The principal architects of Miller/Hull are native Northwesterners, and their designs echo regional cues. “They view the region’s modest utilitarian structures – the lumber mills, fishnet-drying sheds and forest-fire watchtowers – with a modernist’s love of structural clarity, taut skins and industrial materials,” says Sheri Olson, an architect who also writes for the Seattle Times.
The Novotny Cabin was built two decades ago and from some angles can seem a very 1990s version of a cabin, while from others it appears perfectly timeless. From the water its distinctive, peaked roof looks decidedly Salem, Mass., circa 1600, and as a result locals have nicknamed the house, “The Witch’s Hat.”
The 840-square-foot structure is located in the San Juan Islands on Decatur Island, and is shared by two couples who alternate their visits there. Decatur Northwest, the development where the house is located, is a collection of several dozen architectural gems, with no house exactly alike. The entire 600-acre community is also owned in common; you buy in as a member, and share all of the land, which has been preserved in its wild state. Landscaping is strictly verboten, save in a tiny perimeter around each home. As is the case with much of the San Juans there’s good hiking, fantastic kayaking, fishing, and even singletrack on Decatur, although to visit the part of the island where the architecture is as compelling as the nature you’ll need an invitation, as Decatur Northwest is strictly private.
Weekend Cabin isn’t necessarily about the weekend, or cabins. It’s about the longing for a sense of place, for shelter set in a landscape…for something that speaks to refuge and distance from the everyday. Nostalgic and wistful, it’s about how people create structure in ways to consider the earth and sky and their place in them. It’s not concerned with ownership or real estate, but what people build to fulfill their dreams of escape. The very time-shortened notion of “weekend” reminds that it’s a temporary respite.