This Cabin Retreat in San Juan County Has a Clever Trick up Its Sleeve

Courtesy of Olson Kundig
Courtesy of Olson Kundig

Architecture & Design Editor

Based in the idyllic location of False Bay, Washington, this cute cabin is often used as a writer’s retreat and guest house throughout the year. When it’s not in use, however, the surrounding decks cleverly fold up to become shutters, protecting the glass house.

The owners of this 46 square-metre (500 ft.²) island cabin wanted to feel at one with the surrounding landscape and chose the secluded spot to make the most of the panoramic bay views, warm weather and proximity to the abundant local wildlife.

Courtesy of Olson Kundig

Opting for a contemporary glazed design so that each space could enjoy a vista of the surrounding coastal landscapes, the owners also wanted to make sure the glass cabin was protected when it wasn’t being used.

Courtesy of Olson Kundig

Seattle-based design practice Olson Kundig came up with the ingenious solution of creating decks that would fold up at the sides through the use of hydraulic winches, wire rope, pivoting sheaves and lead blocks.

Courtesy of Olson Kundig

These could then be transformed into decks that connect the internal spaces with the outdoors to create additional external living spaces when the cabin is occupied. To create a further link between inside and out, Olson Kundig installed huge three-metre (10 ft.) tall windows and sliding doors that can be pushed back in summer.

Courtesy of Olson Kundig

In addition, the south side can be opened individually when it’s a little cooler; the internal woodburner can also be cleverly turned right round so that guests can gather around it from the outside too. Another smart design feature is the inverted roof, which guides rainwater down to the drain at the back of the cabin so that it doesn’t drip down the sides of the overhang onto the decks.

Courtesy of Olson Kundig

The modestly sized interior consists of a single glazed studio with a lounge area and desk for writing in the day, with a space-saving fold-down bed to turn it into sleeping quarters at night. The wooden headboard and storage unit also serves as a partition that conceals the en-suite bathroom and kitchenette to the rear of the property.

Courtesy of Olson Kundig

Due to the compact nature of the cabin, the finishes are kept to a subtle palette of light timber, black-coated steel and neutral soft furnishings, ensuring the focus is kept on the beautiful views rather than distracting from them.

Courtesy of Olson Kundig

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