Mesa Trail

A couple who grew up in Woodside and Aspen and spent their childhoods hiking and fishing sought a return to nature after seeing their children off to college. They purchased 80 acres in the 18,000-acre Santa Lucia Preserve, which extends from sea level to  the Santa Lucia Mountains. With coastal chaparral, grasslands, oak savannah, redwood forests and robust wildlife populations, the private community attracts ecologically minded homeowners to a place singularly focused on nature.

The existing hacienda-style home, set within an oak woodland numbering thousands of trees, was dated and poorly constructed. The owners envisioned a radical remodel that would marry the graciousness of the style with more modernist sensibilities. 

The house was dramatically transformed, with Carmel stone, ochre stucco and barrel-tile roofs replaced by moody plaster, dark standing-seam metal roofs and crisp limestone paving. Interiors were opened up and reconfigured as clean-edged, light-filled and spa-like, with contemporary door and window systems drawing light to the owners’ collections of Danish modern furniture and contemporary art.

The landscape redesign was both comprehensive and transformative. The driveway was realigned to direct arrivals to the house rather than the guest barn and a grove of olives planted and offset limestone pavers installed within a bed of flat Mexican button pebbles to lead guests to the entry. Upon passing through an arched doorway set within a Boston ivy-clad wall, one enters an oasis-like courtyard with lush holly, chain and foxtail ferns and an Abutilon flowering maple. An original fountain — refinished and updated with a contemporary metal base to speak to the glass-and steel door and window wall — signals arrival with the sound of trickling water. 

Throughout the project and applying a palette of burgundy and dusky greens, native plantings were refreshed with drought-tolerant South African and Australian plants accented by agaves, succulents, Leucadendron, White Sage, Platinum Beauty Lomandra grasses, and purple smoke bush. Multiple outdoor rooms of contrasting characters were designed to offer varied ways of living and enhance the home’s indoor/outdoor connection. 

A large stucco-walled courtyard off the living area, designed to protect family pets from mountain lions and the resident black bear, has lawns edged with purple hebe, oak leaf hydrangea, red salvia and climbing roses, winding pathways of decomposed granite, and a concrete semicircular sofa arranged around a Carmel stone firepit. The courtyard serves equally for tranquil morning coffee, s’mores under the stars, or a cocktail party. 

An existing wood trellis-covered backyard terrace was redesigned to create more gathering space and respond to the long, gracious lines of the house. The new, more expansive dining terrace is shaded by a blackened steel arbor with rusticated wood posts and adjacent to a vanishing-edge lap pool with spa and shaded yoga area. Oriented south toward the mountain view, the ground falls away below in purple haze of lavender accented by Platinum Beauty Lomandras. The pool deck of Ipe wood extends along the back of the home to the master terrace, which includes a lounge area with firepit screened by a blackened steel partition. Nestled amongst the trees nearby is a trio of giant willow orbs imported from England; the custom-made sculptures illuminate at night, acting as a focal point from the bedroom suite as well the pool area. 

The ‘Speakeasy Terrace’ — a cobblestone-floored lounge outside the bar in the living/dining area — was designed for evening entertaining. It’s organized around a fire feature made of blackened steel accents set atop a staggered limestone slab base. For the clients, who are vegetarians and passionate gardeners, an extensive working garden supplies produce year-round.

This home’s original incarnation was traditional and dated. Cut off from its woodland setting, it had one functional outdoor living space. It now reads as a serene, spa-like property with multiple outdoor rooms ranging from intimate to grand, from sheltered to expansive, and from private to public. It offers a limitless number of configurations, activities, entertainments. From the interior of the house, it creates connection to nature. Outside, it encourages discovery, whether gazing into the oak woodland or taking in the view across Robinson Canyon to the distant top of Pinon Peak.

Photography Credit: Paul Dyer

Project Location: Santa Lucia Preserve, Carmel, California, United States

Design year: 2019

Year Built: 2019

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