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photo of Tye River Cabin
Photo: Tim Bies / Olson Kundig

Tye River Cabin

Skykomish, Washington

Tye River Cabin

Skykomish, Washington

  • Design Principal

    Tom Kundig

Situated in a dense forest near the Tye River, this meditative retreat connects to the natural environment that surrounds it.

The square base of the two-level structure is rendered in cast-in-place concrete, as is the large central fireplace that serves as the core and anchor for the cabin. Custom-designed, pivoting glass windows swing open to reveal the corners and sides of the space, blurring the line between inside and outside. Rusted mild steel siding wraps the exterior areas not given over to windows. Deep overhangs shelter the main living area from the regular rain showers. Concrete patios extend the living space outdoors and follow the contours of the land toward the water.

The cabin is about being outdoors, not indoors. The two bedrooms and bathroom are just large enough to fulfill their functions. The wood used for construction—for rafters, flooring, window frames, and doors—was salvaged from an old warehouse slated for demolition. The varying tones of the wood reveal its history and use. Over time, the cabin will become more and more muted in appearance, blending in and eventually disappearing into the forest.

Tye River Cabin is essentially broken into four quadrants and discrete rooms; there’s a living room quadrant, a kitchen/bathroom quadrant and two bedroom quadrants. The cabin is located beside a river in an area of Washington State that’s almost a rainforest condition, so the fireplace is an essential element. The chimney is the hinge, in a sense, that gathers the parts and pieces of the home together – it’s a very important structural element that you’re constantly aware of inside. It’s the center of the house, literally and figuratively. Tom Kundig, FAIA, RIBA




AIA Northwest and Pacific Region Honor Awards, Merit Award


AIA National Housing Committee Awards, Committee Award

Chicago Athenaeum American Architecture Awards, American Architecture Award


AIA Seattle Honor Awards, Merit Award



Albert, Fred. “Small by Nature.” Metropolitan Home, June 2009, 100-107. Print.


Teagarden, Rebecca. “Retreat at the River.” Inhabit, Spring 2008, 21-26. Print.