Fascinating modern dwelling on the San Juan Islands


Tucked between a thicket of trees and a rising bank on the San Juan Islands, Washington, Shadowboxx sits in a natural clearing created by the strong winds that force back the trees from the rocky bank. Designed by Olson Kundig Architects, the house responds to a desire to facilitate an intimate understanding of this special place and explores the tradition of gathering around a fire. The building purposely confuses the traditional boundaries between a built structure and its surroundings. Its masses are modeled by winds off the water, exterior cladding is allowed to weather and rust, and shifting doors, shutters, walls and roofs constantly modulate the threshold between inside and outside.

Here is a description of the project from the architects, “Inside the home, a gallery runs the length of the house with rooms spilling off of it. Two 15 foot by 10 foot steel clad doors slide open to reveal the main living space, named the cloud room for its ever-changing atmospherics. A glass-walled bunkroom, it contains six custom-designed rolling platforms that serve both as sofas and beds and enable the room to morph and accommodate different functions. Exterior awning shutters facing the water can be closed for protection from the elements or for security when the owner is away.”

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A guest room sits at one end of the house, and the bathhouse at the other. The bathhouse is topped by a 16×20’ roof that opens the room like a cigar box at the push of a button.




Materials with a strong tactility are used throughout the house, including rammed earth floors, reclaimed oak floorplanks, unpainted gypsum board and steel walls, corrugated steel siding and roofing, and reclaimed scaffolding planks for the ceiling.

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Photos: Jason Schmidt

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