For a starting point in their renovation of a 1940s ranch house in Sausalito, the designers at Turnbull Griffin Haesloop looked outside, to the hillside home’s view of Angel Island and the San Francisco skyline. “I’ve lived in Sausalito for 25 years, it’s got one of the most stunning views in the Bay Area,” said architect Mary Griffin. “It’s just sort of magical because it’s constantly changing. It’s really mesmerizing; you’re just drawn to it. But the old house didn’t really maximize that.”
To realize the site’s potential, Griffin and her colleagues replaced the house’s segmented gable roof with a flat one, added floor-to-ceiling windows on the top floor, and substituted a balcony off the master bedroom for the narrow wrap-around deck. To avoid conflicts with current zoning regulations, they had to keep fifty percent of the original house in place. In part because of this, the designers threw most of their energy into the house’s upper level. The bottom floor, which was previously a separate unit, is dedicated to a media room, studio, guest suite, and storage. Upstairs are an open plan living/dining/kitchen area, a garden-side library, and a master bedroom accessed through a sliding door.
The Sausalito Residence also has a street-side garden, an unusual feature for such a steep site. Griffin conceived of the garden, which landscape architect Scott Lewis reworked into a series of terraces, as a counterbalance to the spectacular view. Because of the garden, she said, the house “had the ability to be perched, but also feel grounded. We really saw the space as a kind of threshold that allowed you to hover between land and view.” To echo the ivy-covered fence it replaced, the clients chose a slatted Alaskan yellow cedar perimeter wall, with gaps allowing glimpses of the lush landscaping inside.
Since only the garage is visible from the street, explained Griffin, “You really don’t totally know what you’re descending into until you go downstairs.” From a gate to the left of the garage, one descends two sets of stairs past an outdoor shower to an entry deck. Griffin and her colleagues moved the entry from the southwest corner of the house to its north side, and replaced an awkward brick portal with a glass door. From there, one moves through a brief hallway to the library, on the right, or the main living space, straight ahead. White maple floors make the most of the light pouring in from both the front and back of the house, while the furnishings—selected by the clients and the firm’s interiors director Margaret Turnbull—help define the dining and living areas without cluttering them.
For Griffin, the success of the design goes back to the view. “Of all the places I’ve designed, this is one that really resonates with me,” she said. “The view is so powerful, and it’s not just an ocean view. It’s very dynamic [and] engaging—because in the Bay Area the sky’s always shifting.”