An atmospheric residence that sits above the shore of the Salish Sea

Over decades, this once-forested rural slice of land had its center carved out and its length severed by a series of retaining walls straining to hold back the sloping earth. An aging suburban home sat uncomfortably at the promontory.

With an affection for the Key Peninsula (Washington State) developed through 35 years of visits to a small beach cabin nearby, mwworks‘ clients were enthusiastically engaged in the process of creating a home on this slice of land. They envisioned a new home for themselves, a bunch of foster dogs, a few horses, and visiting family and friends. Longbranch is a home designed to be overlooked. 

From the country road, a gravel drive wanders towards the house passing an unassuming new barn. In the distance, where the slope drops away, only a glimpse of the house can be seen. Nearing it, the planted roof appears as a continuation of the ground plane. That small patch of meadow grass has already become the habitat for a colony of frogs and a favored perch for a variety of birds. While, like stones firmly settled in a streambed, the house does influence the path of the terrain flowing between and through, the landscape is always the primary force.

Towering firs stand as enormous columns at the entry. Pin piles and grade beams carefully cross above tree roots so that the building and forest can share the same ground. A bridge extends into the house, spanning an ambiguous area that seems to be both nature and structure. These points of confluence emphasize the continuous connection between the built and natural environments. 

As the front door opens, so does the view through the house, revealing the nature of the structure as well as the promontory and view toward Case Inlet below. Each room offers its own connection to the landscape, sometimes intimate in scale, sometimes expansive. Today, the forest and meadow are reintegrated and together they embrace Longbranch, a family home with the serenity, warmth and timelessness that comes from the layering of authentic materials with attention to craft and detail.

The building emulates the form of the landscape with clearings and columns, masses and voids. Primary structural masses are cast with a loose concrete mix that expresses the fluid nature of the material contrasted with the surrounding ragged aggregate. Private spaces are clad in dark-stained cedar and locally sourced Douglas Fir beams make up the timber frame pavilion floating between those solids. At the living pavilion, delicate glazing is held apart from the heavy frame, minimally enclosing the space and expressing the nature of the assemblies. The forest and meadow have been reintegrated, embracing the home in nature.

Design and info © mwworks

Images © Andrew Pogue

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