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Is it Just Fantasy? Sea Ranch Proves that Style and Sustainable Living Aren't Mutually Exclusive

Written by Cindy Marie Jenkins on Wednesday, February 28th, 2018 at 2:07pm.

Welcome to the #NookNeighborhoods series, where every Wednesday you’ll find cool history and culture to make sure you don’t overlook an area that could have the best nook for you.

The traveler approaches Sea Ranch expecting a coastal town, much like she's seen up and down the Pacific Coast Highway. She stands anad squints through the morning fog. She can almost see forms of the original area inhabitants, the Pomo tribe, returning to the sea for their seasonal gathering of kelp and shellfish. In the opposite direction, sheep lay their heads low, keeping grassy areas trim and filling the air with confident bleats. The traveler turns back to the water when a single ray of sunlight burns through the mist, revealing silhouettes in the distance.

But are the shapes trees or homes, reality or a zen induced fantasy? Morning reveals more light and slowly, the forms distinguish themselves: roofs slope and mirror the area's wind currents. Forests of cypress, redwood and eucalyptus trees protect the shelters, specifically designed to stay aligned with their surrounding landscapes.

Every detail of these roughly 300 full time residents and 1800 vacation homes lends itself to the feeling that nature itself opened its land to the inhabitants, giving her permission for homes built in sync with her land. The non traditional designs blend into their carefully chosen surroundings rather than cutting and shaping their will on to acreage they happen to own.

The Third Bay Ranch Style, as it emerged from the 1940s to the 1980s, turns a California Ranch from horizontal to vertical, combining modern with functional to evoke the woods and fanciful ideal life of Sea Ranch. You’ll feel much further away from a bustling city of San Francisco then merely 100 miles south, and that is very a feeling purposefully evoked through design.

In 1962, Al Boeke drew up the first plans of the community with a close relationship to the sea. He brought on the architects Charles Moore, Joseph Esherick, William Turnbull, Jr., Donlyn Lyndon and Richard Whitaker to plan both one family dwellings and condominiums with a light touch. The landscape architect Lawrence Halprin became the first to create the area’s plan for a synthesis of indigenous plants, collaborating with the forest itself to find the right contours for every roof.  

The architects took every natural consideration into their designs. These fully crafted postmodern farmhouses fill every inch of their interior with natural light, and shy away from a typical coastal line of houses. Instead, they chose to follow already existing sculptural lines and only designated 50% of the land to be owned privately. In fact, because of how Sea Ranch developed, the California Coastal Land Commission was formed in 1972, regulating land use to this day.

What was innovative when Sea Ranch began soon became known as the height of Northern California style, and their sustainable practices with cooperative living attempt to be duplicated around the world. With charging stations at the ready for vacationing electric cars and farm tours, plus 60 national and state parks nearby, the traveler may not even need to try any one of the famous wineries just a short walk or drive away….Okay, who’s kidding who? Any traveler worth their Instagram following stopped at two wineries minimum just to arrive in Sea Ranch.

Nothing can match the first breath a traveler takes at the sight of Sea Ranch, the very first architectural style in Sonoma County to live in sync with all of nature that cradles it.

If Third Bay Ranch or Northern California style sound as heavenly to you as they do to this traveler, simply Search Sea Ranch Homes for Sale and find the perfect natural nook for you. And I’ll -- I mean, the traveler -- will see you there.

With apologies to Italo Calvin's "Invisible Cities"

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