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Hearth & Home August 2017

In the foreground, a pool (with hot tub); at the center a glacial erratic now enlisted as a place to set a drink; to its left the kitchen and living room, to the right the drive-in movie theater and guest bedroom.
Photos Courtesy: ©2017 Olson Kundig Architects. Benjamin Benschneider Photography.


By Richard Wright

In this vacation home in the northern Cascades, Tom Kundig has created both a structure and a lifestyle, and an irresistible force to be outside.
The northern Cascades have a climate that ranges from hot, fire-prone summers to winters with a heavy snowpack.

In the 60-mile long Methow Valley, in the northern Cascades in the state of Washington, architect Tom Kundig, in collaboration with his client, created a second home that promotes (mandates?) outdoor living. The concept was to create a home that would take advantage of the four seasons, and provide adventures for the entire family. Those adventures would, in turn, provide memories through the years.

Like tents around a campfire, four small, unattached structures are scattered around a central courtyard and pool; the buildings are arranged to frame carefully composed views of the surrounding Studhorse Ridge and Pearrygin Lake (which explains the name of the house – Studhorse).

Kundig believes his task is to create an experience of place. Thus boundaries between the built structures and their surroundings are purposefully blurred, forcing the owners to experience the site and nature. All four buildings are positioned to spill open to the central courtyard; this is a design oriented toward family and entertaining.

“In this location, a house that’s all about adventure is one that forces you to be outside and engage actively with the seasons,” says Kundig. “You have to go outside to get inside.”

“The ‘public’ areas, such as the family room, kitchen, and bar, are grouped together in a structure that opens up almost entirely, with sliding glass windows all along the walls. The master bedroom, kid’s bedroom, and den are in another building.

“A third (building) is for guest rooms, to allow guests their privacy. A sauna is in a fourth building with a private, framed view looking out over the valley.”

In the center of the courtyard is a huge rock, a vestige of a retreating glacier. “It became the center point for the project,” says Kundig. “It’s relatively close to the bar, so it becomes a place to sit, or to set a drink on. I thought of it as a big piece of furniture.”

The design embraces family life and entertaining. For example, one wall with a TV can either face inside or open up to face the courtyard. If there’s a game on, everyone can watch from the pool area (or from a pickup truck if the spirit moves you).

The kitchen bar where everyone hangs out; just push a button and the walls open up!
Inside the bar/kitchen area; the barbecue grill is around the corner.

“There’s also a Coney Island aspect to the bar,” he says, “where you push a button and the walls open up. It has turned out to be a particularly successful part of the architecture. Everybody hangs out naturally at the bar, and the fact that you can open it up is important to the inside-outside relationship we were seeking to achieve.”

The wood siding used throughout the project was salvaged from an old barn in Spokane. The varying tones of the wood reveal its history and use.

“The glass is very important,” says Kundig, “I have never liked being in a room that doesn’t feel like part of the outside. I like to concentrate glass – rather than sprinkling it around like pepper – making a vivid connection to the landscape.

“Over time, as the wood and steel weather, the home will become more and more muted in appearance, blending into the landscape.”

Olson Kundig Architects, 159 South Jackson Street, Suite 600, Seattle, Washington, 98104. Phone: (206) 624-5670,

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