The historic equestrian center at the heart of the Oak Farms development buzzes with activity most days of the week. Trainers, riders, students, and employees utilize the world-class facility that creates a charming backdrop for the community’s 32 luxury dwellings. Houses in the San Juan Capistrano, Calif., gated development are located mere yards from the bustling center.

This proximity made it crucial that floor plans maintain privacy for the owners without sacrificing a sense of openness. For plan No. 3 (shown), San Clemente, Calif.–based architect R. Douglas Mansfield met this requirement by revealing some parts of the house and concealing others: The 4,408-square-foot, five-bedroom farmhouse is wide open to the views and balmy weather while also providing secluded spots for times when residents want to retreat.

The welcoming feeling starts at the front entry, where a glass-enclosed breezeway facilitates views through the house to the horse track and barns beyond. Large doors and windows in the living area fold open to provide a seamless connection to the outdoors, including a kitchen counter that opens to the backyard with the use of bi-fold windows, creating a poolside bar area.

Project Details

Project: The Oaks Farms Plan 3
Location: San Juan Capistrano, Calif.
Architect: R. Douglas Mansfield Architect, San Clemente, Calif.
Builder/Developer: Davidson Communities, Del Mar, Calif.
Size: 4,408 square feet
Price: $1.7 million

“We went to great lengths to design all of the rooms so they opened to an exterior space whether it be the fore court, the central courtyard, or the rear yard,” says Mansfield.

To maintain privacy, the luxurious central courtyard is screened from passersby by the walls of the house and protected by a cantilevered ceiling to provide a shady spot for al fresco dining. Outside, well-placed shrubbery forms a perimeter around the backyard and pool area and separates it from the adjacent track beyond.

The openness continues upstairs, where a vaulted bridge with the same full-height windows as the entry connects to a wing with two bedroom suites that can be used for older children, guests, or aging parents. The roomy master bedroom and bath on the other side of the bridge can be expanded even further by converting a fourth bedroom into an oversized walk-in closet or gym.

The project won a Grand Award in this year's Gold Nugget Awards competition in the Best Single-Family Detached Home, 4,000 to 5,000 square feet category. Click here to see all of the winners.

The size of the house—the largest of three customizable plans available in Oak Farms—sometimes presented a challenge, says Mansfield, who worked to create a comfortable sense of scale in the main rooms while maintaining a relationship to adjacent spaces.

“We were able to design many different-shaped unique spaces and ceiling heights to give each room a sense of scale but retain the sense of openness and natural light quality that we always try to accomplish,” he says.

Back outside, the rustic-but-sophisticated exterior complements the equestrian facility, thanks to careful materials selection. For this model, Mansfield speced a combination of vertical wood siding and adobe bricks for their historical relationship to the area.

“I wanted our new neighborhood to feel as though it was a part of the original fabric of San Juan Capistrano through those associations,” he says.