architect: Turnbull Griffin Haesloop Architects, San Francisco

project: Sea Ranch Residence, The Sea Ranch, Calif.

detail: Breakfast nook

“In much of our work, we spend a lot of time detailing to make things look really minimal,” says Eric Haesloop, AIA, LEED AP, a principal at the San Francisco firm Turnbull Griffin Haesloop Architects. He, co-principals Mary Griffin, FAIA, and Stefan Hastrup, AIA, LEED AP, and their staff design many projects in scenic areas of Northern California. They want their details to emphasize these sites' natural beauty, rather than distract from it.

The breakfast nook at a house in The Sea Ranch, Calif., provides a perfect example of this approach. The 21-square-foot space sits just off the kitchen, up a 6-inch-tall step. “The step makes all the difference,” Haesloop says. “It lifts the nook apart from the main space completely.” Cedar benches appear to float without support, as does a cedar tabletop. Both are held up by flat, L-shaped pieces of steel embedded in the walls. Builder Don Matheny carved out slots on the undersides of the tabletop and benches, then screwed the steel into them. “He did a beautiful job,” Haesloop adds. “That's really key for most details.”

A downlit wall niche forms a cedar-lined display shelf. Cedar boards placed in a pinwheel pattern frame the niche—a move that gently highlights the wood's warm hues and fine grain. And big, aluminum-framed windows turn the nook's north and northeast walls into lenses for the windswept landscape.

general contractor: Matheny Construction, Nevada City, Calif.

woodworkers: Martin Maul Construction, Gualala, Calif., and David Hanson Woodworking, Santa Rosa, Calif.

materials: Cedar, steel, gypsum board

photography: David Wakely

Click here for a Web-exclusive review of a details book recommended by Turnbull Griffin Haesloop Architects principal Eric Haesloop, AIA, LEED AP.