Case Study: The Coyle by Prentiss+Balance+Wickline
Sometimes, the landscape is so breathtakingly beautiful, it needs no architectural intervention to bolster its natural attributes. This 12-plus-acre site at the tip of a long peninsula that joins Hood Canal, just a couple of hours west of Seattle, is such a place. Across the acreage is a cornucopia of Douglas fir forest, meadow, harbor waters, Hood Canal views, and to top it all off, a long-range prospect to the Olympic Mountains.
Neither the owners, who have Danish roots, nor the architects, Dan Wickline and Geoff Prentiss of Prentiss + Balance + Wickline Architects in Seattle, felt the need to compete with the setting. The goal instead was to rein in the program and steer clear of any choices that would mar the spectacular setting.
Along with all that natural beauty, there was also one bare-bones building on-site to make some use of—but it was just a step above a beach shack. The owners had made do with the shack for some time, so they knew the property well and how they wanted to use it. Although they didn’t want to replace it with anything grand, they did want better functionality and a bit more space for extended family and friends. They had in mind something akin to a Danish summer house—typically a small, one-story building of dark wood and simple gable forms, not unlike a Monopoly house.
Their program, while disciplined by American standards, was a little too expansive for the one rudimentary building to accommodate, so Dan split the plan apart into three separate volumes totaling 1,700 square feet. The two new volumes were placed adjacent to each other but pulled slightly apart and rotated to catch different views. One contains the master bedroom, and the other comprises kitchen, dining, living spaces. The primary entry hall joins them. The third volume is the old shack—relocated, renovated, and repurposed into a bunkhouse.
“We pressed the two volumes toward the west side, close to the edge of the forest,” says Dan. “There was a pretty big area of meadow to put the house on. But it makes sense to press it back to the forested edge to have access to the views.” Across the meadow to the south lies the Hood Canal view. To the west is another small canal that runs along the property. (The word “canal” in these parts actually means fjord.)
The long end of the main volume faces the premium southern view and opens to a large sun deck with a series of budget-minding French doors. “Once those French doors open up, it basically doubles the living space,” says Dan. There’s also a smaller deck off the master bedroom. “It looks to the west toward the forest. It’s more intimate and serves as a getaway from the main space.”
Southern and western exposures may seem profligate to pros in other parts of the country, but in coastal Washington, “when there is sun, you want the sun,” Dan explains. The moderate climate also eliminates the need for air conditioning. No bugs means no window and door screens either, so everything can stay open to catch the coastal breezes. All three buildings are warmed by convection heaters when needed, and the living area has an efficient wood-burning stove. “We tried to keep everything very simple. The rooms are small; the bedrooms are just for sleeping. But you can imagine having a lot of people over, with lots of energy flowing back and forth from the main space.”
In keeping with the Danish summer house theme, interiors are light and bright; where there’s wood, it’s pine. Exterior cladding is tight-knot cedar siding with a dark stain. “Dark colors tend to blend into the landscape better,” says Dan, “and darker pigments last longer. Even charred woods fade over time.” Charred wood was originally considered but cut because of cost.
Plans are in the works for a fourth gabled structure. It will function more like true Danish summer houses, which were originally directly at the shoreline. The owners often spend all day down at the water, so the new building will provide some basic comforts and storage, as well as shelter from sudden storms. Says Dan, “It’s a day-use building. You’ll get to it down a steep dirt road. What’s nice is, you walk the property as a way of living in it. It really is an amazing place.”
Plans and Drawings
ARCHITECT: Geoff Prentiss and Dan Wickline, Prentiss + Balance + Wickline Architects, Seattle
BUILDER: Todd Hulbert, Hulbert Custom Construction, LLC, Port Townsend, Wash.
PROJECT SIZE: 1,700 square feet
SITE SIZE: 12.7 acres (in 2 lots)
CONSTRUCTION COST: Withheld
PHOTOGRAPHY: Alexander Canaria and Taylor Proctor
WINDOWS AND DOORS: Sierra Pacific
ROOF WINDOWS: VELUX
KITCHEN APPLIANCES: Samsung, Frigidaire, Kenmore, Whirlpool
KITCHEN FAUCET: Hansgrohe
KITCHEN SINK: BLANCO
KITCHEN ISLAND: Richlite
WOODBURNING STOVE: RAIS
SECONDARY FAUCETS: Grohe
SHOWER ENCLOSURE: Aquatic
LIGHTING/LIGHTING CONTROL: Juno
PAINTS/STAINS: Benjamin Moore