NorCal community blends nature with communal & private space

In 1965, a group of young architects- inspired by the local Pomo Indians’ belief in “living lightly on the land”- began planning a community where the buildings blend with the terrain and instead of yards, there are “commons”: miles of shared fields, oceanfront and walking trails.

“It’s about experiencing the place rather than following a golf ball or something,” explains Sea Ranch architect Donlyn Lyndon. “One of the things most important about The Sea Ranch is that half of the land is held in commons. When you get a deed it describes your property and that you own an indivisible portion of the commons which is to say you can’t sell that, but you are an owner of the commons.”

Located two and a half hours north of San Francisco, The Sea Ranch covers 10 miles of rugged coastline. To preserve the coast for the community, the homes are built at least 100 feet from the cliff leaving room for a bluff trail (with public access points) along the entire stretch.

The weathered wooden houses are inspired by the local barns and according to original promo materials “strong without being assertive, simple without being plain.” There are no lawns (only native flora), no mailboxes, no streetlights, and cars must be hidden from view.

One of the original architects Donlyn Lyndon gave us a tour of the commons, his home and a new build of concrete and Cor-Ten steel that remains in the Sea Ranch spirit with its natural weathering and design reflective of its surroundings.

Photos courtesy of The Sea Ranch Archives
Donlyn’s book “The Sea Ranch”:

Original story:

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    January 26, 2017


  2. C0deH0wler
    February 10, 2017

    I was like 'how will I sleep in privacy without a closed bedroom?'. Then I realised that sleeping on peak of some large stairs is actually a neat idea. No one's going to look from above because your are above. But, for the guest beds, I would rather have them in their own bedrooms under the middle stair, or around that area. It would be cool to have stairs digging into the big stairs leading to a small bedroom.

  3. brandon hamson
    February 13, 2017

    It's really creepy. Too many rules

  4. Mark Ifi
    February 18, 2017

    any chance on covering Usonian homes?

  5. lynn
    February 19, 2017

    If only the world could see through your eyes. Beautiful. Home and nature are at one.

    February 21, 2017

    The interior [ 15:16 ] was very rewarding, too. Another great video Kirsten & Team. Thank you guys!

  7. karen
    March 17, 2017


  8. TheGranti7a
    March 19, 2017

    I wish more Americans would accept the responsibilities in our shared freedom, to even educate themselves in the direction of this wellness.

  9. Nihilism Annihilator
    April 10, 2017

    communist style living – ugly and gross

  10. Nihilism Annihilator
    April 10, 2017

    Kirsten, we'd love to see more gated communities like this! It fits great with the rest of your content. Keep it up!

  11. Julia Brown
    May 11, 2017


  12. Cecilia Lindstrom
    May 22, 2017

    This is amazing. I want to live there!

  13. Roobah
    May 28, 2017

    I can't help but think that the commons area looks like a firestorm waiting to happen, given that most of the houses are made of wood, would be more fuel to the fire. Maybe a return of some grazing animals in the environment would be nicer? Rent some goats? Cows? Free-ranging chickens? Just enough to keep the meadows in check during the dry seasons.

    I really love the last house and the layered living spaces that ALL take advantage of the big window views.

  14. Aaron
    May 29, 2017

    I guess Sonoma is NorCal. Sure dosent feel like it when you live in Humboldt county.

  15. Michel van dijk
    June 6, 2017


  16. Paula Lott
    June 14, 2017

    Wow! me encanta cómo se "camuflagean" las casas con el paisaje. Beautiful! Saludos desde México.

  17. kobenoyashi
    June 30, 2017

    I remember learning about this place in school! Such a great idea, I wish more planned communities took this approach.

  18. Maxamillian Studio
    July 25, 2017

    Beautiful buildings. I love the way the siding mimics the color of the landscape.

  19. Karl Traunmüller
    October 20, 2017

    Very enjoyable explanation of the idea of the place.

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