Jim Olson’s reverence for nature and admiration of the site’s beauty is expressed in the design of this project located on Puget Sound and nestled amidst the towering fir trees of an ancient forest. What began as a 14-foot-square bunk house built in 1959 has morphed through subsequent remodels in 1981, 1997, 2003 and 2014 into a modest yet highly livable weekend retreat. Each successive addition and remodel has reused and integrated the previous structure rather than erasing it to reveal the cabin's architectural history.

At the age of eighteen, Olson began work on a bunkhouse for his family in Longbranch. Since then, he has continued to expand the small structure into both a private retreat and a touch point for his work worldwide.

The cabin is intentionally subdued in color and texture, allowing the lush natural surroundings to take precedence. Simple, readily available materials are used throughout: wood-framed walls are sheathed in plywood both inside and out; doubled pairs of steel columns support glulam beams that, in turn, support an exposed roof structure; and interior fir flooring becomes outdoor decking with additional spacing.

The rooms themselves are essentially a set of boxes set underneath a unifying roof; together, they create a single form that is grounded onto the hillside and projects out over the landscape. The living room’s large 11’ x 13’ window not only frames the view of the adjoining meadow and Puget Sound but visually blends the indoors and outdoors.

Strategically placed sliding doors, windows and a domed skylight over the bed provide constant contact with nature. The design accommodates three mature trees that have been allowed to grow through openings in the deck, one of which exits through an opening in the roof.

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Cabin at Longbranch | Olson Kundig

In the 1980s, the retreat was made up of three tiny pavilions linked by wooden platforms. By 2003, the pavilions had been connected by a unifying roof, creating a single form grounded onto the hillside and projecting out over the landscape.

Cabin at Longbranch | Olson Kundig

First built in 1959 as acclaimed architect Jim Olson's first project, this modest bunkhouse in the woods grew into an extraordinary family retreat.

Materials enhance this natural connection, reflecting the silvery hues of the overcast sky of the Pacific Northwest and tying the building to the forest floor.

The living room’s large wall of glass frames a view of the adjoining grassy field and Puget Sound, visually blending indoors and outdoors.

Cabin at Longbranch | Olson Kundig

Cabin at Longbranch | Olson Kundig

Cabin at Longbranch | Olson Kundig

Simple, readily available materials were used throughout: wood-framed walls are sheathed in plywood or recycled boards, and doubled pairs of steel columns support beams that in turn support exposed roof structures.

Cabin at Longbranch | Olson Kundig

Cabin at Longbranch | Olson Kundig

Cabin at Longbranch | Olson Kundig

Credits

Posted By
Architect
  • Olson Kundig
Photographer

Overview

Structure
  • House (Single Residence)
  • Style
  • Modern