Balancing Beauty and Longevity in a Coastal Landscape
Luxury home builder Shane Mahan shares how to create coastal homes that stand the test of time
Courtesy of Kitchell Custom Homes
For Shane Mahan of Santa Barbara’s Kitchell Custom Homes, building on the coast is a rewarding experience. Born and raised in Hawaii, and having built over $150m in projects on the California coast over the last 14 years, he knows first-hand how rare and expensive coastal properties can be to acquire. Mahan relishes the opportunity to take full advantage of the 300+ days of sunshine California affords, as well as its gorgeous views and sea air, by helping build fantastic outdoor living spaces of all kinds. But he also knows it is vital to create a durable home, built to withstand an environment that can sometimes be harsh and unpredictable.
“There’s a thrill in the challenge of working with different materials, building standards and design elements and to strike a delicate balance between design/style and function/performance,” explains Mahan. “The idea is to build a dream home that encompasses the design team and client’s vision of design and style, and, through careful planning and construction, to create an enduring treasure.”
Built to Last
For some, dealing with the punishing effects of sun, sea and weather is easier said than done. For Mahan and his team, it starts with a careful plan. “From the outset, we work closely with the architecture and design team, ensuring that every element of the house has been geared to maximize both beauty and longevity,” said Mahan. “Every builder employed at Kitchell is required to take part in a ‘Building Envelope Training Series’ – a copyrighted program in which in-house registered architects train our builders, focusing carefully on quality assurance and construction of the building – keeping the outside environment out, and the inside, in. We test rigorously as we build, throughout the entire building process. We are at the forefront of our industry when it comes to quality.”
Durability begins literally from the ground up – starting with the soil the house sits on. The construction methodologies for a coastal home’s foundation will vary, based on the findings of a soil engineer, who will inform the foundation design. Construction is meticulously planned around certain factors, including how close to the ocean the property sits, and how solid the ground is underneath. Whether it’s a friction foundation, or one set on bedrock, it is key to enlist a skilled engineer and builder who can assist in the sometimes fairly complex job of designing and building a home foundation on the coast.
One of the prime reasons for choosing to build on the coast is to take advantage of unobstructed views. “Balancing views with guarding against unforgiving coastal conditions is one of our strengths,” said Mahan. “Floor to ceiling windows bring the outdoors in to enjoy from the comfort of your beautiful home, and choosing the right windows to withstand the salt air and harsh winds is key. We insist on quality materials that will hold up under extreme conditions, last longer and reduce maintenance costs. The most important areas are roofs, windows, doors, paints and stains, exposed metals, and exposed wood and decks. Clients invest in these amazing homes and it is our job to ensure they are generational.”
Redwood and cedar are traditional high-performing siding materials and exotic hardwoods such as teak and ipe have become more popular especially for decks. All of these can last as long as good design, installation and maintenance practices are followed.
Many choose to build on the coast because they want to enjoy the outdoors when the weather is sunny and beautiful. The ultimate outdoor living space provides alfresco dining, lounging and stargazing at its finest. Mahan says traditional outdoor amenities include outdoor showers, pools, spas, fire pits, fireplaces and large outdoor entertaining spaces, while more exotic amenities include outdoor theaters, built-in pizza ovens, bar-b-que smokehouses, tennis courts, bocce ball courts, etc.
Coastal Home Essentials
It’s important to consider the essentials up front when building or remodeling a coastal home for convenience and usability. For example, rooms that flow seamlessly from indoors to out, or outdoor showers that make for easy cleanup and less mess before entering the home, are pragmatic as well as aesthetically pleasing. Storage space is often needed for surfboards, paddle boards, kayaks and for outdoor furniture cushions when not in use.
Mahan said, “You have to get creative when building on the coast. What might work for a mountain property, may not work for a custom home overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The intricacies of building in a coastal climate require meticulous skill and expertise, but once mastered, can provide a beautiful living space that really stands the test of time.”