As writer Isak Dinesen once said, “The cure for anything is saltwater—sweat, tears or the sea.” For one San Francisco family, the antidote to a busy life with four active teenagers was, in fact, the sea. They craved a beach getaway that would offer slow yet rhythmic days, where outdoor activities like swimming, surfing, paddling and biking would knit together the hours between sunrise and sunset. The couple felt a pull north toward Stinson Beach, a short drive from the hustle and bustle of the city, but a world away in terms of tranquility.
“We’d been going to Stinson Beach with our children for the last 15 years because it is an easy drive from the city, but it feels like a true vacation,” says the wife, who grew up in Malibu, where the beach was a natural extension of her everyday life. “I wanted my four kids to have that kind of connection to the ocean, too.”
The couple fell for a 1970s house typical of the simple, box-style structures that populated the beach community during that era. “It was like a time capsule, preserved in all its original glory,” says designer Tineke Triggs, whom they hired to oversee its redesign. “Think dark paneling, small windows, tiled countertops and maple cabinetry everywhere. It felt very heavy and dated, and at the same time, it was rotting away because of the ocean elements at play. But it had so much potential, and the views— well, they were absolutely amazing.”
Working with architect Stacey Ford and builder George T. Flynn, Triggs and the clients began to dream about how they could reinvent the simple structure while paying homage to its quirky 1970s roots. “The house is U-shaped, with an interior, protected courtyard, which is key because it gets cool at Stinson Beach,” says Triggs. “We all loved the flow of the house and the ease of the layout around the courtyard, but we needed to bring it into modern times for this family of six.”
At the heart of the redesign are the surroundings. As Ford says, “It’s one of the most beautiful settings in the world, and we wanted the house to work with it.” Triggs began her process by studying the scenery, which landscape architect Stephanie Green of SG Landscapes later enhanced. “I spent a lot of time in the main bedroom, taking in the incredible view,” Triggs says. “Standing at the window, it almost looked like you were staring at a painting. It’s mesmerizing. So I took my cues from what I was seeing outside and decided that the house should really embrace the landscape in terms of color and tone, and the structure itself should almost disappear into it.”
To that end, the exterior is clad with gray-washed cedar. “It almost vanishes into the view of the lagoon,” Triggs says. Inside, all the rooms were directed to the water—either literally, via windows and doors, or figuratively, by way of color palette and materials. One of the most transformative decisions was replacing small windows with massive picture windows or sliders that embrace the outdoors. This greater sense of transparency allowed the house to breathe again, with the glass walls and doors giving the constant illusion of more elbow room.
Inside, wooden paneling on the walls was replaced with drywall for a cleaner, simpler look and heated concrete floors were installed throughout the house. Triggs chose black accents—like the stain on the kitchen cabinets and the pendants over the island—to echo the black- framed windows. To keep things from feeling too austere, she warmed the ceilings and outfitted the interior doors with tongue-and-groove bleached oak, which she repeated throughout the house for open shelves and built-ins.
The designer also created a consistent, uniform palette of subtle grays, soft whites and the occasional note of sea blue to echo the halcyon colors of the beach outside, where fog tends to filter the light for a portion of any given day. “The clients have a very traditional, and quite colorful, Spanish-style home in the city, and I wanted their weekend house to offer them something entirely different. Everything I chose related to that misty, soft, neutral tone in the landscape outside.”
“I wanted this house to feel white, clean and very calm—to not distract from the beautiful views,” says the wife. She also asked Triggs to select durable and forgiving materials and furnishings that would stand up to honest “beach life” with four active teenagers. “The clients wanted this to be a comfortable home, where their kids could relax and enjoy the ocean, which meant this would be a place where sandy, wet feet would come in and out,” says Triggs. “They have extra surfboards, paddleboards and bikes in anticipation that the house will always be filled with kids and friends who want to come here to unwind. That’s what we created it to be—a place of play.”