This Little House in Washington Has Mighty Big Ties to Nature

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By Lucy Wang
Nestled in a second-growth forest, this Pacific Northwest retreat is deliberately simple yet modern.

When Seattle–based architecture firm MW|Works was asked to design a home on a repurposed foundation just over 20 square feet, they made up for the small footprint by embracing the expansive outdoors.

With the focus laid squarely on the landscape, the 1,140-square-foot dwelling—named Little House—is deeply woven into nature. 

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Large windows punctuate the north elevation to pull views of the the water and landscape indoors.

Large windows punctuate the north elevation to pull views of the the water and landscape indoors.

The boxy volume is fitted in oxidized black-cedar cladding atop blackened-cement infill panel walls to blend the building into the wooded lot. Large glazed openings create a seamless indoor-outdoor experience.

The southern and eastern elevations are mostly left opaque to provide privacy from the nearby access road.

The southern and eastern elevations are mostly left opaque to provide privacy from the nearby access road.

The owners, who reside in Houston, Texas, commissioned the home as a summer retreat after they fell in love with the "wildness" of Hood Canal.

The dark cladding helps recede the simple, boxy home into the lush forest.

The dark cladding helps recede the simple, boxy home into the lush forest.

To keep the magic of the area intact, the clients sought a compact and efficient getaway that wouldn’t detract from the outdoors. They purchased a 1.7-acre forested lot on a north-facing bluff in Seabeck, Washington, and resolved to repurpose the property’s existing 400-square-foot foundation to minimize the site impact.

The entry is marked by a thin, cantilevered canopy hovering over the front porch.

The entry is marked by a thin, cantilevered canopy hovering over the front porch.

"The small footprint ultimately served as an effective tool to govern the design process," explains MW|Works. "Focus was placed on the essentials and extras were edited out by both desire and necessity." 

Full-height windows blur the distinction between indoor and outdoors in the living area.

Full-height windows blur the distinction between indoor and outdoors in the living area.

The two-story cabin houses the bedrooms in the upper level while an open-plan living room, dining area, and kitchen occupy the ground floor. The home also opens up to an outdoor ipe deck and patio

A small outdoor patio with precast concrete pavers is placed on the west side of the home to soak up the afternoon sun. The patio connects to a series of trails that lead through the forest and to the beach. 

A small outdoor patio with precast concrete pavers is placed on the west side of the home to soak up the afternoon sun. The patio connects to a series of trails that lead through the forest and to the beach. 

"The resulting project hopes to capture the essence of the modern cabin—small in size but much larger than its boundaries," continues the architects.

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Timber stairs connect the entry to the upstairs bedrooms.

Timber stairs connect the entry to the upstairs bedrooms.

The bedroom is illuminated by tall, skinny windows and a skylight that's positioned over the bed for stargazing.

The bedroom is illuminated by tall, skinny windows and a skylight that's positioned over the bed for stargazing.

The upstairs bathroom features a shower illuminated by a skylight.

The upstairs bathroom features a shower illuminated by a skylight.

Timber ties the kitchen and dining area to the outdoors, from the exposed wood ceiling joists to Arauco plywood on the island topped with Corian solid surface.

Timber ties the kitchen and dining area to the outdoors, from the exposed wood ceiling joists to Arauco plywood on the island topped with Corian solid surface.

Light timber floors, white-painted MDF shelving and cabinets, as well as black metal accents, give the home a clean and contemporary appearance.

Light timber floors, white-painted MDF shelving and cabinets, as well as black metal accents, give the home a clean and contemporary appearance.

Firewood is neatly stacked in a built-in storage space on the south side of the home.

Firewood is neatly stacked in a built-in storage space on the south side of the home.

The home is approached from the south with views of Hood Canal below.

The home is approached from the south with views of Hood Canal below.

A look at the site plan.

A look at the site plan.

Here's the ground floor plan.

Here's the ground floor plan.

Project Credits:

Architect of Record: MW|Works / Steve Mongillo

Builder/General Contractor: E&H Construction / Brent Heath

Structural Engineer: PCS Structural Solutions / Jim Harris

Landscape Design: Johnson Southerland

Interior Design: Avery Cox Design / Avery Cox

Cabinetry Design / Installation: Design by MW|Works / Installation by GC