During the time of my life I spent in Point Arena, on the California State Hwy 1, North of San Francisco - between 1974-77, I designed several small buildings. Among them was this little self-built house next to Sunnnybreeze, the small ranch that I owned on Iverson Landing Road, about half a mile from the ocean, walking down through Ken and Sara's land. I loved the modest and unpretentious design. This house and other designs would later form the basis of a Design Theory article that I would write for Architectural Design Magazine in London - Hand-Built Houses - A Search for Identity. They were simple, direct and largely built and co-designed by the people themselves with available materials - invariably expressing the character, world view and attitudes of the clients in almost imperceptible ways. They were, in a word, vernacular. My favourite was this small house and barn for Sarah and Ken Rogers. They looked as if they had already existed for a hundred years.
Ken and sara moved in as my neighbours in 1975. She was a poet and a check-out employee at the Anchor Bay Store. She printed her poems on an old letterpress on handmade paper of her own creation He was a painter whose art she was bowled over by. They met in a night class she was running at Vaccaville State Prison where he was serving time for murder - an act committed as a drunken young sailor. She had six children and was married to a farmer in the Central Valley. They fell in love and moved to the Coast together on his release. They bought 80 acres of land between my own place and the Pacific Ocean in Southern Mendocino County. When they bought it it was overgrown, inaccessible and pretty well unworkable. In five years they transformed it into a rural parkland, with a small flock of sheep (and a ram!), goats and a very small lumber business sprung from their incredible energy and a desire to clear their land of brush.
When they bought the land they had hardly any money, and lived there in a tiny trailer, building their home on evenings and weekends and in between part-time jobs that they did to make their payments. All of the materials in their barn and their home were culled from old, disintegrating buildings in the area, or were donated by many of their kind friends. Often, materials and skills were traded for hard work. Half a dozen friends would gather to erect a water-tower, and the next day each would find half a year's supply of painfully acquired firewood on their front doorstep. I designed the house with Ken looking over my shoiulder telling me where to draw each line. The task was accomplished (complete with working drawings) in about foiur hours. The next day he helped me to lay the new floor in my kitchen. I loved them both and counted them among thje fondest of my friends.
Their home was an exquisite tiny jewel of space, hand-crafted and very simple and inexpensive. To visit them was a joy. Each nook and cranny held the magic of cherished memories, of friends here and gone, and of times that once were simple. The process that created the house was also used to design and build their simple and evocative barn. In 2010, I heard that they had parted, that Ken had died in Oregon of cancer.. After living on the land for 30 years and workinng as a Park Ranger at the Manchester State Park in Point Arena, Sara moved to Shasta County where she was living (in her 80's) until her emails started to bounce back..