Nolan Home Remodel – The Sea Ranch, CA (Sonoma county)

by Doug Murray on May 4, 2011


The Nolan’s property, one of the earlier Sea Ranch houses, was built with three separate structures on the site. Their plan was to use the property as a weekend getaway/ family gathering center. The intent was to remodel the existing buildings; adding on here and there to make the old cabin-style structures more livable.

“The client liked astronomy, so a roof deck over the garage was designed to accommodate night sky viewing.”

After doing some preliminary work and minor demo on the main house, lots of patch work remodeling was uncovered, some of which had compromised the house’s structural integrity. Rebuilding the defective work to bring it up to current building codes was going to be expensive both in time and labor. The clients and our team decided to demo the main house, starting anew, building within the already approved footprint.

By digging out a bit below the existing grade level, we were able to add two lower bedroom-bathroom suites plus a play room. Upstairs on the main level, the small kitchen and master bedroom were expanded. A sleeping loft on the top level was made more accessible. To save space, all three levels were connected with a spiral staircase rather than building a conventional stairwell.

The detached garage building, which we had planned on saving, also had structural issues due to wood rot. Damp weather common to California’s North Coast is not easy on structures, unless the moisture is properly controlled. Sheet metal flashing typically used inland does not last on the coast. The salt air causes even galvanized metal to rust in short order, allowing water to get in causing rot. Exposed metal flashing must be stainless steel or copper.

During the course of construction, the client happened to suffer a broken ankle at home in Sacramento, bringing up the issue of mobility access for folks with physical impairments. Since the garage had questionable construction, it was decided to demo this building, as well.

By rebuilding, the garage structure could be raised to the same level as the little guest house. This made it possible for anyone with a mobility challenge to visit and stay in the guest house without having to negotiate steps or inclines. As a further enhancement, we were able to squeeze in a little pool house / wine storage room under the garage. The client was very interested in astronomy, so a roof deck over the garage was designed to accommodate night sky viewing. The three levels in the garage structure were also linked with a space saving spiral staircase.

The existing guest cabin was kept and remodeled. With some minor digging, we built a shop under the main floor. The existing bath was enlarged and a large window installed for an up coast view. A small bedroom was added to make the little cabin into a small guest house. County codes prevented us from adding a kitchen, otherwise it could have been a stand alone living unit.

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