The Tatum Beach House, 1972
William Turnbull Jr., FAIA
First Offering: Of the many reasons this ingenious structure won Architectural Record’s Record House of the Year, perhaps the most important in terms of its gifts to living is its consciously elemental nature. The honesty of simple raw construction materials, now weathered like driftwood, and its glassy openness, enhance the occupant’s direct connection to the powerful natural forces and elements of the beach environment. To quote Donlyn Lyndon in Buildings in the Landscape: “Bill’s approach to the landscape was not one of emulation, but of cultivation. The land, the family, the acts of building, the joys of inhabiting, all merged in Bill’s mind into homes for the imagination. They are buildings that honor human presence in the land.”
A gated private drive curves down through the Coastal Forest to the Tatum House, one of just 17 houses on exclusive Potbelly Beach. Owners are members of the Potbelly Beach Club; a co-operative organized to maintain and protect this rare beach environment. The land is owned collectively.
Designed for Frank and Barbara Tatum as a vacation home to sleep twelve, Turnbull combined the private spaces, kitchen and dining room in a three-story spine facing the shore, with the living room and staircases “saddle-bagged” in front. All principal rooms afford ocean views. The program incorporates open-plan living, dining, reading/sleeping alcove, bath, storage, and laundry on the entry level, with the upper two floors each having 2 bedrooms and a bath. The bedrooms open to a dramatic light-filled double staircase enclosure that also serves as a library.