Skip to Content
photo of Blakely Island Artist Studio
Photo: Aaron Leitz

Blakely Island Artist Studio

Blakely Island, Washington

Blakely Island Artist Studio

Blakely Island, Washington

  • Design Principal

    Jim Olson

An intimate study in scale, this compact 450 square-foot cabin makes the most of its remote site on a forested bluff overlooking the water in the San Juan Islands. Consisting essentially of a single room, the wood-framed cabin offers flexible space as a painting studio or a guesthouse. The back of the structure gently nestles into the hillside bounded by existing trees and boulders, enclosing a micro kitchen and bathroom. The front side cantilevers out over the slope, its open studio space circumscribed on three sides by floor-to-ceiling glass walls. The front wall breaks the square with a “magic” window that angles out to a point, opening the cabin to sweeping views of the water and islands beyond, along with creating an inspiring spot to set up an easel.

Though the interior space is minimal, the design merges the cabin into its forested site with doors opening to decks extending off either side, allowing the modest quarters to feel more expansive. Clerestory windows enhance the high ceiling and give the sloped roof the appearance of floating. These windows also allow additional light to flood the cabin, further adding to a feeling of openness. A low interior wall delineates the studio area from the kitchen and bathroom, while also providing storage space and shelving. Ultimately, when standing in this cabin, the awareness falls not on the interior spaces, but instead on the surrounding trees and the expansive seascape below.

I think of this small cabin as the 'child' of the 'mother bird' ‑ the main house, just up the hill. Each building is at one with the sky, poised to take flight across the water. Jim Olson, FAIA

Team