Lone Madrone is a 1,600-square-foot vacation retreat located on a rocky, south-facing shoreline on Orcas Island, a horseshoe-shaped islet in the San Juan Islands archipelago off Washington state. The home’s green roof is landscaped with a variety of plants and vegetation that are both native and drought-tolerant, a feature that designers hoped would increase the biodiversity value of the area.

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wood home with grassy roof

The home, called Lone Madrone, is built for a family of four and is clad in wood. It utilizes a simple design to blend into its natural surroundings and mimic the hillside slope that hits behind it. What’s more, Lone Madrone is also tucked into a naturally forming depression in the shoreline landscape (known as “wedge shape geometry”) in order to diminish its visual impact and minimize exposure to the weather as well.

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wood home with glass walls revealing views of Pacific Ocean
gray sofa and blue chair near wall with built-in wood shelving

Although the living spaces are completely open to gardens on the northern side and water on the southern side via a custom lift sliding door mechanism, the bedrooms are built with much more privacy in mind. The private rooms are located on the forested slopes to the west, while the kitchen opens to the east. All of the main openings are paired with rolling wall panels to both provide security and protect the house from winter storms, given the extreme weather exposure of the site. A variety of local woods were used during construction, including douglas fir for the floors and trim, western red cedar for the siding, walls and ceilings, and pacific madrone for the interior furniture.

light wood kitchen in home with glass walls
large white bed near large window

The site itself is part of the San Juan Islands National Monument, characterized by its sensitive shoreline and marine environments. As a result, the designers incorporated their understanding of near-shore ecology as part of the design with a garden roof. The green roof features native plants to provide habitats for coastal insects, which have become a critical food source for local endangered Chinook salmon. According to the designers, the roof helped replace 90% of the vegetative footprint lost to construction. 

+ Heliotrope Architects

Photography by Sean Airhart via Heliotrope Architects

wood home with grassy roof lit from within at night