California Dreaming: Camp Baird

Blame it on the bitter coldness of this Canadian winter, but we’re feeling absolutely smitten with the Northern California residences of Malcolm Davis Architecture. Designed in aesthetic harmony with the surrounding landscape and with interiors that strategically sculpt the bright Pacific light, these gorgeous abodes have us dreaming of trading in our parkas for some year-round west coast sun.

Malcolm Davis Architecture is the eponymous San Francisco-based firm of Malcolm Davis, himself a Bay Area native. Growing up in the region instilled in Davis a keen sense of the architectural needs of Northern California, from its style sensibilities to the demands of its climate. His timeless approach and elegant, masterful restraint have earned the UC Berkeley graduate awards and features in some of America’s top institutions and publications, from the American Institute of Architects to the Wall Street Journal and Elle Décor.

The firm is known for its commitment to innovative and sustainable architecture, looking to the beauty of the Northern California coastlines and valleys for inspiration. MDA seeks to create visual connections between exterior and interior spaces, enhancing these transitions with a playful use of natural light. The firm tackles both renovations and new builds—from historic structures to the blank canvas of urban sprawl—with the same mentality. It carefully examines spatial contexts and the surrounding natural world to create modern architecture and interior spaces filled with artfully repurposed materials. MDA’s residences are designed, according to a recent press release, to “convey a deep understanding of borrowed light.”

To combat the February blues (or should we say…whites and greys?), we’re bringing you four stories on the sun-drenched works of MDA. Each Friday this month, we’ll be introducing our readers to a different Northern California home by the firm. Each structure bears MDA’s signature modern-yet-warm aesthetic while maintaining a unique profile. And they all do have one thing in common: the windows of each home function as frames of sorts for some pretty spectacular artwork—that is, the breathtaking view!

First up: Camp Baird, a weekend getaway by the California coast.

Camp Baird

The clients for this project were passionate environmentalists whose sensibilities were often at odds with their hectic urban lives. Malcolm Davis Architecture answered with a “family camp” set against a backdrop of rolling hills, oaks, and bay trees. Completely off-the-grid, this self-sufficient compound sits on a 166-acre parcel of land. It is a modern interpretation of a traditional dogtrot home—that is, one with a central breezeway, a feature designed to cool occupants in hot climates. The origins of this style are hazy, with scholars pointing to possible beginnings in the southern Appalachian Mountains, the post-revolution frontiers of the deep south, or the Lowcountry of Southern California. However the style began, the defining element, historically, is two log cabins connected beneath a common roof, divided by a breezeway or the more colloquial term “dogtrot.”

The breezeway of Camp Baird is situated between two cabins, built along an L-shaped orientation.

At the heart of the compound is an elongated, solar-heated lap pool, located on the south-facing side of the retreat.

It is flanked by an enormous streamlined deck, measuring almost 1600 square feet; this provides plenty of space to entertain, extending the footprint of the home while blurring the line between indoor/outdoor environments. This is further established via a screened-in porch that provides a sheltered but open-air dining area. It is clad in black fibreglass mesh.

Adjacent to the decking is a large expanse of grass. This green space is ideal for leisurely lawn games.

When it came to choosing the materials, MDA took its cues from the vernacular buildings of the region. The exterior cladding is made from corrugated Corten steel. This material features a naturally oxidizing finish. Its reddish-brown rust hues, combined with the shadow effect created by corrugation, almost gives the appearance of natural wood; from a distance, the structure appears to be made from long, thin logs, helping it to blend in with the surrounding environment.

Join us next week for a look at the Sea Ranch residence, a contemporary coastal retreat overlooking the blue, blue waters of the Pacific Ocean.


Photos via v2com
Photo credit: Joe Fletcher Photography