Little House, Big Bang: Sea Ranch Cabin (Sonoma County, California)

Hidden among the redwoods on the California coastline, this restored 1960s cabin is the ultimate scenic refuge.

When Bay Area architect Joseph Escherick designed the Sea Ranch cabin community in 1968, his mission was to produce a smattering of comfortable, cost-effective getaways in Sonoma County, California. As the years passed and the majority of the homes in the historical planned community were replaced or expanded, one cabin quietly fell into disrepair. Chad DeWitt, a lead designer at Oakland, California–based design collective Framestudio, encountered the property in 2017 and took on the delicate balancing act of preservation and modernization in the renovation of the structure.

The paradoxical endeavor could only be achieved by keeping the structure’s original intentions in mind while introducing contemporary updates. Designers began by electing not to alter the cabin’s 684-square-foot dimensions or its exterior. Instead, DeWitt and Framestudio worked within Esherick’s original open layout to add modern essentials like a full kitchen and ample storage space as well as increase the cabin’s sleeping capacity.

In these updates, Framestudio kept Escherick’s original emphasis on inexpensiveness in mind and steered clear of costly options like granite countertops in favor of materials like laminate and local Douglas Fir and sequoia wood. The cabin’s three levels all open to one another by way of an open slatted wood staircase, which amplifies the light and gives the space a loft-like feel. In fact, Framestudio said the only interior door in the entire cabin is to the bathroom.

While the original upper kitchen cabinets were restored, the lower ones were replaced with matte black laminate cabinets made of Birch plywood. Appliances and storage drawers were also added to the kitchen, which sits across from a dining area with large windows and sliding glass doors that connect indoors to the outdoors. The lower level features a seating area with a sofa that pulls out into a queen-size bed and an office area with a desk that looks out into the trees.

On the upper level, the designers maintained a minimalist design while adding functionality. A partition was built to fully separate the bedrooms, but can be hidden away within the Douglas Fir paneling when not in use. The second bedroom has a set of bunk beds, built into the wall of the cabin, bringing the sleeping capacity of the cabin to six. More storage space was added here in the form of custom blue laminate cupboards that were built to fit in the original closet alcoves. Framestudio said all of the novel additions to the space were designed to “intentionally contrast with the original interiors, while keeping in the spirit of the original materials.”

Modernization of the cabin was completed by replacing roofing and windows and updating electrical and climate systems to incorporate smart home technology allows for the home to be remotely prepared for DeWitt’s arrival. Thanks to careful research, hard work and a dedication to protect the splendor of its original design, the Sea Ranch cabin sets the standard for what a modern tiny home can achieve.

Photo courtesy of Dwell.