False Bay Writer’s Cabin, San Juan Island

False Bay Writer’s Cabin, Washington Building, New US Property Images, Architecture

False Bay Writer’s Cabin on San Juan Island

post updated March 31, 2024

Architects: Olson Kundig

Location: San Juan Islands, Washington, USA

False Bay Writers Cabin San Juan Island
photo © Tim Bies / Olson Kundig

Nov 26, 2020

False Bay Writer’s Cabin

This five-hundred-square-foot cabin serves as a private writer’s retreat and guest cottage. The owners of False Bay Writer’s Cabin asked for a space that felt connected to its island setting—the mild climate, scenic views, and proximity to wildlife. At the same time, they needed a structure that could be easily secured when not in use.

False Bay Writers Cabin San Juan Island
photo © Tim Bies / Olson Kundig

The cabin was designed as a glass house surrounded by three wooden slat decks that can be raised—through a system of hydraulic winches, wire rope, pivoting sheaves, and lead blocks—to serve as shutters.

False Bay Writers Cabin San Juan Island

False Bay Writers Cabin San Juan Island
photos © Tim Bies / Olson Kundig

Open, the shutter decks are outdoor living space, connecting to the cabin’s interior through tall windows and sliding doors; closed, they secure the cabin.

False Bay Writers Cabin San Juan Island

False Bay Writers Cabin San Juan Island
photos © Tim Bies / Olson Kundig

The fireplace rotates 180 degrees to be enjoyed indoors or out. An inverted roof with deep overhangs forces water to drain to the rear of the cabin.

False Bay Writers Cabin San Juan Island
photo © Tim Bies / Olson Kundig

“It is intended to be a shelter of extremes, open or closed, the architect says. “In order to feel cold, you have to feel hot; in order to feel safe, you have to feel at risk. Contrast is the true measure of a complete experience.”

False Bay Writers Cabin San Juan Island
photo © Benjamin Benschneider

Inside, the cabin is essentially a single room with a modest back area housing a bathroom and kitchenette. It is a small, contemplative shelter that can morph to suit the needs of the writer: introspection or complete openness.

False Bay Writers Cabin San Juan Island
photo © Tim Bies / Olson Kundig

Finishes are restrained, punctuated only by a blackened steel inlay that bisects the floor from the fireplace to the slot window at the rear of the cabin.

False Bay Writers Cabin San Juan Island
photo © Aaron Leitz

A rack attached to the back of the cabin organizes the owners’ kayaks. When the murphy bed is lowered, the transformation from writer’s retreat to guest cottage is complete.

False Bay Writers Cabin San Juan Island
photo © Tim Bies / Olson Kundig

False Bay Writer’s Cabin on San Juan Islands, Washington – Building Information

Architects: Olson Kundig

Project Team: Tom Kundig, FAIA, RIBA, design principal; Kirsten R. Murray, FAIA, project principal; Paul Schlachter, LEED AP, project manager; Todd Matthes, project staff
Contractor: Lowe Construction
Consultants and Craftspeople: MCE Structural Consultants, Inc. (structural engineering); Turner Exhibits (shutter decks); Sara Steinfeld Ltd. (interior design); Island Gardens (landscape design); Gem Welding (steel fabrication)

False Bay Writers Cabin San Juan Island
photo © Aaron Leitz

Location: San Juan Island, Washington
Completed: 2010
Size: 500 SF

False Bay Writers Cabin San Juan Island
photo © Tim Bies / Olson Kundig

Photography: Tim Bies / Olson Kundig, Aaron Leitz and Benjamin Benschneider

Olson Kundig Architects

False Bay Writer’s Cabin on San Juan Island, Washington images / information received 140119

Location: San Juan Islands, Washington, USA

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