We Talk to San Francisco Design Writer Zahid Sardar About His New Book


With its expansive deserts, dense redwood forests, craggy coastal cliffs and eclectic urban centers, California is the epitome of variety. In the new book West Coast Modern: Architecture, Interiors & Design (Gibbs Smith), the West’s wide-ranging topographies find common ground in their harmony with contemporary design, proving that the precepts of modern architecture are suited for sites of all stripes.

The book features 27 homes west of the Mississippi organized by terrain, such as mountain, prairie or city. Author Zahid Sardar, a San Francisco–based writer and editor, says California was the inspiration for the book. His home state—the largest in the continental West and the one with the longest coastline—“is far from a uniform terrain. It can be desert, it can be very fertile, it can be tundra. Yet modernism thrives everywhere.”

Sardar insists modernism is much more than its defining characteristics—clean lines, sharp angles and a simple material palette—and that its integrity lies within its adaptability. “Modernism is not a style or a look, but a way of life,” Sardar says.

In suburban Phoenix, architect Matthew Trzebiatowski designed his residence and studio to suit his modernist aesthetic, and at first glance its walls of floor-to-ceiling glass, cantilevered balconies and slats of oxidized Cor-Ten steel look as if they could exist anywhere. But the distinguishing factor is that those tall windows—ones that would undoubtedly slide fully open if located in Santa Barbara or Napa—are sealed shut, allowing light to infiltrate the interior spaces while maintaining an impermeable barrier against Arizona’s brutal heat and sandstorms.

“The message I want to convey is that modernism is not a cookie-cutter notion,” Sardar explains. “It’s about adaptability and the agility of modern living.” 

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