Architecture follows landscape in California ranch house design

Modern California ranch house in Manhattan Beach focuses on gardens first

Inspired by the California ranch houses of Cliff May, architect Grant Kirkpatrick designed for a family of four a modern ranch house that he described as an extension of May's work.

"May was interested in the rural life but with a modern sensibility," Kirkpatrick said. "This house has the rural, horizontal profile going on, but with clean, contemporary lines and rustic materials."

To maximize the connection between the house and gardens, Kirkpatrick approached the project "as a property first, and not a house on a property."

Working with his landscape team at KAA Design Group, Kirkpatrick began by surveying the best landscape areas on the property. There were several pockets of space: the lower portions toward the street, an upper portion that was perfect for a play area and a northern terraced level of gardens. The southern portion would be used for the garage.

What was left? A strip down the middle of the property. "That is where we located the house," Kirkpatrick said.

The rustic California ranch house that stands today is designed with three levels connecting to four distinct garden areas. The bedrooms on the second floor link to an upper garden, the main living area on the middle floor links to a motor court and pool area and the lower level connects to a boutique vineyard.

Kirkpatrick said that in designing the home he focused on the landscape first. That emphasized the indoor-outdoor connection also seen in May's work. "This house is about connecting to the Earth and connecting the indoor-outdoor experience," Kirkpatrick said.

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