Sticks-and-Stones Organic: The Coker Studio / George Brook-Kothlow, Architect; Daniels & House, Builder. Circa 1971, California Coast.

In 1971, a year before the California Coastal Commission’s founding, legendary cartoonist Paul Coker, known for his long association with Mad magazine, commissioned an ecologically concerned live/work studio for himself, to be built on a rugged and wind-and-surf-blasted promontory in Big Sur.

Coker’s circumstances at the time required that the house be finished in only two months. His architect, Carmel Valley’s George Brook-Kothlow, working with Daniels & House Construction, of Monterey, delivered. The result is one of the most poetically quiet buildings I’ve seen on the coast.

With its humble timberframe form (the columns are reclaimed redwood bridge timbers) and sod-covered roof canted to the slope of the site, Coker Studio suggests a sticks-and-stones kind of architecture, a complete Organicism—timeless and free of pretension. The house manages to be exactly what the site demands of it: a warm, cozy, and soulful safe haven from the frequently harsh elements; a crafted building that asserts a certain rootedness to the earth without ever showing anything but absolute deference to nature’s strength and beauty.

It’s only as big as it needs to be. The ground floor holds a small living room with oversize fireplace, a galley kitchen, a bath, and space-maximizing built-in storage areas. A loft bedroom, situated to embrace the warmth of the chimney, completes the 700-square-foot floor plan. The floors are radiant-heat exposed-aggregate concrete—toastiness under your bare feet.

Recently, the very private current owners allowed me to visit and take some quick snapshots. Big thanks and appreciation to them for letting me share this with you.



For more information on the architecture of George Brook-Kothlow, click here to see/purchase Handmade Houses: A Century of Earth-Friendly Home Design.