmental sensitivity.

What are the "hidden gems" in your plan that really made a big difference in the overall success of your design?

What is perhaps not apparent to the eye is the fact that clean, simple design is probably the most complex to execute. With little room for error, the craftsmanship has to be top quality. The owners worked with Quiring General, which did an excellent job.

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NMA Architects

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Neumann Mendro Andrulaitis Architects
www.nmaarchitects.com AIA 888 Linden Avenue Carpinteria, CA 93013 805-684-8885