Dezeen Magazine

Cabin in The Sea Ranch

Joanne Koch adds cantilevered deck during Sea Ranch cabin renovation

Architect Joanne Koch has refurbished a 1970s wood cabin located in the iconic Sea Ranch development in California into an Airbnb destination in the forest.

Originally constructed in 1974 by William Turnbull, Jr, the 1,200-square foot (110-square metre) cabin was renovated in 2022 by Joanne Koch, who leads Berkeley-based studio Koch Architects, as "a bridge to the redeeming qualities of nature".

Wood-clad 1970s cabin
Joanne Koch renovated a 1970s wood cabin to create an Airbnb

Situated on a half-acre at the top of a ravine, the house sits within a forest of mature redwood, pine and fir trees.

The steeply sloping site looks down toward the ocean and the sunny southern deck provides a vantage point within the treetops. The cabin centres around a two-storey atrium with large east- and west-facing stacked windows.

Wood-clad interior by Joanne Koch
The majority of the changes took place in the interior

"I felt a deep longing for a refuge, a retreat, a place of renewal," Koch told Dezeen.  "I was drawn to the Sea Ranch architectural legacy of living lightly on the land, of small, compact homes in vast, expansive environments."

"I especially appreciated William Turnbull’s work, his rigor for creating abstract compositions with simple forms. I wanted to preserve this legacy while expanding and evolving it into a more contemporary form," she continued.

Two-storey atrium
A two-storey atrium defines the renovation

"The atrium both unifies and connects while providing separation between the public and private spaces. It has a playful and curious quality where one wants to explore up and down, in and out, and through space," she said.

The exterior is wrapped in vertical Redwood tongue-and-groove siding with copper gutters and downspouts.

A new deck was cantilevered off the west facade, creating a parallel exterior space to the entry deck.

Bedroom interior renovation by Joanne Koch
Bedrooms feature views of the surrounding landscape

The majority of the renovations took place on the interior.

The bedrooms were originally divided by a diagonal wall that separated a large L-shaped space at the corner.

Contemporary kitchen with wooden accents by Joanne Koch
The kitchen was remodelled to be more contemporary

Koch removed that wall, reconfigured the windows to align with views of the surrounding landscape, added an ensuite bathroom and gutted the existing bathroom to add a walk-in shower.

In the shared spaces, the kitchen was remodelled to be more contemporary and sunlight from a large skylight pours down the low-profile, matte cabinetry to contrast with the sugar pine wood panelling of the rest of the home – which was salvaged from the original design and reinstalled in the newly arranged spaces.

"The interiors were very important. I wanted the furnishings, the textiles, and textures to be a balance between rustic and refined sensibilities," Koch said. "I had to find the right balance between blending and unifying versus expression and presence."

The team installed engineered heart pine plank flooring throughout, contrasted with sleek black metal details like sliding doors and window frames.

Stand-alone fireplace with built-in seating
A stand-alone fireplace with built in-seating was added to the living space

The interior palette is a combination of mid-tone and dark neutrals with natural accents.

A stand-alone fireplace with built in-seating was added to warm the compact house, in addition to the radiant heating system. All of the home's systems – electrical, plumbing, heating, septic, and drainage – were updated as part of the project.

Natural accents within timber cabin in Sea Ranch
The interior palette is a combination of mid-tone and dark neutrals with natural accents

"Another goal for this project and a key theme that was woven into the design and selections of finishes and furnishings was for it to be shared with others," Koch said, referencing the Airbnb listing. "We intentionally chose not to have artwork on the walls, we didn’t want images to take one to another place."

Nearby in the Sea Ranch development, Butler Armsden renovated a different oceanside home that William Turnbull Jr worked on, however, it was the wood-clad home's third iteration, having been originally constructed in 1974 by architect Ralph Matheson.

Last year, architecture studio Mithun renovated the Sea Ranch Lodge, which serves as a gathering place for residents of the community.

The photography is by Joe Fletcher.

Project credits:

Contractor: Chad Warner Construction
Engineer: Clausen Engineering

More images and plans

Ground floor plan
Ground floor plan
Ground floor plan
Ground floor plan
Main floor plan
Main floor plan
Site plan
Site plan
Cabin by Joanne Koch
Cabin by Joanne Koch
Cabin by Joanne Koch
Cabin by Joanne Koch
Cabin by Joanne Koch
Cabin by Joanne Koch