Mwworks created a warm and rustic, but modern home on Whidbey Island for a multigenerational family to enjoy. Whidbey Island Farm Retreat is a gorgeous getaway that carefully winds its way among Douglas firs the family wanted to protect. It also won the AIA National Honors and Awards 2020 Housing Award and the AIA Northwest and Pacific Region Honor Awards 2019 Honor Award.
The owners of Whidbey Island Farm Retreat are a senior couple who reside at the home full-time. According to the designers, the retreat was “built for summer barbecues, fishing retreats and family gatherings with their three adult children, multiple teenage grandchildren and guests, accommodating up to twenty people.”
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Furthermore, the home is intentionally placed between Douglas firs on a wooded hillside to protect the local trees and undergrowth as much as possible. It was also built to keep a low profile relative to the surrounding pastoral lands. Located near turn-of-the-century agricultural buildings, the house has views of chicken sheds, an old red barn, fields and a fishing pond.
“The house was designed to be flexible and durable, and reflect the layered history both of the site and of the family itself,” said Steve Mongillo, principal and cofounder of mwworks.
Additionally, the living pavilion is a favorite of the designers for its architectural details and the experience of connection between family, forest and the agricultural valley.
“Time here is marked by forest shadows stretching across the courtyard to the north, and by cows moving across the pasture below,” said Mongillo. “The timeless beauty of the site is revered and reflected inside this room with local, durable materials and natural finishes.”
Using a mix of traditional stem wall, pin piles and shallow in-wall beams to span over and dodge critical roots, the designers preserved the surrounding forest with a specially-engineered foundation for the stone walls. The trees that were felled to build the house are used as lumber for the farm, cattle fencing, seasonal firewood for the fireplace and the new fire pit by the meadow.
Continuing throughout the design, the form of the house is broken down into discrete, small volumes that weave between an array of large fir trees. The home wraps around a courtyard of native ferns and shrubs, which was created with a low stacked wall of local basalt.
In addition, several interior doors and wall art were carved from solid cedar slabs crafted decades ago by the family patriarch.
As a result, the effect of the house is tranquility. Naturally-weathered woods combined with concrete and local stones create a sturdy outer shell accented by oak window jambs, soft plaster walls and black steel. Its a design that, while extremely modern, is intended to be low-maintenance, long-lasting and cost-effective for the owners.
Photography by Kevin Scott