Weekend Cabin: San Juan Island, Washington

Sometimes the site encourages form and sometimes it dictates. The Weaving Studio on San Juan Island is located on 3.4-acre parcel of land that’s quite steep and nearly solid rock. Indeed, the only patches of flat terrain were already used for access, parking, and an existing structure. That forced architect Geoff Prentiss to explore higher up the hill until he could find enough of a shelf on which to place the studio. Even then, there were challenges.

“The form of the building was a matter of what was available on that shelf,” he said. “We wanted all the rooms to have a direct view but there was not sufficient length available. Therefore a subset building was built behind the rectangle of the main space, a few steps higher, allowing those rooms to look out and over the main room.”

The needs of the client also dictated form.

“The clients, a professional weaver and her husband, nearing a full-time move to San Juan, requested a studio space which would house all of her weaving tools: looms, dying facilities, a sewing/assembly area, and an office. It would also act as a gallery for her work as well as a meeting space for her weaving guild meetings, and in addition to the weaving studio requirements, the clients also requested an overflow bedroom for guests.

“The solution is a generous main studio space flowing with natural light that provides ample space for various looms and display while maintaining incremental views of the Sound. The auxiliary spaces have been defined by the folding back of the exterior shell: to one end a bath and office, to the other the dye room. To prevent the dye fumes from permeating the rest of the studio, the dye room can be closed off from the main studio and opened to the exterior. Two additional spaces, the sewing room and a guest bedroom appear as an extrusion of the main volume, embedded into the hillside behind. A series of sliding doors act as display panels for weaving projects as well as hide or reveal access to the back rooms and storage cabinets.”

The studio was completed in 2010 and is 1,250 square feet. It’s a nice blend of natural (cedar cladding) and man-made (metal panels), of subtle darks and bright accent colors. And despite those white panels and a shape that is more geometric than organic, it blends in sweetly with the landscape, leaving, or perhaps weaving, a more subtle impact on the site.

Architect: Prentiss Architects

Photography by Jay Goodrich

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.

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