Serene Havens on Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands

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These sylvan homes, studios, and hideaways outside Seattle offer a simple counterpoint to modern life.

Modern home with Exterior, House, Wood Siding Material, and Flat RoofLine. Photo  of Serene Havens on Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands

When two retired teachers decided to build a new home, they knew they wanted an energy-efficient, no-stress Passive House design that would support aging in place. The resulting 1,800-square-foot house is the first Certified Passive House on the San Juan Islands in Washington, and it’s only the fourth in the state. The home, designed by Olympia-based firm The Artisans Group, has a circular floor plan that centers around a prefabricated pod that contains the kitchen and two bathrooms.

Modern home with Exterior, House, and Wood Siding Material. Architect Michelle Linden worked with Brothers to create a minimalist house. Inspired by the inward-looking approach of Cistercian abbeys, Linden oriented the U-shaped structure around a courtyard. Photo  of Serene Havens on Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands

A panorama of sylvan hills and ocean views surrounds artist Richard Brothers’s environmentally minded Orcas Island, Washington, home. Architect Michelle Linden worked with Brothers to create a minimalist house. Inspired by the inward-looking approach of Cistercian abbeys, Linden oriented the U-shaped structure around a courtyard.

This small writer's retreat on San Juan Islands, Washington completely exposes the interior to the site’s impressive island views. Photo by: Tim Bies Photo  of Serene Havens on Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands modern home

Architect Tom Kundig’s assignment was simple enough: Build a tiny, Thoreau-like getaway for an Atlanta-based writer who owned ten acres on San Juan Island in Puget Sound. “The idea was not to clutter anybody’s thinking, especially a writer’s,” he said. So he designed a 500-square-foot retreat that’s both womblike and open to its surroundings.

Christopher: Olalla, Washington, is a small rural community on the Kitsap Peninsula accessible to Seattle via ferry, or a long drive through Tacoma. We're about one mile from Puget Sound, one mile from a freshwater lake and a few miles from a popular sailing harbor. We're Olympic Peninsula adjacent, and, most importantly, we are less than 45 minutes from Amy's favorite oyster farm in the Hood Canal, Hama Hama. In addition to a family of deer, dozens of birds, and hundreds of frogs, our property is also home to occasional wandering coyotes and a very strange-looking creature that Amy has convinced herself is a chupacabra. There are cougars and black bears in the area as well, but thank God we haven't eyeballed them yet.

Amy: For us, the primary driver for us to move from Los Angeles and abandon our urban existence was our love of the property. Photo  of Serene Havens on Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands modern home

To build a home on a remote plot of land in Olalla, Washington, former Angelenos Amy Staupe and Christopher Roy commissioned Method Homes to construct a highly personalized prefab structure.

Modern home with Exterior and Cabin Building Type. On Vashon Island, about 20 miles southwest of Seattle, architect Seth Grizzle designed a 440-square-foot multiuse structure for his clients Bill and Ruth True. Photo  of Serene Havens on Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands

On Vashon Island, about 20 miles southwest of Seattle, architect Seth Grizzle designed a 440-square-foot multiuse structure for his clients Bill and Ruth True. The “tiny but mighty” structure—as Grizzle describes it—packs a wealth of uses into a compact footprint.

Modern home with Exterior, Cabin Building Type, Wood Siding Material, and Shed RoofLine. Anna Hoover, founder of the non-profit First Light Alaska, sought a "thought refuge, a room with a view to sit and contemplate future projects and reflect on recent travels and interactions, plenty of ‘headspace’—tall ceilings—and the ability to host other artists for studio time," she says. A longtime resident of the Pacific Northwest, Hoover was familiar with the work of Olson Kundig and contacted the Seattle-based firm to design her abode. Photo  of Serene Havens on Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands

On Puget Sound, activist and filmmaker Anna Hoover collaborated with Les Eerkes, a principal at Olson Kundig Architects, on a 693-square-foot studio in the woods. Using freecycled materials and a six-footed foundation to rein in construction costs, Hoover and Eerkes created a distinctive structure that treads lightly on the land.

Modern home with Exterior and House. The 3,000-square-foot house sits partially on stilts to tread as lightly as possible on its natural island site. Photo  of Serene Havens on Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands

Grunge band producer Adam Kasper enlisted the help of the firm Bohlin Cywinski Jackson for his off-the-grid family home on Henry Island. He calls it “the house that Nirvana built.”

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