John Baccigaluppi recently expanded his API 1608 console to 32 channels and then moved it from his previous facility to the new vacation studio, Panoramic House, in West Marin, CA. WEST MARIN, CA—As the affordability of quality recording gear has sparked the rise in home studios, it has also challenged professional studio designers with the task of creating facilities that are appealing to artists both technically and creatively. Musicians and producers aren’t concerned so much about having access to the necessary gear and recording space anymore, but instead having access to a studio in a destination where they can relax and create their best work.
Adhering to the appeal of every realtor’s favorite slogan, “location, location, location,” veteran studio owners John Baccigaluppi and Bobby Lurie wanted to create a recording space within a vacation property, where artists could record while relaxing with family or friends. Working off of this idea, Baccigaluppi and Lurie’s result was the Panoramic House, a vacation house with studio gear as an amenity located on the western Marin coast, just north of San Francisco, a destination known for scenic cliff views overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
“I think what musicians and producers are looking for these days is a different experience,” said Baccigaluppi, who also owns The Dock, a recording studio in Sacramento, CA. “I got into this somewhat by accident—I had a lot of clients asking me to build a short-term studio in a vacation rental spot, and for a while, I would just help them find a rental space with good acoustics and I’d bring a bunch of gear to them.”
When that recording scenario became increasingly popular, Baccigaluppi realized there was a market for this working vacation space, and started searching for a location to build a more permanent facility. His initial idea was to use the house mainly as a vacation rental, with a small studio with the basic gear, so musicians and producers could record if they wanted. However, upon seeing the house that would later turn into the Panoramic House, Baccigaluppi knew it had far more potential.
“We were looking for something with a closet that could hold a small Pro Tools rig or something, and then we found this place. It was like a light bulb went off and I thought, ‘This may not be the best vacation rental for a family with four kids, but it would be perfect as a retreat for an artist,’” he explained.
It was the acoustics that attracted Baccigaluppi to the property. Built in the 1960s, the house was made completely out of recycled architectural materials from the Bay Area— including stone from the local quarries and large beams salvaged from San Francisco’s docks.
“The first time I walked into the house, I thought, ‘Wow, this sounds amazing!’ The acoustics are just great. There are almost no 90-degree angles, so with these weird angles, the stonework and the wood beams, it’s a really neat sounding room.”
Panoramic House’s co-owner, Bobby Lurie, who owns Mavericks studio in New York City, joined Baccigaluppi during the renovation and design process, helping to turn the run-down property into the studio it is today. The main live room is located in the large living room space, with the control room in the basement.
After Panoramic House celebrated its first year in business in 2014, Baccigaluppi relocated his five-year-old API 1608 console from his former studio, The Hangar, and expanded it to 32 channels to accommodate the studio’s 16- and 24-track analog tape decks. The console contains eight aux sends and eight groups paired with modular 500-series slots, and the studio offers a number of EQ outboard features including API 550As, 550Bs and 506s.
The studio holds mostly analog gear, with a 16-channel Neve Sidecar and a vintage RCA tube mixer, but to be more accommodating to clients, Baccigaluppi said they’ve added a number of digital pieces to make the studio more well-rounded. Among the listed products in Panoramic House’s control room are an Apogee Symphony Converter; Avid Pro Tools, running on an HD Native System; Otari and MCI 2-inch tape machines; a Studer A-812 quarter-inch tape machine; a Universal Audio Apollo 16 built into one of the mic pre racks; and Adam Audio P22As, Yamaha NS-10s, Auratones, and an Event subwoofer for monitoring.
“The API is the heart of the studio,” emphasized Baccigaluppi. “All the gear came from my old studio, The Hangar. I was there for 23 years, but the building was falling apart—the roof had leaks and there were holes in the floor all over the place. I could tell that something was going to change at some point, so I was on the lookout [for a new studio space].” As the Hangar closed, Baccigaluppi moved most of his gear to Panoramic, and brought the rest to The Dock in Sacramento.
Regarding Panoramic House, Baccigaluppi made it clear that his intention with creating it was to provide artists with an affordable space that could be used as a vacation house and a workspace. “It was important to us to create something that working class musicians could afford to use,” he said.
Since opening, Panoramic House has hosted a number of indie bands, including My Morning Jacket, Band of Horses and Thee Oh Sees. Baccigaluppi said they also rent the house out to non-musicians who just want to vacation in the area.
“It’s funny,” he said, “that most of the vacation renters come to town during the summer when it’s foggy to the point that you feel like you’re in a cloud. But that’s when people take vacations, I guess. Conveniently, most musicians are touring during the summer. The other three seasons are lovely, and that’s when most musicians want to settle in and create.”