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Sibling Rivalry

Designs Northwest Architects

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Dan Nelson




Tom & Mida O'Connor & Rand & Kate Hannon


  • Dan Nelson
  • Tom Rochon


  • Structural Engineer: RB Engineering
  • Interior Designer: H2K Design
  • General Contractor: James Hall & Associates
  • Other: Lucas Henning Photography

Project Status


Year Completed




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Project Description


While they were growing up, Tom O’Connor and his sister Kate Hannon, spent their summers at a small Cabin owned by their father on the west side of Camano Island, Washington. The beach front property offered great views and easy access to the water for boating, fishing and crabbing. Tom and Kate inherited the property jointly from their father. Rather than let the property become a source of division between them they decided to subdivide the property into two sections. Tom took the lower half of the property next to the water and Kate took the upper portion near the road with the cabin on it. When they reached retirement both siblings decided that they would like to retire on the property and they desired to design their houses to compliment each other and preserve the natural attributes of the site from both portions of the property.


Both the O’Connor and Hannon families intended to make their homes into their primary residences. However there was still a desire for the property to remain as a destination place for family gatherings. They expressed a desire to design and build their homes together so that they coalesced both visually and functionally. They wanted the property to be a destination for family “revelry” rather than a source of “rivalry”.


The architects devised a scheme which gave each family, distinct residences with their own private areas but also allowed the two structures to interact through an intervening courtyard. The Courtyard becomes the main gathering space for large family events and guests can filter from the space into either of the houses. In order to preserve views from the Hannon Property, The O’Connor house is dug into the hillside with the main living spaces located a floor level below the shared courtyard. On the upper level, a large glass overhead glass door opens up the entire back wall and exposes an ancillary kitchen which services the courtyard. This also allows views from the courtyard straight through the interior of the O’Connor house to the water. Both residences were designed with the intent to be sensitive to the nautical and northwest heritage of the site. The Hannon House is made up of a single slope roof. The stair tower is an abstract reference to lighthouse architecture. The House makes use of wood timber arbors and has an outdoor fireplace to accentuate the outdoor lifestyle of the Hannon’s. The O’Connor House uses steel cable rails and wooden timber trellises and uses roof forms reminiscent of a tug boat wheel house.
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