Pacific Panorama House

Pacific Panorama House

Overlooking the Pacific Ocean and Carmel’s beach, Pacific Panorama House is Paul McAneary Architect’s first built US commission, remodelling an existing dwelling originally built in the 1960s. This part of the Californian coast boasts spectacular scenery, so a key aim of the project is to capitalise on the site’s incredible views and light, enhanced by the house’s privileged position, elevated one row back from the beachfront with a clear prospect of the ocean. 

Conceived as a kind of ‘upside down’ house, with sleeping quarters at ground floor level living spaces on the first floor, the two storey dwelling was designed around a cellular plan, typical of its era. Yet by choreographing subtle organisational changes, this sense of compartmentalistion is tactfully dismantled, while retaining a sense of sybaritic Californian idyll, a kind of ultimate beach house. The newly integrated living, kitchen and dining zones form a luminous, fluid space overlooking the ocean, drinking in fabulous panoramas of sea and light through a new seamless glazed facade that connects with a genereous, timber-decked terrace. Full-height panels of sliding glass dissolve the physical and perceptual boundary between inside and out, merging landscape with the terrace and the interior. With its crisply precise detailing and transparent walls, the house resembles a giant vitrine poised on the edge of the world.

 A row of skylights augments the large panels of glazing, introducing a perpetually changing geometric play of shadow and light that animates and illuminates the dwelling. White walls with shadow gaps cultivate a clean-lined air and also function as neutral backdrops for the client’s carefully curated displays of contemporary art. Storage takes the form of PMA’s elegant bespoke units, keeping space effortlessly free of clutter within this minimal yet human-scaled milieu. Focal points include a suspended elliptical hearth and a TV that turns and slides into a counter, cunningly revealing and concealing.
A palette of simple, natural materials including distressed white oiled oak floors and kitchen worktops made from crushed quartz is deployed to enhance the prevailing sense of lightness and spaciousness.

The master bedroom is on the first floor, with three smaller bedrooms at ground level. Here existing partition walls are retained, as the compartmentalised layout reflects and reinforces function. Two identically planned bedrooms, mirror images of each other, look out over the ocean, their views improved by a raised floor enabling occupants to see the sea. They also take advantage of an external deck under the elevated main terrace.
A third smaller guest bedroom enjoys a bay window to the rear. The entrance to the house is on this ground floor level, reworked with decompression and storage nooks to accommodate the paraphernalia of bathing and surfing. 

 Responding to existing conditions and constraints through its attention to detail and sense of invention, the project skillfully reconceptualises the architectural and atmospheric language of Modernism for the current era. The site’s proximity to the San Andreas fault line means the area is prone to earthquakes, so the house also had to meet rigorous seismic design codes. However, this is only the first phase. A second phase will include a new entrance sequence incorporating a specially designed bridge made from chunky timber elements resting on local Carmel stone, connecting with and cultivating a unique spirit of place.

[By Catherine Slessor]

Contract Value Private 

Location Carmel-by-the-Sea, California

Client Private family

Area 2,388 sq ft

Design Team Paul McAneary Architects