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Case Inlet Retreat

MW|Works Architecture+Design

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Sara Johnson, Hanley Wood Media

Project Name

Case Inlet Retreat

Project Status



2,800 sq. feet

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Text by Ian Volner

The Pacific Northwest’s long tradition of a highly specific, localized variety of Modernism (stretching from Pietro Belluschi straight on through to Jim Olson, FAIA, and Tom Kundig, FAIA) has been one of America’s most significant contributions to global architecture—an outstanding example of what Kenneth Frampton, Assoc. AIA, would call “critical regionalism.” That tradition is being carried forward with aplomb by Seattle-based MW|Works Architecture+Design, whose Case Inlet Retreat has all the hallmarks of the phenomenon: Located on a 20-acre plot on the southern shore of Washington State’s Puget Sound, the building’s interior highlights natural wood finishes (including rough-hewn cedar bathroom walls) and features glass enclosures around the main living volume, maximizing views. The kitchen and adjoining patio share an ipe deck that further strengthens the connection between inside and out, and it’s all topped by a concrete slab that projects over the house’s western edge and functions as an upper-level terrace, reached via a delicate steel staircase, that affords sweeping views of the sound and the surrounding forest. The fixtures and furniture—from the outdoor grilling block, to the living room cabinetry, to the concrete kitchen counters—all rhyme in material, scale, and detailing with the house itself, making it a complete design environment that doesn’t seem forced or fussy. All in all, a remarkable example of the area’s favored stylistic mode, qualified with an urbane minimalism that seems entirely MW’s own.

Project Credits
Project: Case Inlet Retreat, Lakebay, Wash.
Client: Harry and Claudia Bray
Architect: MW|Works Architecture+Design, Seattle . Eric Walter, Steve Mongillo, AIA (principals); Suzanne Stefan
Structural Engineer: PCS Structural Solutions
General Contractor: Alford Homes
Size: 2,600 square feet
Cost: Withheld

This article appeared in the May 2016 issue of ARCHITECT magazine.

Project Description


Nestled into a forested slope along the eastern edge of the Case Inlet, this small retreat opens to a western view of the Olympic Mountains and the Puget Sound. Anchored by a weathered cedar clad bedroom wing, a bold concrete cantilever projects the living and dining into the dense forest and toward the view. An ipe deck slips from inside the kitchen into an open meadow to the south, separated only by large sliding glass doors extending the sense of interior directly to the outdoors. A broad flat roof hovers high above the living spaces creating the feeling that one is sitting outdoors amidst the trees. Smaller, thoughtfully placed apertures define the exterior of the bedroom volume, along with a single large opening belonging to the master bath to give the users a ritual of bathing within the forest. A balance of simple clean lines and rugged low maintenance materials, this modest retreat is a welcome sanctuary from the city.
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