A Seattle Backyard Becomes a Calm Oasis For Two Book Lovers
Once rendered unusable by a thicket of overgrown plants, a Montlake backyard belonging to bookstore owners Danielle and David Hulton has been transformed into a modern reading retreat, perfectly crafted for curling up in with a book.
"Before the project came to be, it was hard to visualize how much space there was hidden under all the vegetation," says local design firm Board & Vellum, who was tapped by the homeowners to renovate the backyard with a new structure and landscaping.
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"For inspiration to launch the project, the homeowners envisioned a ‘found shed’ with a modern twist, featuring plenty of glass to help blend the spaces," adds the firm. "Everything in the shed would be meaningful and have a purpose, and every framed view—both from within and without—would be intentional."
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Thanks to full-height glazing and carefully framed views, the Backyard Reading Retreat feels much larger than its 169-square-foot size lets on. Sliding glass doors seamlessly connect the interior to an outdoor patio with built-in bench seating, a hot tub, and a fire pit.
Though the tiny retreat—permitted as a shed—was primarily designed as a reading space, it can also be used as a guest suite, or for entertaining.
Since the backyard borders a neighbor’s massive Atlas Cedar—designated an "exceptional tree" by the city due to its size—the project’s building footprint was limited by the tree’s dripline.
To emphasize the project’s site-specific layout, the firm turned the site constraint into a design feature that informs the curved forms of the landscape elements.
"Even those who adore city life need a place to unwind away from the bustle," say the designers.
"It certainly doesn’t hurt to relax alone with a good book in a backyard reading retreat, or to hang out with friends and family around a fire pit, or with a dip in the hot tub. This urban oasis—though small in size—offers space to satisfy all those needs: the introverted and extroverted."
Architect of Record: Board & Vellum / Jeffrey Pelletier
Builder/General Contractor: Proform Builds / Joey Fentress and Jasun Sherman
Structural Engineer: Bykonen Carter Quinn / Tom Bykonen and Kyriakos Moroseos
Landscape Design: Board & Vellum / Derek Reeves
Architectural Design: Board & Vellum / Ryan Adanalian
Interior Design: Board & Vellum / Katie Mallory
Cabinet Maker Sub-consultant: Architectural Cabinets, Inc.
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