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Architect Visit: A Puget Sound Cabin That Rests Lightly on the Land


Architect Visit: A Puget Sound Cabin That Rests Lightly on the Land

October 12, 2016

Perched on a scenic waterway on the southern end of Puget Sound in Washington state, the Case Inlet Retreat by Seattle architects MW|Works is a cabin with an architectural sophistication that belies its modest materials and size. The 2,200-square-foot house sits on a forested bluff owned by the clients; for years, they stayed in an old fishing cabin on the property before undertaking a new build on their beloved site.

We spoke with firm principal Eric Walter, who designed the house with partner Steve Mongillo. He told us that “the intent was to make the building feel light on the landscape,” so the main level holds only one bedroom, a bath, and an open living room and kitchen. But the architects found clever ways to tuck more usable space into the structure while adhering to the client’s goal of putting the site first.

Photography by Jeremy Bittermann.


Above: Though located in a rainy climate, the house is resolutely indoor/outdoor. Shown here, the kitchen blends directly into an ipe deck with a built-in grill. The architects designed large overhangs at the kitchen deck so the occupants can cook outdoors even in damp weather.


Above: The cantilevered roof doubles as a dramatic viewing deck to the Puget Sound and the Olympic mountains. The steel staircase leading to the roof is perforated for drainage.


Above: The kitchen opens directly onto the ipe deck.


Above: The kitchen and deck both have the same water-resistant ipe wood flooring. The kitchen countertop is concrete, the custom drawers are blackened steel, and the kitchen island has a butcher block top made of walnut.


Above: Though the sliding glass doors between the kitchen and deck serve as an informal entrance to the house, the official entry has a small cantilevered deck welcoming guests into a mudroom.


Above:The living room is anchored in the forest but features an expansive water view. The ceilings are clad in finished plywood panels, and the home is filled with built-ins for storage and a Morsowood stove. The house’s main heating radiates from beneath the concrete floors.


Above: The master bedroom, the only bedroom on the main level, overlooks the surrounding forest. The property sits on 20 acres, so the owners did not feel the need for window treatments.


Above: The bathroom has ipe wood floors, including a small deck accessible only from the bathroom, which Walter calls “a private spot to greet the morning before you greet your guests.”


Above:The architects clad the bathroom walls in inexpensive tight-knot cedar. A skylight brings daylight and views of the forest canopy into the bathing area.


Above: A winding trail leads to the house from the road, and another trail links the house to the beach and the family’s kayak shed. The house’s bedroom wing, farthest to the right, is clad in weathered cedar.


Above: Though the house is sleek and modern, it’s not a precious place; the owners wanted to maintain the usability that the original run-down fishing cabin had afforded them—for cooking, kayaking, and for easy use by both the family and their dogs.

For more of our favorite Pacific Northwest gardens, see Garden Design: Dan Hinkley at Home on Puget Sound and Sleekness in Seattle: Modern Garden, Midcentury House.

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