Dash Marshall

For a pair of empty nesters who are often visited by their kids and grandchildren, we were asked to do two things. First, to rationalize the floor plan to make it better for entertaining. Second, to “just make it new already arghhhhh!”

An existing 30-yr old farmhouse was used as an exterior shell and the interior was renovated like Theseus’ ship, piece by piece, until it was totally new.

We started with the rituals. Arriving, cooking, eating, lounging, celebrating, bathing, sleeping. After analyzing each and discussing the residents, we designed specific responses. These details are strange monsters in the floor plans. They probably don’t make sense until seen in use.

Monsters diagram

For a couple who are remarkably free of vanity, a master bathroom without the ever-present vanity mirror. For a kitchen that’s used to conjure prodigious meals, a ‘super pantry’ that makes cooking a joy. For the guests, a bathroom that cannot be missed—just look for the marshmallow. For a family that fondly remembers decades spent farming walnuts, a special trunk-like column that commemorates their labor.


A pivot door, when open, lines up with the angled face of a special column, leading guests straight to the kitchen.

column with context

The architectural language we developed pays its respects to the Missions of California, the vernacular metalwork of central coast farms, and Aalto’s use of wood that’s warm and crisp. A mixture of fir, white oak, and walnut are used to add richness to reductive forms.

Kitchen from living Kitchen from living Kitchen from living Kitchen from living Kitchen from living Kitchen from living Kitchen from living Kitchen from living Kitchen from living Kitchen from living

This kitchen looks empty because it is not filled with 14 family members arguing over who makes the best prime rib. Wide margins maintain easy circulation during such moments.

A large sliding perforated metal partition reveals the ‘super pantry,’ which has two layers of accessibility. The front row makes it easy to grab quick items like coffee in the morning, or garlic while cooking an evening meal. The back row provides deep storage.

Super Pantry Super Pantry Super Pantry Super Pantry

Animation shows the super pantry in use.

Living with tapestry

Bespoke tapestry by our longtime collaborator Kustaa Saksi featuring flora and fauna from the area.

Living to entry

At the opposite end of the house, circulation between the master bedroom and bathroom has been adjusted to emphasize views across the property and the hills beyond.

Master bedroom

Inside the master bathroom, a sink milled out of solid walnut occupies the center of the space. Instead of being focused on perimeter walls, where the vanity is often located, this space is focused inward. Instead of being organized around vanity, it’s organized around self care.

Console sink closed Master bathroom nook

Left: The console sink includes a small lollipop mirror and central hatch that opens to reveal toiletries. Right: A wall of closets curves to create a small seating nook. Cabinet pulls were fabricated by a local saddler.

The guest bathroom has been replaced by a large marshmallow. Outside it is built of uneven stucco and plaster, like the local mission. Inside, it is organized into four zones that one can fully circumnavigate: sink, change, shower, toilet.

Marshmallow diagram

Marshmallow ext

Marshmallow - sink Marshmallow - change 2 Marshmallow - change Marshmallow - shower Marshmallow - toilet

Animation shows a full circumnavigation of all four spaces.

night light Exterior

Left: Nightlight built into the threshold of the guest bathroom, illuminates the way for the Grandparents’ many visitors. Right: Drawers for guests’ travel kit.

Upstairs, above the marshmallow, is a large space used as a kids’ playroom during the day and spillover guest room at night. The stairs were, of course, a fascination.

Stairs from entry

stair detail

The existing stairs were re-clad with drywall. Solid walnut is used for all wear surfaces.

stairs with marshmallow

marshmallow with door


Ground floor plan. Inset shows second level.

Photos by Bruce Damonte