Over Under Around and Through / by Justin Fuqua

When you’re there it feels much more expansive than it appears.



The Owner (a successful businessman) just bought a large home in the beautiful rolling hills of Rancho Santa Fe, California.  Although the property included several acres, the topography only allowed a buildable portion to the west of the two-story home.  Because his family was active and entertained frequently, he wanted to provide a tennis court, a pool with a long slide, and a guest house.  Fortunately, there was enough space to support all three and more.   

Although the guest house could only be a maximum of 500 sf, it needed to serve several functions.  For this reason, we situated it between the tennis court and the pool, so it would act more like a pavilion that served both.  We also wanted the structure to be as open as possible spatially but still conform to the stringent design guidelines of the HOA.


We placed two pairs of French doors on each of the North and South walls.   This opened the interior to the tennis court to the North and the pool area to the South.  The area in between became a sheltered gathering space with a large TV surrounded by a sofa and chairs. 

The guest house needed to provide a place to sleep as well as a studio to exercise and dance.  Consequently, We placed a 7’-0” high free-standing structure in the middle that housed a murphy bed on one side with full-height mirrored doors.  On the other side We located the lavatory, some storage and a washer/dryer.   The rear wall contained a ¾ bath accessible from the outside pool area and a utility closet. 

The expansive volume ceiling allowed space to gracefully flow around and over the free-standing structure, while the four pairs of French doors allowed the outside in and vice versa.  


The sun can get mighty hot and glary in Rancho Santa Fe, especially during the summer.  To mitigate the impact, we placed a trellis system along the South elevation to provide shade and create interest.  The overall design was good and the interplay between the pool, guest house and tennis court worked well.  The only thing lacking was an outdoor dining area that could be shared between all functions.

There was space available immediately adjacent to the guest house on the east side facing the main residence.  It is here that we placed an outdoor dining area underneath a pyramid trellis that is accessible to both the swimming pool and tennis court.

The Owner is very happy with his small guest house that feels like a palace.  It has been used successfully for several large family gatherings including a couple of wedding receptions and corporate events.  But at the end of the day, one of the things he likes to do best is to sit next to the pool and watch the beautiful California sunset.



Richard Emerson Kaufman is an Architect/Chief Visionary Officer of The Kaufman Collaborative Architects.  Experienced in residential, commercial and institutional architecture.  Kaufman is committed to helping clients find creative, workable solutions that are cost effective and environmentally responsible.