Nestled in a subalpine meadow valley in Washington, the Ranchero House is surrounded by a beautiful but demanding landscape. A Seattle family had frequented the area for years, making the three hour drive into the Okanogan National Forest for cross-country skiing and hiking. They asked Tim Hammer of CAST architecture, also based in Seattle, to design a structure that could survive forest fires, five feet of snow pack, house guests (and their ski gear), all while requiring minimum maintenance and energy usage. The result is a hardy weekend retreat that’s fine-tuned to its residents and its surroundings.
The house is divided in two: on the left, the main house consists of an expansive kitchen, living, and dining space, plus sleeping accommodations. On the right, a smaller structure holds a sauna, shower, and ski wax room. The house’s length is oriented along an east/west axis to maximize strong southern light and provide views of an aspen grove.
Floor-to-ceiling windows enclose the living and dining space, flooding the room with sunlight. This warmth is retained by a radiant heating system in the concrete floor, which significantly reduces heating requirements during the night. The exterior features a concrete skirt that’s impermeable to snow pack moisture, and weathering steel panels that are resistant to brush fires.
Glossy aluminum composite panels on the ceiling reflect sunlight throughout the interior. A deep eave, seen on the right, shields the space from the harshest midday heat, in addition to keeping snow off the portico and entrance. The Rais stove can be rotated to face either the living room or the dining room. The sofa is by Room & Board.
The architects specified fir wood to encase the windows and impart a warm ochre to the house’s otherwise industrial material palette. The picnic-style dining table was designed by CAST in collaboration with Seattle furniture maker Joe Burmeister. The chandelier is by Nemo Italianaluce.
The walls and surfaces had to resist damage from ski gear, so the architects used hot-rolled steel and fiber cement boards usually reserved for industrial structures. The steel serves double duty in the kitchen, where wares are mounted to the wall with magnets. The kitchen features a Miele cooktop and oven and Liebherr refrigerator. Stools by Crate and Barrel provide additional seating.
Adjacent to the main living room are four custom bunk beds and a guest bedroom with a queen bed.
Lastly, a master bedroom opens up to the landscape around it and can sleep an extra two guests on day beds.