2020 RDAA | Custom Rural or Vacation House | Whidbey Farm | mwworks

When you love both architecture and nature, there’s no more powerful experience than viewing one through the other. That’s the magic that fuels Whidbey Farm and accounts for its great success in this awards program and in others. The house—designed for a couple in their 70s, their adult children and their partners, plus a flock of teenage grandchildren—is no ordinary island retreat. It’s a heritage property, held by generations of the family who remain committed to preserving its quiet beauty—not just for themselves but for their entire community.

The current family made do for years with a charming but decaying farmhouse on the almost 50-acre parcel of agricultural land. But as their members proliferated and yet retained their resolve to gather severally and entirely, they yearned for more commodious accommodations. They wanted a new house that could function comfortably for just the couple and stretch easily for larger assemblies of family and friends.

Still, the new compound is not vast by custom home standards—just under 5,000 square feet for the main house and the separate bunkhouse for the teens—and it appears even smaller than its actual size. The main quarters are divided into two parts—a pavilion for living and dining and a two-level bedroom wing with an office. Breaking the program down into multiple components allowed the architects at mwworks to weave the various structures through the forest of Doug fir trees, removing just a few that were repurposed for farm lumber and firewood. The solution also helped reduce the profile of the main house as seen from the road—a scenic thoroughfare across the island much loved by all who traverse it.

“The goal for all of us was to tuck the house into the forest and have it just peek out,” says principal Steve Mongillo, AIA. “You might not even notice it from the road, as you can only see the one-story smaller face through the cracks in the trees.”

The compound’s palette of materials contributes to its chameleon-like qualities—western red cedar with a weathering stain, walls of windows that mirror the trees, dark cement panel fascias and metal elements that recede into the shadows. “We like materials you can understand—a neutral and natural palette that blends with the environment,” Steve explains. “We’re interested in clean, crisp lines, but then we want to layer texture onto that—to give a sense of warmth and craft to these contemporary buildings.”

While wood, steel, and glass capture the headlines in this project, it’s stone that plays the key supporting role, tracing the boundaries of the buildings and lifting wooded pathways off the forest floor. “They’re kind of like those meandering stone walls on the East Coast. And the walkways are like old park boardwalks through wetlands,” says Steve. “Eventually, moss will grow on the walls, decking will weather, and vegetation will come up around them. Walking along the paths will feel like a nature trail through the woods.”

On the interiors, those weathering, rougher woods give way to more refined species—alder, teak, and white oak, underlined by sleek steel in a natural finish. Although spare, the details are gorgeously precise: meticulous reveals, flawless millwork, and the perfect joinery of naturally imperfect materials, such as natural stone. It’s no wonder the custom building company responsible goes by the name Dovetail.

“The builder did an amazing job,” says Steve. “And the owners were so appreciative they had a plaque made with all the names of the people who worked on the house.” A fresh keepsake for the generations to come. 

Custom Rural or Vacation House  

Honor Award


Project Credits

ARCHITECT: Steve Mongillo, AIA, principal in charge; Drew Shawver, project architect, mwworks, Seattle

BUILDER: Dovetail General Contractors, Seattle

LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT: Kenneth Philp Landscape Architects, Seattle

STRUCTURAL ENGINEER: PCS Structural Solutions, Seattle

PROJECT SIZE: 4,830 square feet

SITE SIZE: 49.58 acres



Key Products

CABINETRY HARDWARE: Custom blackened steel

CLADDING: Western red cedar, powder-coated aluminum; Viroc cement board fascia,; huckleberry basalt stone veneer (stone walls and fireplaces); matte powder-coated aluminum (lounge exterior)

COOKTOP/VENT HOOD: Gaggenau 36-inch cooktop, 36-inch downdraft ventilation

CUSTOM PLASTER VENEER: Studio C (primary areas)

DECKING: Ipe (living pavilion, entry)


ENGINEERED LUMBER: TJI roof and floor assemblies (all wood structures)

ENTRY DOORS/HARDWARE: Brombal (entry door and hardware), Quantum Windows & Doors (living pavilion lift and slide door and hardware)

FAUCETS: Brizio Solna (kitchen); Watermark

FIREPIT: Custom designed by mwworks and fabricated by Dovetail

FLOORING/IN-FLOOR HEATING: Concrete with radiant heat (all conditioned enclosures)

FOUNDATION: Concrete stem wall (enclosures); mix of stem wall, pin piles, and shallow in wall beams (stone site walls)

GRILL: Custom designed by mwworks and fabricated by Dovetail in concrete and weathered steel (outdoor)

INSULATION: Batt insulation, closed cell spray foam, tapered rigid (roof); batt insulation (exterior walls)

LIGHTING: BK Lighting and Juno (exterior); ELEMENT, Halo, Eureka (interior); Davide Groppi MISS LED by Omar Carraglia (dining pendant)

MILLWORK/MOLDING/CABINETRY: Custom designed by mwworks and fabricated by Dovetail; teak cabinets with blackened steel accents

OTHER EXTERIOR MATERIALS: Concrete with 50% fly ash


PASSAGE DOORS/HARDWARE: Custom fabricated by Dovetail in stained teak; solid cedar slab (master); carved and painted cedar slab (guest bedroom); Sun Valley Bronze various (hardware, interior swing doors); Tom Kundig No Peek sliding door pull (interior pocket doors); custom designed by mwworks and fabricated by Dovetail leather-wrapped steel handle (entry); Brombal door hardware (lounge)

PAVERS/RETAINING WALLS: huckleberry basalt stone veneer (site walls)


ROOF TRUSS SYSTEM: TJI roof structure

ROOFING: PVC roofing membrane (except entry); metal roofing (entry)

ROOF WINDOWS: TAM Skylights (stair, master closet, bunkhouse)


SPECIALTY APPLIANCES: Wolf (warming drawer, microwave)

STAINS: Daly’s custom stain (exterior and interior)

THERMAL/MOISTURE/VAPOR BARRIERS: PROSOCO liquid applied air and water barrier (exterior wood-framed walls and fascia); CertainTeed MemBrain (exterior walls)

TOILETS/TUBS: Duravit with Geberit flush plates

TUBS: Duravit (secondary bathrooms)

TV LIFT: Nexus 21

UNDERLAYMENT/SHEATHING: Plywood (roof, exterior walls)

VANITIES/LAVS: Custom designed by mwworks and fabricated by Dovetail in teak

WASHER/DRYER: Electrolux

WINDOW WALL SYSTEMS: Quantum (stained oak and metal clad)

WINE CELLAR RACKING: Custom designed by mwworks and fabricated by Dovetail in blackened steel



Plans and Drawings


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