Combining Design Aesthetics for an Island Home – Fine Homebuilding

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Written By Jim J Neal

This island home is balanced between two landscapes—and two design languages. To the west are sweeping mountains and sound views; to the east are sunny rolling pastures. The clients asked for a house that recalls the familiar forms of nearby farm buildings with a modern twist more conducive to informal entertaining and indoor-outdoor living.

Speaking different design languages at the same time can result in a cacophony of competing styles. In this case, the architects chose to create a dialogue out of clear contrast, beginning with organizing the house into two simple, barnlike forms connected by a light-filled stair. The south half contains the main living spaces plus a suite with the owners’ bedroom, bathroom, walk-in closet, and workout space. The north half is largely reserved for guests—bedrooms, a bunkroom for grandkids, and a cozy media room for watching movies together.

Starting with traditional forms makes modern interventions more intelligible. For example, the “barns” feature windows and doors with traditional applied trim. The glass volumes carved out of them— stair, great room, and primary bath—have almost none. Steel structure and floor-to-ceiling sliding doors reinforce this distinction, thereby connecting the living and dining rooms to outdoor space, light, and views. At the finish level, clear contrasts are drawn between contemporary materials like solid-surface counters and frameless glass and ones with more texture like stone and oak. In the end, this careful negotiation of forms, details, and materials results in a harmonious whole.

living room

living room, dining room, and kitchen

table overlooking water view

Architect John DeForest, Michael Knowles, and Meredith Kelly; DeForest Architects;
Interior Design NB Design Group,
Location Whidbey Island, Wash.
Photos ©Tim Bies Photography

From Fine Homebuilding #313