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Into the Redwoods: A Tiny 1960s Cabin in Sea Ranch, Restored and Revived

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Into the Redwoods: A Tiny 1960s Cabin in Sea Ranch, Restored and Revived

September 14, 2018

Four years ago we devoted a week’s worth of posts to a design trend we called “Modest Modern,” beginning with this story: Channeling the Spirit of Sea Ranch, Anniversary Edition, about the legendary planned community of homes built along a 10-mile strip of northern California coastline in the 1960s. Aside from its breathtaking setting, Sea Ranch was known for structures so humble and unassuming, they felt revolutionary.

It’s this adherence to rustic minimalism and prioritization of natural beauty that drew Chad DeWitt and his husband, James Cook, 113 miles from their Bay Area rental apartment to Sea Ranch, in search of property they could call their own. But the tiny cabin they saw was more Massive Mess than Modern Modest. Owned by the same family for nearly 50 years, it was largely neglected and, in fact, on the day they viewed it, a giant pile of debris, smack dab in the middle of the floor, greeted them. Fortunately, DeWitt happens to be creative director of Framestudio, a multidisciplinary architecture, interiors, and product design firm based in Oakland, California, and he was uniquely positioned to take on a rehab of the historic home.

Ultimately, the renovation restored the original vision of architect Joseph Esherick, who designed the 684-square-foot cabin to be a model home for Sea Ranch. The rehab was so successful, in fact, “on a basic level, it’s made our Oakland home feel a bit shabby,” notes DeWitt.

Join us for a tour. (And if you find yourself pining for something like this yourself, you’re in luck: DeWitt and Cook’s Sea Ranch cabin is available for short-term rentals. Go here for details.)

Photography by Drew Kelly, courtesy of Framestudio.

the original owners, in preparation to sell the cabin, had recently added sidin 17
Above: The original owners, in preparation to sell the cabin, had recently added siding, a new roof, and new windows.
a workstation just off the living room on the bottom floor features a  18
Above: A workstation just off the living room on the bottom floor features a Lisabo desk from Ikea, a Louis Poulsen table lamp, and a yellow tractor-seat chair by Achille & Pier Giacomo Castiglioni.
the couple did most of the construction work themselves—including buildi 19
Above: The couple did most of the construction work themselves—including building this plywood sofa. The Aalto-like stools are from Amazon.
all three levels can be seen in this  . rubber tile flooring was chosen for the 20
Above: All three levels can be seen in this image. Rubber-tile flooring was chosen for the kitchen and dining area. In a high/low moment, black Era Chairs by Thonet contrast nicely with the Ypperlig Table from Ikea.
another hallmark of sea ranch homes was their affordability. in that spirit, de 21
Above: Another hallmark of Sea Ranch homes was their affordability. In that spirit, Dewitt and Cook selected inexpensive but durable materials for their redesign. In the small kitchen, that meant using black laminate to build new lower drawers and cabinets. (The sink faucet is by Vola, the dishwasher by Bosch, and the oven by Frigidaire.)
for the master bedroom, the couple built bookshelves (behind the headboard) bas 22
Above: For the master bedroom, the couple built bookshelves (behind the headboard) based off the original designs. The inexpensive Tomons lamps were purchased on Amazon.
the couple&#8\2\17;s renovation decisions were guided by the original desig 23
Above: The couple’s renovation decisions were guided by the original design footprint; they even sought advice from George Homsey, now in his nineties, one of the original architects of the Sea Ranch community and a partner in EHDD, the iconic firm started by Esherick. Anything that wasn’t original to the design was done in color, like this blue laminate closet.
dewitt and cook realized that some of the wood pieces that were in the debris p 24
Above: DeWitt and Cook realized that some of the wood pieces that were in the debris pile were remnants from a bunk bed. They rebuilt it using the remnants as a template.

For more cool cabins in the woods, see:

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