seattle-based architecture firm mwworks presents its whidbey island farm retreat, situated on a rural washington state’s whidbey island. out of respect for the turn-of-the-century agricultural buildings located on the site, the home tucks into the edge of a densely forested hillside, overlooking chicken sheds, a weathered red barn, cattle fields and a fishing pond. the house appears intentionally modest and humble from the valley, deferential to the pastoral farmlands below. the house was designed as both retreat and part-time residence for a growing family with strong local roots going back several generations on the island. while designed to be comfortable for two, the house accommodates up to twenty people, with a four-bedroom main house and a complete bunkhouse for guests.

mwworks whidbey island
all images by kevin scott



mwworks divides the programs of its whidbey island farm retreat into discrete volumes, woven between an array of large douglas fir trees and wrapped around a courtyard of native plantlife. a low wall of stacked local basalt stone organizes the volumes and subtly defines the perimeter of the courtyard. the courtyard becomes the visual and physical link between the different volumes, providing access and connection, but offering separation and retreat when desired. the rustic gravel approach to the house meanders through the dense and dark evergreens, opening to the house and layered views of the courtyard and trees. at the owner’s request, intense care and effort during design and construction placed the protection of the trees over construction expediency.

mwworks whidbey island



several of the interiors doors and wall art are carved solid cedar slabs crafted decades ago by the family patriarch as a young doctor filling his time between patients, instilling a meaningful connection between the family’s past and present. the new solid plank cedar master bedroom door is designed as a future carving project for the owner, in between his days working the land, clearing brush, and raising organic cattle in the meadow below. with a palette of naturally weathered woods, concrete, locally quarried stone walls, deep oak window jambs, solo plaster walls, and black steel accents, the house strives to be warm and rustic yet simple, clear, and open—a house that honors both the timelessness of the forest and agricultural heritage of the site.

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project info:


project title: whidbey island farm retreat

architecture: mwworks

location: whidbey island, washington state, USA

design team: steve mongillo, drew shawver, eric walter, briony walker, suzanne stefan

general contractor: dovetail general contractors

structural engineer: PCS structural solutions

landscape design: kenneth philp landscape architects

photography: kevin scott