Harford Ridge Ranch

Avila Beach, California

Along California’s Central Coast, at the southern edge of the Santa Lucia Mountain Range, there is a bend where the coastline faces directly south and two small ridgelines split to form a gently sloping plateau overlooking the Pacific Ocean. A beautiful grass meadow stretches through the center of the plateau. The mountains form a sharp line between earth and sky to its north, and layers of marine blues marked by jagged ridges of the coast expand to its south. This meadow is the setting for a small horse-rescue ranch comprised of a main house, horse barn, guest house, and caretakers’ residence.


There is much to appreciate at this particular site: It’s a veritable museum of beautiful coastal live oaks, sandstone outcroppings, and distant views. As with many of the places where we design, our challenge is to preserve what is beautiful and enhance the client’s relationship with nature. Given the breathtaking characteristics of the site, we set out to locate the structures on the periphery of these elements. The buildings are observers—quietly looking out onto the landscape.



The main house is positioned to the north of the meadow, leveraging long unobstructed views across the horse pasture to the ocean. The horse barn is tucked off to the west along the tree line, preserving as much of the meadow as possible, while also protecting the barn from intense afternoon sun and wind. Largely out of sight, pathways to the buildings wind around the meadow and between the gaps among established large trees.