CAITLIN PARDO DE ZELA AND HER HUSBAND, DANIEL LOCKWOOD, moved from the East Coast to the Bay Area for tech jobs nearly 20 years ago. Living in San Francisco made sense because of their commutes.
But Pardo de Zela, an avid surfer who became a full-time mom in 2001 when their second child arrived, needed more than an urban setting. Stinson Beach became a magnet, and they started renting cottages there every summer.
In 2013, with three children in tow, they finally bought an empty lot in Seadrift, the local private beach community with a man-made lagoon. Pardo de Zela was ecstatic.
“I always knew that when I was in a position to build a home, I would ask this woman architect whose work I had coveted in a magazine,” she says.
Imagine her surprise when she called Cass Calder Smith, principal of the San Francisco firm CCS Architecture, and discovered that he is in fact a man. And yet after they met, she found Smith’s inclusive design approach exactly right.
“He did not ask us how many bedrooms we wanted and that sort of thing,” she says. “It was more about how we saw ourselves. He asked us how we wanted to feel in the place.”
Smith learned that the entire family is sporty: the oldest son likes skateboarding (along with fine art and design), and the others love to surf, paddle and canoe. The parents are also fans of cooking and tequila. “It was important to have a place where we could all invite friends and be creative,” Pardo de Zela says.
Lockwood even wanted the metal shop for his Burning Man art projects moved from the city to Stinson so his wife and their friends could see and enjoy them.
“I love working for people like that,” Smith says. “Artsy, ideas people. They feel very Californian.”
Having designed at least 50 homes and myriad restaurants (including San Francisco’s 25 Lusk) since 1986, and with another client’s Seadrift lagoon house to guide him, Smith quickly got started.
“The design process was so much fun I didn’t want it to end,” Pardo de Zela recalls. But it did, and by 2016 they had their new getaway.
The simple 2,100-square-foot box-like wood-frame house shares elements of neighboring mid-century homes by the likes of Joe Esherick and William Wurster. Like those houses, it already seems weathered because of its gray-stained cedar siding. But that’s where the resemblance ends.
“I added zingers and played with the cantilevered roof,” Smith says.
The single-story house, set back 18 feet from the street on its 7,500-square-foot lot, is considerably elevated, in keeping with Marin County coastal regulations for rising sea levels. It is laid out in an C shape, with the canopied south-facing opening forming a breezeway from the street into a central decked courtyard that has views of Mount Tamalpais.
The courtyard is flanked by a garage and media room on the west side and a row of bedrooms on the other; at the far end, the front door leads into a dramatic L-shaped open-plan living area that juts out over the lagoon.
Inside, the skylit space has an outdoor feeling. And large retractable north- and east-facing doors literally open the room to a back deck with stairs that lead directly down to a boat dock, dockside spa and fire pit.
The living areas are capacious, but the bedrooms are small and “the shared spaces are very shared,” Smith says. For instance, the media room doubles as additional guest space, and the southwest corner children’s room, which he calls the “kid warehouse,” has three two-tiered bunk beds and a sleeping loft so eight people can squeeze in if need be.
“I like to design for kids,” Smith says. Each child’s bed has a window, visible on the facade, and an individually operated light fixture. And both bathrooms in the house have a door to the outside so when kids come in wet from the lagoon they don’t have to cut (and track water) across the living room.
To cater to the parents, he included an outdoor shower (requested by Pardo de Zela) just outside the master suite for other direct access to the lagoon. And he oriented the kitchen to meet their needs: “Normally, I do the cooking and Dan does dishes, so the sink faces the mountains, and the stove, on a large kitchen island, faces the dining room,” Pardo de Zela says. When there is a crowd, several cooks can easily work together.
Pardo de Zela, never passive throughout the design and building phase, was even more engaged in deciding interior finishes. “I am a ‘less-is-more’ person and my husband is a ‘more-is-more’ guy,” she says. “He always wants color, color, color, but I wanted green materials and natural colors since we were at the beach.”
She got her way. Plasterboard walls are painted white, and the large expanses of glass blur boundaries between inside and out; the master shower walls are tiled with board-formed concrete; clay roof tiles support photovoltaic solar panels that supply all the electricity; concrete floors that contain radiant heating are polished to reveal the aggregate.
Such water-resistant materials, while practical, can appear cold, so as a foil, Smith clad the ceilings with wood, and built-in cabinets are made of lively aged sinker cypress wood.
But when it came to anything not fixed in place, it seems Lockwood, the inveterate Burner, made an end run.
While most of the art Pardo de Zela picked for the walls is black-and-white photography, “almost every piece of furniture and every piece of glass pops with color,” she says with a chuckle. “That’s all him.”
ARCHITECT and DESIGN Cass Calder Smith Architecture, ccs-architecture.com, design principal Cass Calder Smith, project architect Björn Steudte; interior design director Barbara Turpin-Vickroy
DECK Planter, West Elm, westelm.com; outdoor furniture, Restoration Hardware, restorationhardware.com; sliding doors, Fleetwood Window & Doors, fleetwoodusa.com
KITCHEN Stools, Bludot, bludot.com/sanfrancisco; Décor letters, RH Teen, rhteen.com
LIVING ROOM Fireplace, Fireorb, fireorb.net; dining table, elm wood from Alchemy in Design, alchemyindesign.wordpress.com, tabletop by Jeff Burwell Art Design and Fabrication, jeffburwell.com, base by owner Dan Lockwood
KIDS’ BEDROOM Bunk beds, custom design by CCS Architecture, ccs-architecture.com; Berber rug, Etsy, etsy.com; pillows, Etsy
HALL Prints by Kelsey Brookes, Quint Gallery, kelseybrookes.com, quintgallery.com
MASTER BATHROOM Sink fixtures, Hansgrohe, hansgrohe.com; tile and backsplash, Stone Source, stonesource.com; countertop, Bohemian Stoneworks, bohemianstoneworks.com
MASTER BEDROOM Custom-designed platform bed, CCS Architecture; ceiling fan, Big Ass Fans, bigassfans.com
This article originally appeared in Spaces’s print edition under the headline: “The Next Wave”.