The Whidbey Island Farm retreat is our sustainable dream home! It beautifully meshes into a surrounding forest
By Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi
The 21st century’s call to action for a more sustainable planet has triggered both the public and private sphere to have a more conscious approach to the way we live. For this reason, green design and architecture have been booming. And the Whidbey Island Farm Retreat is only an excellent example of eco-architecture, but it may also be the most beautiful home we’ve ever seen.
Whidbey Island Farm Retreat: Working With The Forest
The Whidbey Island Farm Retreat is located just north of Seattle on Whidbey Island, which sits within the
Salish Sea in Washington state. The house received a 2020 National Housing Award from the American Institute of Architects for its incredible design, and with good reason. It beautifully incorporates itself into the surrounding forest, rekindling the rapport between we humans and Mother Earth.
One of the main objectives the project had was to preserve as many significant trees as possible on the property. Thus, the home is enveloped by an array of large Douglas Firs, as well as a courtyard of natural and native shrubs and ferns.
Generous, open windows blur the lines between indoors and outdoors. And since forests can be chilly places, a wood burning stove is the main source of heat for the home.
Why ‘farm retreat’ you may be asking? Well, there are some chicken sheds, a weathered red barn, cattle fields, veggie gardens and a fishing pond, allowing the inhabitants some self-sufficiency in terms of food.
Design That Glorifies Nature
The Whidbey Island Farm Retreat’s integrity stems not only from its ability to blend into its natural surroundings, but also for its practicality.
It was constructed to be durable and adaptable to the diverse needs of its inhabitants. It can accommodate up to twenty people, with a four-bedroom main house and a bunkhouse for grandchildren and guests. Durable, local building materials ensure its longevity and easy maintenance, thus reducing its life cycle cost.
Quarried stone walls, deep oak window jambs and black steel accents all make this house easily seem part of the forest it’s steeped in. Local basalt stone is the trait d’union between the indoors and outdoors, since it defines the perimeter of the courtyard. Wall art is made from carved solid cedar slabs, that were sourced nearby.
The patriarch of the family made these himself years ago, providing a profound connection with the family’s past, present and future. In fact, once you’re inside, you feel as though you’ve brought nature indoors!
A House Of Love
Another reason this minimalistic house is so well integrated into its environment is because the multi-generational family that owns it has strong local roots that go back several generations on the island. They adamantly wanted the Whidbey Island Farm Retreat to reflect their love of the land, and insisted on the protection of the trees over construction expediency. Very few trees perished in the making of this house.
The timeless beauty of the site was not only preserved, but was also reflected inside. The owner asked for the Whidbey Island Farm Retreat to be created using only local and natural finishes.
The mission was accomplished, and the result of how the indoors and outdoors magically blended together appealed to the owner so much, he had a custom bronze plaque made to display in the house. It lists every person who contributed to the house’s design and construction, and helped the owner fulfil his dream.
An idea as beautiful as the house itself!
Consultant Team for Whidbey Island Farm Retreat
Architect and Interior Design: mwworks
General Contractor: Dovetail General Contractors
Structural Engineer: PCS Structural Solutions
Landscape Design: Kenneth Philp Landscape Architects
Mwworks Design Team: Steve Mongillo, Drew Shawver, Eric Walter, Briony Walker, Suzanne Stefan
Photos of the house are by Kevin Scott