A Forest Retreat in Washington Takes Cues From Scandinavian Design

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By Michele Koh Morollo
Modeled after the Danish sommerhus, this getaway for a Seattle family boasts lofty interiors that spill outdoors.

Located in Quilcene, Washington, on a peninsula that juts south into Hood Canal, this nature retreat for a Seattle family has a clean, economic form, and a material palette that’s inspired by the classic Danish sommerhus, or cottage.

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The main living spaces were divided into two distinct volumes, slightly offset to maximize the stunning—and remarkably different—views from the property. A common entry rejoins the two structures.

The main living spaces were divided into two distinct volumes, slightly offset to maximize the stunning—and remarkably different—views from the property. A common entry rejoins the two structures.

The house is composed of three volumes, two of which come together at an angle to capture views of the surrounding landscape.

The house is composed of three volumes, two of which come together at an angle to capture views of the surrounding landscape.

The tightly designed shapes sit quietly in an existing meadow, next to a forest of Douglas fir overlooking the southern view of Hood Canal. The owner wanted a cabin retreat that would serve as a comfortable and practical getaway for his family, who love the great outdoors. He also wanted the house to have additional rooms for guests.

Seattle–based firm Prentiss + Balance + Wickline Architects separated the 1,700-square-foot program into three gabled structures that were carefully composed to harmonize with the site and make the best of two distinct views. The third volume—the bunkhouse—is placed slightly to the side, and closed off when not in use.

Taking inspiration from the tradition of the Danish sommerhus, each volume is a simple, gabled form, clad in dark gray-stained cedar siding with standing-seam metal roofs that mirror the vertical grooves in a similar shade. 

Taking inspiration from the tradition of the Danish sommerhus, each volume is a simple, gabled form, clad in dark gray-stained cedar siding with standing-seam metal roofs that mirror the vertical grooves in a similar shade. 

Where the two angled forms meet, a small entryway is established. On one side of this entryway are the private spaces, including the two bedrooms and one-and-a-half bathrooms. On the other side is a simple great room where the living, dining, and kitchen spaces are located. 

"The angle and placement of the forms was a challenge, but the result is what we had in mind—a deceptively simple series of shapes in the landscape, with its austerity emphasized by the material and color choices of both the interior and exterior," says one of the firm’s founders, Geoffrey T. Prentiss. 

A series of French doors extends the interior living spaces to the deck and meadow beyond.

A series of French doors extends the interior living spaces to the deck and meadow beyond.

Both the common and private areas have small decks that extend out towards the forest. In the great room, a row of French doors opens out onto a low deck, expanding the space out into the meadow and beyond. 

The bunkhouse, an existing structure, was relocated and remodeled for additional sleeping space. Like the main house, the bunkhouse is also minimal in layout and aesthetics, housing bunk beds, a bathroom, and an outdoor shower for guests. 

A combination of carefully chosen furniture and finishes, including pine flooring and trim, warms up the lofty, white interior.

A combination of carefully chosen furniture and finishes, including pine flooring and trim, warms up the lofty, white interior.

The exposed collar ties in the great room are finished in a dark color, punctuating the white of the walls and ceilings, and emphasizing the gable from the interior.

The exposed collar ties in the great room are finished in a dark color, punctuating the white of the walls and ceilings, and emphasizing the gable from the interior.

Clean, white, and warm interiors are punctuated by darker accents.

Clean, white, and warm interiors are punctuated by darker accents.

Dark accents, in the form of collar ties across the great room and the kitchen counters, add to the atmosphere of serene simplicity. The minimalist interiors are tempered with warmth from the wood flooring, butcher-block countertops, and white IKEA cabinets. 

"In addition to the challenge posed by the site placement, our reuse of the existing structure to make the bunkhouse resulted in an interesting problem to solve. The relatively tight budget also meant we needed to be creative in our choices—forms, finishes, and techniques—but also resulted in the aesthetic we were aiming for," says Prentiss. 

The great room extends out to decks on two sides, creating a cozy yet expansive space for comfortable, easy living.

The great room extends out to decks on two sides, creating a cozy yet expansive space for comfortable, easy living.

An existing structure was moved, remodeled, and repurposed as a bunkroom.

An existing structure was moved, remodeled, and repurposed as a bunkroom.

In the master bedroom, Douglas firs filter the light and mountain views for a more intimate experience.

In the master bedroom, Douglas firs filter the light and mountain views for a more intimate experience.

The clean, white interiors also follow the Danish sommerhus’ simplicity of form and color.  

The clean, white interiors also follow the Danish sommerhus’ simplicity of form and color.  

The walls and ceilings, which were painted white, work beautifully with the wide-plank pine flooring to brighten the interiors and give the living areas a light, breezy feel. 

The walls and ceilings, which were painted white, work beautifully with the wide-plank pine flooring to brighten the interiors and give the living areas a light, breezy feel. 

Project Credits: 

Architecture: Prentiss + Balance + Wickline Architects 

Builder: Todd Hulbert Construction 

Structural engineering: Evergreen Design