Launch Slideshow

tranquility zone

tranquility zone

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Most architects are lucky to find a client with a little design knowledge or background. Dion McCarthy, AIA, landed in an even better situation when creating this beach house in Ventura, Calif., for a pair of design connoisseurs. The wife, Hyon Chough, owns Blueprint, a modern furniture store in Los Angeles. “I can't overstate her influence [on the house],” says McCarthy. “She has pitch-perfect taste.”

Chough and her husband, Bernie Sacharski, live full time in L.A. But they wanted their oceanfront getaway, about an hour north of the city, to serve as a retreat from their hectic lives—a place where they could pass the weekend in tranquility and return to work ready for a busy week. McCarthy and Mark D. Kirkhart, AIA, principals at L.A.'s DesignARC, obliged with a scheme they liken to a coconut. “It has a rough exterior that stands up to the elements, but the interior is soft,” McCarthy says. Steel-troweled stucco and cold-rolled steel make up the home's shell. The salty ocean air quickly rusted the steel and drew the lime out of the stucco to form a weathered patina. “We liked playing with the site's impact on the design via those natural forces,” he adds.

A soothing palette of light colors—dove-gray poured-concrete floors downstairs, white vinyl floors upstairs, and white walls—grace the interiors. And a series of labor-intensive, nearly invisible details help maintain an atmosphere of calm. “We tried to quiet the details down, so there's less for the eye to measure,” McCarthy says. A row of textured 38-inch-wide panels form a wavy wall in the dining room; DesignARC painstakingly matched up the wave patterns of each panel with the one next to it, using a white filler compound to erase the seams. A glass mitre joint in the living room and master bedroom allows the southwest corner of the building to virtually disappear. And a 4-inch reveal between the walls and floors throughout the house lends a minimalist polish to the spaces.

For all its serenity, the house is tough enough to handle both stormy weather and the sometimes-prying eyes of passing surfers. Sliding louvers and storm panels enable the owners to completely close it up when they leave for the week, ensuring safety and privacy. Once they arrive and open it up again, the only task they need to address is their own relaxation.

project: Mussel Shoals House, Ventura, Calif.

architect: DesignARC Los Angeles

general contractor: Kadri & Associates, Montecito, Calif.

landscape architect: Orange Street Studio, Los Angeles

structural engineer: Steve Magnuson, Los Angeles

project size: 2,700 square feet

site size: 0.1 acre

construction cost: Withheld

photography: Benny Chan/Fotoworks