Blakely Island Retreat | Architect magazine


Project description

Located in the San Juan Island archipelago on the Salish Sea, this 1,700-square-foot, two-bedroom, two-bath home pays homage to the tradition of steel frame and infill homes case study of early modernism. Embracing a sense of floating in the woods, the residence is laid out in two volumes connected by a glazed bridge: one containing the living room, kitchen, dining room and master, and the other guest, the library and bedroom. ‘workspace.

A winding path leads on arrival to the entrance and opens up to views across Thatcher Bay. The kitchen is the heart of the house where cooking seamlessly transitions into alfresco dining on the west terrace. To the east, a spacious bathroom opens onto the morning sun. The hardwood deck extends inside and out for a seamless connection to nature. Multiple open-corner sliding doors with hardwood rails frame the expansive water views. Venetian plaster, locally sourced cedar and fir, reflections in mirrors and translucent curtains create an ethereal, airy and warm palette.

Contextual prefab
The careful layout of the program takes into account the delicate rocky ecology of the steep shoreline and the difficulty of bringing construction machinery to the site. Inspired by the notion of universality and the particularity of the case study, the house will be prefabricated off-site in a shipyard in Ballard. Grid-controlled steel frames are designed to a specific 12-foot rate based on the width of the house and the weight limits that can be carried. The modules are then delivered by sea via a barge and lifted onto its minimum point foundation system with a helicopter.

This secluded waterfront retreat takes advantage of the temperate seasons of the Pacific Northwest. During the warmer months, sliding doors and full-height glass blur the boundary between indoors and outdoors, extending the living space outward. During the colder and windier months, residents can be indoors looking out, warmed by birch plywood and a fireplace, providing a place of refuge for family activities and gatherings. During the warmer summer months the sliding doors open and encourage the family to be outside on the alfresco terraces. The master bedroom and bathroom open to the east to welcome the morning sun. The dining room terrace and the living room face west to take advantage of the setting sun.

The expected completion date of the residence is 2025.

group project
Architecture/Interiors: Wittman Estes
Builder: East/West Custom Builders
Environmental consultant: Biohabitats
Arborist: Seattle Tree Care
Structural Engineer: J Welch Engineering LLC

Wittman Estes Design Team
Matt Wittman, Jody Estes, Brandon Patterson

Wittman Estes


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