Fall House: A Firm Grip on California’s Beautifully Hostile Coastline

Anne Fougeron’s design firm Fougeron Architecture takes its philosophy of innovation, tactility, and the use of natural light southward from its San Francisco headquarters to the invigorating vistas of Big Sur, turning out the three bedroom Fall House, a spectacle of a vacation home that is privy to the natural spectacle of California’s serene central coast.

The structure is inextricably intimate with its surroundings, accommodating its cliff top perch by aligning its contours with the geography of the land.  While the design implements those contours, the interaction is in no way a restrictive one: Fall House cantilevers out over the edge of the bluff, its main bulk concentrated in its rear sections to support its integrity. Significantly, glass contains much of the volume of the house via both walls and ceilings/roofs, capitalizing on the view while taking advantage of the sunlight: one of these roofs is green.  The copper clad southward facade reflects the auburn shades of Autumn, and the green roof maximizes noontime solar energy, while the overhanging roofs on the east and west shelter the structure from the glaring sunlight of California mornings and evenings, respectively. The relationship between the context and the structure extends from the colors of its materials to the interaction of those materials with the verdantly olympic views of the bluff upon which it sits, and the turquoise majesty over which it looks.

Fougeron’s translucent glass walls are as much an invitation to take in the views, as they are carefully placed lens through which those views are civilized. For example, open-plan kitchen dining rooms become a part of the landscape when a glass wall allows them to be included in a view of the Big Sur coast. The glass walls keep things latitudinal with views north and south, which sofas and lounge chairs–placed upon paved patios projecting from each end–extend guests’ viewing pleasure by inviting them to take it outside onto the forested cliff. The north patio is particularly majestic: it floats above the bay hundreds of feat below, an effect which is increased by the fog banks which characteristically blanket the forested central coast in the Summer mornings. The whitewashed gray of the concrete interacts especially with the ethereal fog, but is just at home in the basking sunlight as well.

Inside the home, glass walls interplay with dark wood paneling, which is a design feature widely characteristic of interiors of Central Coast houses, though in the Fall House, it interacts especially with the scenery: the wood paneling is a prologue to the vistas of the Big Sur coast, for at the point where the paneling ends and transitions into a floor-to-ceiling glass window, the natural spectacle which the wood only hints at is thereby revealed in full aspect. Elsewhere the wood is simply indicative of beautiful craftsmanship, decorating doorways that open onto lawns and patios, and matching the natural light offered by the windows with a dose of natural tree life.  In the lower promontory of the master bedroom, it becomes part of a roof that overhangs the full-wall glass window and shelters the structure from hillside winds while never obstructing the westward view of the Pacific, which propositions the tired and the weary with the calm turquoise serenity of the waves.  Never has romantic scenery been so conducive to–facilitative of?–the romance of the master suite.

Fall House literally grips the Big Sur bluffs and roars out to the Pacific like one of the magnificent wildcats native to the region, and the comforts of its three-bedroomed interior offer guests a refuge amidst the hostile gorgeousness of the rocky California coastline.

Joe Fletcher Photography