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Buck Mountain cabin perched cliffside to soak in views of the San Juan Islands

contemporary mountain cabin exterior

Heliotrope Architects designed this contemporary mountaintop cabin to take advantage of the spectacular setting of Buck Mountain while also preserving it. Nestled into the steep hillside, this Orcas Island hideaway lies in the heart of the San Juan Islands in Washington State. The site brought about several challenges, this included a steep grade and a narrow clearing created by a rocky outcropping.

Initially, the firm was approached to consult on site selection, however, they encouraged the the clients to focus on features unique to the San Juans such as grassy basalt rock outcroppings set within a Douglas fir and pacific madrone forest. The owners later purchased a hillside parcel possessing these features, the rock outcroppings forming a small clearing.

DESIGN DETAILS: ARCHITECTURE & INTERIORS Heliotrope Architects CONTRACTOR Tye Contracting Inc. LANDSCAPE DESIGN Native Landscapes CABINETRY Space Theory

contemporary mountain cabin exterior

Rather than remove trees to open the view, the firm embraced the existing conditions as they found them. The compression created by this natural opening heightens the water view in the main living spaces, while giving bedrooms and bathrooms a sense of being deep in the forest.

contemporary mountain cabin exterior

The cedar-clad home, anchored to basalt at one end, floats out into the tree canopy, 22 feet above ground, to embrace expansive views on the other side. An intentional quietness to the architecture emphasizes the landscape and takes subtle features into account, like the glow on the hillside that lights up the space each evening as the sun is setting.

contemporary mountain cabin exterior

Pocketing sliding doors at either end allows for fluid movement and minimizes the distinction between interior and exterior. Sleeping and bathing spaces are oriented toward more intimate views into the forest and rocky hillside to the north.

contemporary mountain cabin outdoor patio with a view

These spaces take advantage of a north-south cross-slope with views out to the hillside, its reflected light lending a warm quality to these more intimate spaces.

contemporary mountain cabin exterior

The home needed to be economical, durable, and weather well over time. Toward that end, the firm avoided precious or complicated materials and systems and focused on simple utility, which harmonized well with the overall aesthetic.

contemporary mountain cabin entry

The 1,527-square-foot building form is purposefully simple in expression, with large protective overhangs and south-facing clearstory windows providing for winter solar heat gain.

contemporary living room with a fireplace

The material palette, consisting of solid-body stained wood, concrete floors, and sheetrock: is simple and durable. Site disturbance was minimized, and tree removal was avoided, by limiting the building footprint and required excavation.

contemporary living room

This was achieved through an efficient floorplan and the use of cantilevers and point-load columns with minimized footings, poured without excavation on exposed bedrock.

contemporary living room with a fireplace

What We Love: This Black Mountain cabin is idyllically perched to provide sweeping views of its natural surroundings. High above a tree canopy, the tranquil setting is maximized throughout with large walls of glazing. We love the concept of the kitchen and living area connected to a cantilevered deck (which also helps to limit ground disturbance) that overlooks the rugged beauty of the San Juans.

Tell Us: What are your overall thoughts on the design of this home? Let us know in the Comments, we enjoy reading your feedback!

Note: Have a look at a couple of other fabulous home tours that we have featured here on One Kindesign from the portfolio of the architects of this project, Heliotrope Architects: This black cabin in the San Juan Islands takes shelter in the woods and Striking modern shelter welcomes dramatic views over Lake Washington.

contemporary dining room with a forest view

contemporary kitchen with a view

Above: The kitchen features black granite countertops, black-stained oak cabinetry and metal panelling for the island. The flooring is concrete.

contemporary kitchen

contemporary mountain cabin outdoor patio with a view

contemporary mountain cabin exterior

contemporary mountain cabin exterior

contemporary hallway

contemporary dining room

contemporary dining room

contemporary bedroom with a view

contemporary bedroom with a view

contemporary bedroom with a view

contemporary mudroom entry

contemporary mountain cabin exterior

contemporary mountain cabin exterior

contemporary mountain cabin patio detail

contemporary mountain cabin patio detail

contemporary mountain cabin patio detail

contemporary mountain cabin exterior

contemporary mountain cabin exterior at dusk

contemporary mountain cabin exterior detail

contemporary mountain cabin exterior at dusk

contemporary mountain cabin exterior

contemporary mountain cabin exterior

PHOTOGRAPHER Taj Howe​ and Sean Airhart

contemporary mountain cabin floor plan

contemporary mountain cabin floor plan

contemporary mountain cabin elevation plan

contemporary mountain cabin section plan

One Kindesign has received this project from our submissions page. If you have a project you would like to submit, please visit our submit your work page for consideration!

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ellen reyes
3 months ago

I love, love, love this home! it makes my heart sing!

Michael D Keenoy
5 months ago

What a great treat to see this project. It seems ecological, economical, well thought out, and a perfect place to enjoy a great view. There are communal areas and private areas, the outside blends to the inside, and this “cabin” utilizes a site that most people would overlook.
The drawings are extremely useful in understanding the project and I want to thank the owners for sharing their private paradise with us.
One question…why do I often see the supporting cantilever beams left long, sticking out more than what I see as necessary?