Aptos Retreat

Aptos Retreat in Aptos, California by CCS Architecture

Photographs are by Paul Dyer.

Aptos is a small community in California's Santa Cruz County, an area marked by the beauty of the mountains and the ocean. CCS Architecture found inspiration in the natural characteristics of the 20-acre site in this residential project for a family of eight, as well as tapping into the cultural history of the place in meeting the client's desire for a sustainable home. A more accurate description for the project may be a "country compound," with the inclusion of various activities: partying, cooking, tanning, swimming, archery, horseshoes, gardening, and even wood-splitting.

The project is split into two parts: a 2,800sf (260sm) Main House and a 1,600sf (150sm) Barn, with the former further separated into two overlapping pieces. The main house's "live building" houses what one would expect, living, dining and kitchen areas with a master bedroom upstairs, and the "sleep building" includes the other bedrooms and a shared bath house. As a response to the sloping site and a way to create outdoor space, the two bars create an L-shape in plan, with the live building's roof overlapping the sleep building. This overlap gives the project its strongest gesture, though one could argue that the materials give the design its character.

Reclaimed barn wood clads the exterior walls of the main house, the roofs covered with Cor-ten steel. The two materials work together wonderfully, the former variegated from what is most likely multiple sources and the latter shifting in color and intensity in the sunlight. Any staining of the wood from the rusted steel will only improve things. The barn building, a renovated warehouse which houses the recreational components of the compound, is covered entirely in the Cor-ten steel.

Interiors are primarily wood for walls and ceilings and concrete for floors. Stone and steel extend the natural palette, which includes touches like an 18-foot (5.5-meter) long slab of walnut for the kitchen countertop. Not surprisingly, given the dramatic views of the surroundings, glass walls are abundant and operable to create a more seamless connection between inside and outside. The size of both the site and the project may seem excessive, but everything is handled responsibly, especially the architectural reuse that gives the impression the house truly belongs where it sits.