Design Spotlight: Built-In Bleacher Seating

On a recent trip down the California coast, we stopped at Nepenthe Restaurant, a Big Sur family-run institution since 1949. In addition to the incredible views of the Pacific Ocean and the tasty Ambrosia Burger, I love the architecture.
Rowan Maiden, a disciple of Frank Lloyd Wright, designed the unique redwood and glass building that sits on a cliff 800 feet above the water. Embodying true indoor-outdoor living, the seating is dispersed throughout the interior of the structure, the surrounding decks, and a large front patio with a huge fire pit. Everything about the site is inviting, making Nepenthe the consummate gathering spot for locals and travelers alike.
But the feature I most associate with the communal, laid-back atmosphere of Big Sur is the tiered built-in bleacher at the entrance to the restaurant. At any given time, you can see people sipping cocktails, sharing appetizers, reading books, or sunbathing. Despite being fixed to the ground, this type of seating offers the most open-ended of options. For us, it presented a place for the kids to play while we enjoyed lunch at a nearby table.

Back in my own neighborhood, I visited my friends Greg and Miranda to see their application of outdoor built-in furniture. Because their home is placed on the rear 40 percent of their lot, the connection between the backyard area and the main living space created an interesting design challenge. The couple wanted to add outdoor seating, define their rear property line, and emphasize hardscaping for easy maintenance.
Greg and Miranda worked with Yvonne Suter of Dwell by Design to conceptualize a space that could serve as an extension of the main living area. Simple, geometric concrete seating with custom outdoor cushions maximize the limited space and provide various entertaining alternatives.
Both instances highlight the most salient feature of built-in furniture: it is at once a seamless part of its respective environment and highly versatile. Would you consider it for your space? Let us know.

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Jennifer Volland

Jennifer Volland

Jennifer M. Volland is an independent writer and curator based in Long Beach, California. She conceived and co-curated the exhibition and publication Grand Hotel: Redesigning Modern Life for the Vancouver Art Gallery (2013). She is co-author of Edward A. Killingsworth: An Architect’s Life (Hennessey + Ingalls, 2013) and Long Beach Architecture: The Unexpected Metropolis (Hennessey + Ingalls, 2004). Her writing has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, CITY, Environmental Graphics Magazine, Sunset, Arcade journal for architecture and design, and Western Interiors and Design, among other print and online publications.
Jennifer Volland

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