Located in a floating home community on Portage Bay, just south of the University of Washington, Water Cabin establishes a cabin sensibility in an urban environment. Low to the water and small in stature, the home creates a platform from which to enjoy and engage with the surrounding waterway. A delicate galvanized steel structure supports generous roof planes and large areas of glazing that open to dramatic 180-degree views and blur the boundaries between indoor and outdoor spaces.
The home’s interior program is thoughtfully arranged across two levels to maximize connections to the surrounding marine environment. On the lower level, an open living space combines dining, kitchen and office functions, with a hidden murphy bed for guests. A glass corner and large sliding doors connect this space to exterior patios with rich Ipe wood decking, where large roof overhangs support year-round usability. The master suite on the upper level frames prospect views to the water and creates a cozy lookout, set back into the home’s footprint, for a sense of refuge. A roof deck and richly planted container garden continue the indoor/outdoor porosity established on the ground level, extending the bedroom outside.
Water Cabin’s materiality draws inspiration from the weathered informality of a cabin. Lightly stained knotty western red cedar exterior siding will weather over time with minimal maintenance. The siding’s thin, vertical wood slats are arranged in an irregular articulated pattern, recalling the random composition of trees in a forest. Durable, low-maintenance metal elements like galvanized steel and flame-sprayed zinc nod to the demanding marine environment. These metals will complement the color of the siding as it silvers with age, as well as the shifting blues and greys of the surrounding bay.
Wood continues to feature heavily throughout the home’s interior, with warm oak flooring and casework balanced by cooler silver and black metals. Russian birch plywood ceilings extend to exterior soffits, further breaking down barriers between indoor and outdoor spaces. Knotty wood wall finishes in the main stairwell – which also acts as a lightwell to capture natural daylight – and master suite likewise weave exterior materials into the home’s interior. This informal, low-contrast interior supports a sense of the home as an oasis, despite its location in a bustling community.
The horizontal lines of the building echo the flat plane of the lake in an effort to make it one with the site. The restrained color pallet also helps the house to fit quietly into its setting. Metal accents sparkle as they catch the light reflecting off the water and contrast with the natural quality of the wood.Jim Olson, FAIA