Located on Guemes Island overlooking the Bellingham Channel, this two-story bunkhouse provides additional sleeping accommodations for a repeat client’s family cabin. Intended for rest, quiet work, and lasting memories, the new bunkhouse will be passed down in the family for generations to come.
The bunkhouse sits less than ten feet uphill from the property’s 100-year-old log cabin, approximately 150 feet up the sloping lot from the shore. The cabin was originally built on Lopez Island and later dismantled and floated over to Guemes Island in the 40s. Unique to neighboring properties, the cabin is located just inside the treeline instead of at the water’s edge. The result feels private and secluded while capturing views to the west. The new bunkhouse mirrors this strategy, positioned to minimize disturbance to the forested site and frame views from the second floor.
The new bunkhouse is positioned above an existing well house that had run dry. One primary aspect of the project, in addition to creating a structure that accommodates friends and family, was to decommission the well and install a rainwater catchment and potable water system. A new septic system is installed uphill of the bunkhouse and out of the floodplain to ensure the system will better withstand climate change and rising sea levels. Tying the bunkhouse to infrastructure projects is key to the long-term use of the property.
The program called for comfortably accommodating as many family and friends as possible in a compact structure with water views. Requirements included sleeping quarters, a bathroom, a kitchenette, and a workspace. The narrow lot and existing trees drive a compact, two-story solution, with the benefit that the upper level looks over the cabin to the water. A covered porch leads to the bunkhouse entry and lower level comprised of a kitchenette, a built-in desk, and a bathroom designed to accommodate multiple users simultaneously. A central set of stairs leads to a second-floor sitting area designed around a large skylight affording views of the forest canopy and Bellingham Channel. Flanking the social space on either end are sleeping quarters.
The bunkhouse is designed to reference the rustic log cabin and the half-round log siding on the original well house. Two types of exterior cladding distinguish the lower and upper halves: Disdero Cabin Log Siding on the lower level and 1×6 Tongue and Groove Rough Sawn Western Red Cedar Ship Cladding on the upper level, both stained black. The profile of the log siding inspired curved details on the rafter tails and bunk bed ladders.
The design incorporates low-maintenance materials including stainless steel, plywood, and sheet marmoleum, and employs built-in casework throughout. A horizontal strip of windows frames the forest as occupants move up the stairs to the second floor. The U-shaped sitting area is designed for casual conversation, a quiet place to read a book, and when needed, can comfortably sleep three. On either side, wood screens provide privacy for the two sleeping wings, each outfitted with a built-in queen bed, bunkbed, and storage solutions. The bunkhouse’s gable roof references the original cabin’s traditional form while its asymmetrical overhang formally contains the second-floor sitting area and collects water for the potable water system.