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Outside In: A Multi-Generational Retreat on Whidbey Island Welcomes Nature Inside

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Outside In: A Multi-Generational Retreat on Whidbey Island Welcomes Nature Inside

February 7, 2020

When architects Eric Walter and Steve Mongillo, principals at Seattle-based mwworks, were in the planning phase of this family retreat on Whidbey Island, they met often with the owners to go over their designs. Many times, the clients’ three adult children would attend—and, sometimes, even their teenage grandchildren.

Walter and Mongillo were unfazed by the unusual number of stakeholders who weighed in on their plans. The weekend home, after all, was to be for the entire family to use. And thankfully, there was consensus: What the family wanted was a design that was modest, low-impact, and respectful of the landscape outside its windows. Plus, of course, it had to accommodate their large group.

The two architects delivered with a series of three low structures that prioritize views of the forest on one side and a meadow on the other. The main building, which houses the public spaces (living, kitchen, and dining areas), is connected by a walkway to a wing of bedrooms; a separate bunkhouse for grandchildren and guests is just across a courtyard. (All told, the compound can sleep up to 20.)

“The project is designed to build memories and bonds for a large extended family for generations to come…. The senior owners set the project up so that regardless of what happens to them, the kids and their kids would always have the house to bring them together and continue building memories,” says Mongillo, who worked with Dovetail General Contractors to bring his clients’ dream to life.

Let’s take a tour.

Photography by Kevin Scott, courtesy of mwworks.

Outside In A MultiGenerational Retreat on Whidbey Island Welcomes Nature Inside The view of the main building. In the forefront is the wing that houses the public living areas; the sleeping wing is on the far left. &#8\2\20;The building footprint, as well as the construction process, took great care to preserve as many significant trees as possible, with foundation walls spanning and dodging critical roots so that the natural forest system would be preserved and allowed to thrive soon after construction was complete,&#8\2\2\1; says Mongillo.
Above: The view of the main building. In the forefront is the wing that houses the public living areas; the sleeping wing is on the far left. “The building footprint, as well as the construction process, took great care to preserve as many significant trees as possible, with foundation walls spanning and dodging critical roots so that the natural forest system would be preserved and allowed to thrive soon after construction was complete,” says Mongillo.
Outside In A MultiGenerational Retreat on Whidbey Island Welcomes Nature Inside The open concept living space features a wall of floor to ceiling windows. The deep oak window jambs conceal integrated rolling blinds.
Above: The open-concept living space features a wall of floor-to-ceiling windows. The deep oak window jambs conceal integrated rolling blinds.
Outside In A MultiGenerational Retreat on Whidbey Island Welcomes Nature Inside Views of the pond, red barn, and meadow where cattle (raised organically by the owners) graze, all on the owners&#8\2\17; 48 acre property. The custom wood windows are by Quantum; the steel windows are by Brombal.
Above: Views of the pond, red barn, and meadow where cattle (raised organically by the owners) graze, all on the owners’ 48-acre property. The custom wood windows are by Quantum; the steel windows are by Brombal.
Outside In A MultiGenerational Retreat on Whidbey Island Welcomes Nature Inside A portion of the stone fireplace rests on the deck just off the living room, blurring the line between indoors and out.
Above: A portion of the stone fireplace rests on the deck just off the living room, blurring the line between indoors and out.
Outside In A MultiGenerational Retreat on Whidbey Island Welcomes Nature Inside On the deck, the fireplace transitions into a stone wall. A cutout in the roof allows for more light.
Above: On the deck, the fireplace transitions into a stone wall. A cutout in the roof allows for more light.
mwworks whidbey island farmhouse kitchen3
Above: A slim kitchen is shimmied between the living and dining areas. Note that while the rest of the space features concrete flooring, here, wood planks are underfoot.
Outside In A MultiGenerational Retreat on Whidbey Island Welcomes Nature Inside Aged western red cedar cladding defines the kitchen and dining areas.
Above: Aged western red cedar cladding defines the kitchen and dining areas.
Outside In A MultiGenerational Retreat on Whidbey Island Welcomes Nature Inside Just beyond the dining area is the entryway, which also acts as a junction between the public and private quarters.
Above: Just beyond the dining area is the entryway, which also acts as a junction between the public and private quarters.
Outside In A MultiGenerational Retreat on Whidbey Island Welcomes Nature Inside The entry. Note the carved wood panel on display in the mudroom area. &#8\2\20;Several of the interior doors and wall art are carved solid cedar slabs crafted decades ago by the family patriarch as a young doctor filling his time between patients, instilling a meaningful connection between the family’s past and present,&#8\2\2\1; says Mongillo.
Above: The entry. Note the carved wood panel on display in the mudroom area. “Several of the interior doors and wall art are carved solid cedar slabs crafted decades ago by the family patriarch as a young doctor filling his time between patients, instilling a meaningful connection between the family’s past and present,” says Mongillo.
Outside In A MultiGenerational Retreat on Whidbey Island Welcomes Nature Inside One of the bedrooms, simply decorated.
Above: One of the bedrooms, simply decorated.
Outside In A MultiGenerational Retreat on Whidbey Island Welcomes Nature Inside Zen perfection in the bathroom, which features a shower with a view. &#8\2\20;The bathroom is one of our favorite rooms in the home! The soft northeastern light washing across the lightly textured plaster walls gives the room a serene quality,&#8\2\2\1; says Mongillo.
Above: Zen perfection in the bathroom, which features a shower with a view. “The bathroom is one of our favorite rooms in the home! The soft northeastern light washing across the lightly textured plaster walls gives the room a serene quality,” says Mongillo.
Outside In A MultiGenerational Retreat on Whidbey Island Welcomes Nature Inside The floating vanity in the bathroom.
Above: The floating vanity in the bathroom.
mwworks whidbey island farmhouse walkway
Above: Locally quarried basalt make up the courtyard wall and parts of the home’s exterior. This wood walkway leads visitors to the entryway.
Outside In A MultiGenerational Retreat on Whidbey Island Welcomes Nature Inside The view from the bunkhouse to the main building. The bunkhouse sleeps up to \1\2 guests.
Above: The view from the bunkhouse to the main building. The bunkhouse sleeps up to 12 guests.
Outside In A MultiGenerational Retreat on Whidbey Island Welcomes Nature Inside The structure was designed to recede into the forest. At the owners&#8\2\17; request, great care was taken to protect the trees on the property, often at the expense of expediency.
Above: The structure was designed to recede into the forest. At the owners’ request, great care was taken to protect the trees on the property, often at the expense of expediency.
Outside In A MultiGenerational Retreat on Whidbey Island Welcomes Nature Inside Just down the slope, near the pond, a fire pit for proper bonding by firelight.
Above: Just down the slope, near the pond, a fire pit for proper bonding by firelight.

This isn’t the first time we’ve featured a project by mwworks. Here’s another one: A Puget Sound Cabin That Rests Lightly on the Landscape.

For more family retreats we love, see:

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