Gray Dolphin House Has Sculptured Stability
By: Vee Smith/ Press Democrat - circa 1961?
The gray dolphin house which hugs hard to a rocky cheek of the windward Mendocino shore, is this area’s latest entry in the organic home sweepstakes, a fad which may catch fire and run as wild as the coast it represents.
An organic house, according to builder-designer Patrick Matlock, who lives with his wife Sally and a brood of five here, is a “house which fits into the surroundings and takes on the character of the area.”
Mr. Matlock, who might be called a character in his own rights, is a disciple of the late Cedric Hollingsworth who began building “Holly” houses, five in all, on the coast before his death, The houses all had one thing in common-they were large with heavy beams and “organically oriented” to the site.
After working in such diversified places as Thailand for the UN and Wichita’s supervisor of the park board’s Arts and Crafts Center for Adults, Mr. Matlock and family arrived on the Mendocino Coast in May, 1962.
His family includes his wife Sally, nee Spear; Sean Leigh, 7; Mava Lynn 11; Dala Jai, 5 Patric Rex, 9 and Conor Ra, 3,along with the usual collection of dogs and cats.
“When I saw that building was booming in the area, I started doing bits and ends of building, designing and interior decoration. Later I worked with Cedric Hollingsworth. I have a strong personal concept of house in. The house is like the body is to the soul reflecting the people who live inside it.”
A Certain Steadfastness
Mr. Matlock maintains that a house should have a certain steadfastness about it, should offer protection “from everything on the outside,” and give a strong sense of security and permanency.
You might say that Mr. Matlock’s conception of building is the antithesis of the present-day trend toward “ticky-tacky” type houses now so popular in the suburbs. It would have to be, because a Matlock house is a hand-built one.
The gray dolphin house was constructed over an 11-month period by Mr. Matlock who could be seen firing up an outside forge to fashion some bit of décor; Jose Cross, a Mendocino sculptor; and William Watson, a retired British naval officer whose hobby is wood carving.
“The house is an individual effort viewed as a personal sculpture. At no time were more than two men working on it. In the Bay Area, the same house would have cost (with 2 ½ acres of seacoast) about $100,000 here we were able to build it for around $70,000 including land,” Mr. Matlock said. “A smaller house would run considerably less. I have built an organic house for as little as $11,000.”
The house, which has its own private cove with an immense water blow hole and a string of reefs with playing porpoises, was constructed of beams from a bridge the Noyo Lumber Co. built in 1916. The two center beams of the house are 16x30x50 ft. (in comparison, if a beamed ceiling was used in a regular house, the beams would be about 4x12).
Rafters, as well as the upright supports are made of 10x18 redwood stringers taken from the same bridge. These were hand-adzed to form on the job and give a heavy textural appearance.
The beams were hand-carved to fit the character of the area with both center beams protruding from end gables. These are carved with five-foot-long dolphins which seem to be running a race to the sea.
Interior capitals, protruding beams ends, doors and kitchen cabinets, are richly decorated with hand-carvings. The interior paneling of the living room, dining room and kitchen are done with ancient redwood garnered from historical Mendocino Coast Sites.
The planks are impregnated with green and gray lichen with grain in deep relief from severe coast winters and lend color and warmth, as well as age, to the home.
When the main framing of the house was completed, the beams were burnt with a flame thrower and sand blasted to bring out the beauty of the adzed surface and the redwood grain.
No Straight Lines
Since workers were Mendocino artists, and because the house was “envisioned as a sculpture,” and to maintain a great sense of age, there are no square walls straight lines in the 1500-squre foot two-level dwelling.
The living area is upstairs overlooking the cover and blow-hole and includes a large living –dining room, kitchen bath, sunroom-guest room work-room with a splendid view of the reefs and rocks. Downstairs is the master bedroom with fire place, a small guest room and master bath.
Mr. and Mrs. Charles Ridenoour (he’s an investment company executive in San Francisco) come up whenever they can and plan to retire to the area.
“They were ideal people to work with,” Mr. Matlock said. Mrs. Ridenour is a craftsman and artists herself and they understood what we wanted to create in the house.”
Mr. Matlock, who conceives his ideas, designs them and finally builds them, works alone except for Al Pylie, a Mendocino draftsman who takes care of the technical details.
For all its massive strength, the gray dolphin house retains a dainty air like the lovely, but strong-willed mistresses of English manors Daphne du Maurier is wont to write about.
Indeed, she would have to be staunch to withstand the winters which howl in from an unfriendly sea which long ago received the name “the graveyard for ships” from shipwrecked sailors.
“I built the house to last. And last she will - longer than any of us or our children. That is the quality which gives a house inner strength and security for generations to come. That is an organic house,” Mr. Matlock concluded.