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methow madness

After decades of designing retreats in Washington's Methow Valley, Ray and Mary Johnston, FAIA, decided it was time to do a place of their own.

methow madness

After decades of designing retreats in Washington's Methow Valley, Ray and Mary Johnston, FAIA, decided it was time to do a place of their own.

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    Tall windows frame views of earth and sky, letting the compact cabin live beyond its walls. Expansive overhangs shade the abundant glazing and protect the porch from heavy snowfalls.

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    first floor

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    second floor

After decades of designing retreats in Washington's Methow Valley, Ray and Mary Johnston, FAIA, decided it was time to do a place of their own. “We designed a cabin here 20 years ago for a client who invited us to use it often, and we did,” laughs Ray Johnston, AIA. After finding the right site, the architects and their two kids camped on it for years—always moving the tent around to find the best spot. Waiting was worth it. The cabin rests on a rise nestled in rolling hills and faces vistas of the expansive valley, its eponymous river, and the Cascade mountains. “Having studied the site's microclimates means the house impacts solar conditions in a good way,” Johnston adds, “so now we can have a vegetable garden.”

Keeping that camping vibe was key in designing the 1,200-square-foot house. A full-length veranda adds 400 square feet of al fresco living, and a frost-free outdoor shower gets used year-round. The cabin's original footprint was intended to be even smaller, but a last-minute loft addition made way for more sleeping berths and a second bathroom. The extra space is a big draw for the couple's 20-something son and daughter, who often bring friends along. “We had 10 people here for New Year's, and everyone was comfortable,” Johnston says

The loft also generates intimate spaces on both levels, providing a dropped ceiling over the couple's sleeping nook as a counterpoint to the vaulted living areas. Similarly purposeful contrasts abound in material choices. Bamboo plywood applied in an oversized running-bond pattern is a slick foil to industrial web joists supporting the roof. Outside, rough-hewn log columns hold up a deep overhang and add a rustic touch to metal mesh shades and steel-framed glazing. Even the veranda decking changes from smooth cedar planks to raw concrete as it steps down to meet the rocky terrain.

Having worked and played for years in the Methow, as locals call it, it's no wonder the Johnstons struck just the right balance between roughing it and relaxing in style.

project: Twisp Cabin, Twisp, Wash.

architect: Johnston Architects, Seattle

general contractor: Tim Anderson Construction, Winthrop, Wash.

project size: 1,200 square feet

site size: 11 acres

construction cost: $150 per square foot

photography: Will Austin Photography

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