One Room at a Time: For One Couple, That's How They Created Their Mendocino Coast Retreat-Piece by Piece

By Miranda, Jones | Sunset, May 2012 | Go to article overview

One Room at a Time: For One Couple, That's How They Created Their Mendocino Coast Retreat-Piece by Piece


Miranda, Jones, Sunset


ALMOST EVERY city dweller dreams of owning a country house, an escape hatch to a simpler life. But making that dream come true is often anything but simple, especially when the dream morphs from a small structure to an ad hoc compound--something like a summer camp for grown-ups.

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"We saved and planned for 10 years," says Sausalito, California, resident Marianna Leuschel, who'd asked her old friend Peter Langlois to help hunt for the right plot of land on which to build her getaway. (Along the way, they became partners in a more personal sense, and the search, a shared one.) Once they finally found the site--10 hillside acres on the Mendocino Coast, 5 miles north of Gualala--it was time to design a house. Nothing too big or too fancy, just a retreat from their busy weekdays.

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Their initial thought was to build something just big enough for the two of them. The house they designed, the Main Cabin, is basically a modern loft, with an open floor plan and high ceiling. From the outside, it resembles buildings at Sea Ranch--cedar mellowing to a silvery gray--that the couple pass every time they drive north from Marin County.

As construction got under way, Marianna and Peter realized that visitors were inevitable--Peter has three grown children--and that they should probably expand their plans. Starting with windows and doors they'd found at Berkeley's Ohmega Salvage and using a classic walled tent as a template, the couple built their first outbuilding, a stand-alone guest room (aka the Tent Cabin) that's barely loo square feet in size. "Once you have windows and doors," Marianna points out, "the space really designs itself. …

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