Zeidler home, Steven Ehrlich Architects

Architecture is about being open to the discovery of the inevitable,” observes Los Angeles architect Steven Ehrlich. “You just listen to the logic.”

In Aptos, California, a quiet beach community just south of Santa Cruz, the inevitable came in the form of a corner lot, a breathtaking stretch of ocean, a neighborhood of intrepid walkers and a gregarious retired couple from Los Angeles with enough zest for life to relish it all.

“We were driving down the Pacific Coast Highway, and suddenly I saw a super stainless-steel-and-concrete house,” Leland Zeidler recalls of the first trip he and his wife, Marian, took to meet their architect. “So I made a U-turn on eight lanes. My wife thought I was nuts. When we got to Steven’s office, he told us he’d designed that house. He does some phenomenal work.”

Compared to its Mediterranean-style neighbors on the ocean bluff, the jewel-like compound that Ehrlich has designed for the Zeidlers is an exercise in sculptural simplicity, with subtle reverberations of Morocco and Japan. The two buildings—a two-and-a-half-story main house and a separate guest structure—align to form an interior courtyard with a lap pool and an outdoor kitchen, one of three outdoor spaces on multiple levels where the couple entertain.

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