Somewhere between a folly and a guest house, this rugged little structure on Whidbey Island near Seattle distills shelter to its core essentials. It’s reminiscent of those civilian conservation corps buildings in national parks—places where urban escapees could stop for a spell and immerse themselves in nature. Materials for the buildings were locally sourced and the construction was straightforward, honest, and regionally appropriate. The result was durable, elemental structures that harmonized with their surroundings.
For this project, Hoedemaker Pfeiffer’s clients approached the firm with an open-ended, uncomplicated program. “They told us, ‘We have this portion of our property we can’t figure out how to use,’” recalls architect Steve Hoedemaker, AIA. The firm had already reinvented and repurposed a number of the clients’ existing buildings on their waterfront parcel, all geared to loosely contain their rambunctious boys and convene their network of extended family and friends.
“Normally when we design multiple buildings, we relate them to each other,” Steve observes, “but, in this case, each was its own thing—and each has very different moods. This building had only one job to do: get people outdoors. It was not burdened with lots of purpose.”
At just over 1,600 square feet, the Fieldhouse, as it’s called, contains all the amenities necessary for a languid day of playing sports, eating lunch, or napping by the fire during a pop-up rainstorm. There are full and half bathrooms, an indoor kitchen and a vented outdoor grill, a vast covered dining area, and a more compact indoor dining area and lounge, dubbed the “sunroom.” Tucked into a secluded area at the back of the lounge is an inviting inglenook, anchored by a raised stone fireplace.
The sunroom’s steel-framed windows and doors preserve the impression of an open pavilion, while allowing it to be closed off from weather and other incursions. On the other side of the central open dining area, the kitchen, baths, and utility room have secure wood doors.
Materials are a hardy, outdoor spec—concrete floors, stone from nearby Vancouver Island, Doug fir from the Pacific Northwest, Western red cedar shingles and clear cedar paneling—all topped by a durable standing seam metal roof. Those rugged materials belie the careful detailing applied by Steve and his team, lead by project manager Justin Oldenhuis.
“This building may be evocative of those simple conservation corps structures, but it took a lot of effort to make every detail work out in a clean, refined way,” says Justin. “It visually builds out from a stout stone base, and then these stout columns move up to an ever-thinning set of structural pieces and eventually a thin roof that extends off the beams. I was on-site extensively to get the roughness of the beams and the thinness of the windows and doors just right.”
Simplicity is truly never simple to achieve. But those crisp, thin-set elements within the rugged framework are what move this building from a period piece to something between timely and timeless. Says Steve, “It’s definitely the sandbox in which we like to play—vernacular with a modern spin. We understand the value of forms and materials that evoke memories in a positive way. As modern architects, we no longer have to prove to ourselves that we can create austere buildings. We’ve done beautiful ones.”
Plans and Drawings
Whidbey Island, Washington
Architect: Steve Hoedemaker, principal in charge; Justin Oldenhuis, project architect, Hoedemaker Pfeiffer, Seattle
Builder: McKinstry, Stauffer, Yang, Seattle
Interior Designer: Tim Pfeiffer, principal in charge, Hoedemaker Pfeiffer, Seattle
Landscape Architect: Kenneth Philp Landscape Architects, Seattle
Structural Engineer: Swenson Say Fagét, Seattle
Project Size: 1,664 square feet
Site Size: 7 acres
Construction Cost: Withheld
Photography: Andrew Giammarco Photography
Cladding: Cedar shingles
Cooking Ventilation: Vent-A-Hood
Countertop Materials: Stone slab, Basaltina Classico
Entry Doors: NorthStar Woodworks
Faucets: Hansgrohe (kitchen, shower); Watermark (bathrooms)
Lighting: B-K Lighting; Schoolhouse Electric (kitchen, bathrooms); Circa Lighting (inglenook); Kerry Joyce, custom (sunroom)
Paints/Stains: Benjamin Moore, Cabot
Sink: Blanco (kitchen)
Walls: Cedar tongue-and-groove
Windows: NorthStar Woodworks (kitchen, bathroom)
Window Walls Systems: Torrance Steel Window Company (sunroom)