Hoedemaker Pfeiffer recently designed Hillside Sanctuary, a retreat in the San Juan Islands, Washington. The owner of this property came to Hoedemaker Pfeiffer looking for a personal retreat inspired by a home lost to fire decades earlier in the hills of Appalachia. The firm's task was not to recreate that home but rather to give its spirit new form in the Pacific Northwest.
Taking inspiration from its remote site in the San Juan Islands, the design team envisioned a series of simple stone volumes. From that concept emerged the main house and a guest house, each responding to its own unique location on the site. Together they provide friends and family with comfortable accommodation while offering a sanctuary for the owner at the main home.
Taking full advantage of sweeping views of Puget Sound, the main home is sited on a small plateau high on top of a steeply-sloping hillside. With a view on one side and a road on the other, the site suggested a stone plinth and stone wall to form the base and rear of the house. A pair of stone fireplace volumes support the concept, rising together to form the boundaries of a central stone staircase that separates the main level into public and private realms. Atop the low stone base then perches a light-filled wood structure. Its simple shed roof tips low in front to protect from the summer sun while offering space for a photovoltaic array above. Winter light, in turn, penetrates deep into the main living spaces through a wall of glass running continuously across building's south elevation. The relative height difference between this wood pavilion and that of the adjacent stone volume also allows consistent north light to flood into the primary living spaces via a series of clerestory windows, which release warm air high on the leeward side of the structure.
The site for the guest house came with more significant technical challenges. The concept begins with a stone tower set near the center of the small circular parcel. Rising high above steeply-sloping grade, it acts as a three-dimensional datum through which feature program elements are allowed to puncture. The main entry offers ease of access to the project's public spaces through a simple, full-height opening cut into the stone volume's north elevation. The stair, comprised of a concrete base below large casement windows, allows natural light to fill the main stairway as it leads guests toward the bedrooms located at the home's lower level. Opposite the entry, the view deck extends from the great room, cantilevering far above grade. The dining room, finally, was conceived as a three-sided glass object floating in a forest of trees. Two steel beams carry its entire weight and extend deep into the floor system. To enhance the concept, the team preserved trees only a few feet from the dining room by developing custom retaining walls capable of avoiding critical root zones.
Photography: Kevin Scott