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Courtesy of Olson Kundig
Courtesy of Olson Kundig
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An Architect Spent 55 Years Building the Ultimate Lakeside Cabin

Picture of Charlotte Luxford
Home & Design Editor
Updated: 25 July 2017
Building this lakeside retreat in the heart of an ancient forest in Washington was undoubtedly a labour of love for architect Jim Olson from Olson Kundig Architects. He kicked off the passion project when he was just 18 years old back in 1959, which started as a tiny 14-square-foot bunk house – it has now morphed into an impressive weekend retreat for his family.
Courtesy of Olson Kundig
Courtesy of Olson Kundig

With views over the Puget Sound, the breathtaking cabin in Longbranch has had a multitude of modifications made to it throughout the decades in 1981, 1997, 2003 and 2014, turning it into what now stands as a glorious weekend getaway. Each addition has reused and reformed the existing structure to create an interesting and complex building with a rich architectural narrative.

Courtesy of Olson Kundig
Courtesy of Olson Kundig

Throughout the project Olson has been sensitive to the site’s natural beauty, nestling the cabin among the forest’s fir trees and incorporating structural elements including a glu-lam timber frame, wood cladding and plywood to ensure the building blends in with its surroundings. This theme continues inside the property, with the flooring made from local fir trees and the use of plywood also runs throughout the interior of the cabin, creating a warm and inviting atmosphere.

Courtesy of Olson Kundig
Courtesy of Olson Kundig
Courtesy of Olson Kundig
Courtesy of Olson Kundig

Olson says of the project: “The cabin is intentionally subdued in colour and texture, allowing the lush natural surroundings to take precedence. The rooms themselves are essentially a set of boxes set underneath a unifying roof; together, they create a single form that is grounded onto the hillside and projects out over the landscape.”

Courtesy of Olson Kundig
Courtesy of Olson Kundig
Courtesy of Olson Kundig
Courtesy of Olson Kundig

Connecting the property to its natural habitat was important to Olson, with picture windows, skylights and sliding doors used throughout the house so each room has a touchpoint with the surrounding forest. The mature trees have even been incorporated into the decking and one fir even goes through an opening in the roof.

Courtesy of Olson Kundig
Courtesy of Olson Kundig
Courtesy of Olson Kundig
Courtesy of Olson Kundig

The cabin is a physical representation of Olson’s thoughtful and sensitive approach to nature that runs throughout all the practice’s projects. View more of Olson Kundig Architects’ work here.

Courtesy of Olson Kundig
Courtesy of Olson Kundig

For more cabin retreats, check out this clever design in San Juan county, or these tiny huts designed by Muji.