San Francisco Architecture Firm Sagan Piechota Designs a Monterey Beach Home Angled to the Sea

Monterey, California beach home designed by architecture firm Sagan Piechota

It’s one thing for an architect to feel a little bit of pressure to come up with something the clients will love. It’s quite another to contend with nearly three decades of planning. Architect Daniel Piechota of San Francisco–based Sagan Piechota Architecture faced exactly that challenge when commissioned to design a Monterey Bay house for a couple who met 29 years ago and knew, from their very first conversation, that one day they would have a house on the beach. “We’d been looking for a property for forever, truly forever, and for some reason nothing ever clicked,” one of the clients says. “And then this little cul-de-sac popped up.”

Modern Monterey Bay beach home with panoramic views of ocean

Located on a coastline inlet about two hours south of San Francisco Bay, the home site enjoys a unique convergence of California weather patterns, so that it’s never hot, and almost never foggy. Originally, the clients hadn’t envisioned a modern house, but soon found that there was something about the clarity of the commanding vistas that called out for something open, low-slung and modern. Piechota envisioned the concept for the home as one of openness and expansiveness; the main living areas—living room, dining room, kitchen and loft bedroom—all flow seamlessly into one another. “All four main spaces have great views onto the ocean,” Piechota says, describing a scene that often includes frolicking seals and dolphins. “There’s a dialogue between panoramic, immersive views, and focused, framed perspectives,” he adds.

Modern kitchen with waterfall island in Monterey Beach

Framing the vistas are gorgeous finishes in a range of natural materials. Selected to withstand the marine environment and to connect the interiors to the landscape, they range from warm woods to textural concrete to marble. “We incorporated two types of oak—wide-plank, bleached oak for its ‘beachy’ quality and its stability for radiant floor heating,” explains Piechota, “and a warm oak for its restrained pattern and honey color. Both are domestic rather than exotic species, so they were also environmentally sensitive choices.” The woody palette is punctuated by material gestures like a hearth surround in deep-gray, board-formed concrete and a white Carrera marble island in the kitchen.

Much of the customization throughout the home was orchestrated by contractor David Allaire of Monterey-based Stocker & Allaire. As Piechota notes, “Good architecture doesn’t happen without great clients and an outstanding contractor.” The homeowners also commissioned Carmel-based interior designer Joan McGibben to select colors and furnishings for the home. McGibben collaborated on custom pieces inspired by the natural setting, including a tree-stump dining table crafted by local artist Tom O’Campo and a bespoke bronze front-door handle in the shape of seaweed cast by Mark Andrew. 

Monterey, California beach home designed by architecture firm Sagan Piechota

To extend the home’s materiality to the exterior, Piechota turned to copper cladding for the modernist aesthetic created by the strong, flat panels, and alternated them with massive glass panes. Piechota also inserted a tiny courtyard to one side, which is shaded with patterns thrown from a scrim made of copper tubes installed onto steel uprights. That screen seems like the most obvious thing in the world, but comes from the very practical desire to have visual separation from the house next door, offering both privacy and another pivot toward that most important element: the beach. After three decades, the homeowners, who now take in the sunset from the roof deck with a glass of wine, or cozy up in front of the hearth on stormy days, have realized their dream of not just any beach house, but one that embodies the edge where sand meets sea. 

A version of this article appeared in the Summer 2014 issue of San Francisco Cottages & Gardens with the headline: Montery Modern.