Erin and Bob Christie had long dreamed of a getaway home in the San Juan Islands, where Erin spent childhood summers at her grandparents’ cabin. But they also needed extra room for frequent houseguests, including their grown children, and space was limited in their 2,400-square-foot, 1941 Magnolia home. They didn’t want to move, but Erin was thinking about an art studio, a greenhouse, perhaps a party pavilion—and they had a huge backyard.
So she started imagining possibilities and eventually connected with architecture firm Bosworth Hoedemaker. “They’ve done some beautiful work up in the islands, and it was important to me that the site was well considered. That drew me to them,” Erin says of the architecture firm.
With Erin’s wish list in mind, architect Steve Hoedemaker tackled the limitations imposed by city codes and zoning and came up with an 18-by-34-foot rectangle to sit at the north end of the Christies’ yard. The finished structure, which the Christies call “the cabin,” is just 40 feet from their back door, but set at a lower grade in a formerly underused area. It serves as a guest cottage (sleeping as many as six), dining pavilion (seating up to 18), yoga studio, party space, and vacation escape. “We designed something that gave the appearance of simplicity while having the benefit of complexity,” Hoedemaker says. “I thought of it as a Swiss Army knife.”
“This may be a crazy idea, but I have this fantasy of building a vacation house in my backyard.”
The cabin’s 600 square feet are extraordinarily efficient. Four small rooms in each of the corners serve specific needs: bathroom, kitchen, store room, and compact bedroom with a platform bed. The spacious main room features a Milestone fireplace with bench seats below skylights on either side; the benches flip up to reveal storage beneath and are long enough for sleeping. Clerestory windows let natural light stream into the room year round. The room is flanked by bookshelves, and a pullout queen-size bed can disappear beneath one set, tucking under the platform bed in the adjacent bedroom.
Its whitewashed brick exterior complements the main house, but its spirit feels far removed. Three sets of French doors let in southern light and open the central room to a sunken courtyard designed to resemble a pebble beach, complete with weathered wood furniture and a fire pit. Stained concrete floors, and clear-grain fir paneling further contribute to the cabin feel. “I call it the beach because it has all that loose gravel in there,” Erin says. “I love it. It sounds like the beach; it feels like the beach.”
Published: July 2013