An Island Retreat in the San Juans

Designers: James Ferris & Caroline Di Diego
Photographer: Peter Kerze, May 2006
(Low res images attached. High res scans
or transparencies available.
This project has not been published.)

Program: Create an island waterfront retreat
that reflects an eclectic lifestyle

This was especially challenging since the existing 10-year-old tract-style house had conflicting architectural details, including stuccoed Spanish arches and a carved oak Victorian farmhouse entry.
The resulting design is a fusion of architectural styles blending themes from traditional northwest culture with Asian images.

The Japanese influenced bathrooms and inside shoji skylights are reflected in the outside, tori-like arbor and enclosed entrance garden. The designer's collection of contemporary northwest masks—combined with a few choice European antiques—create a counterpoint to the iconic modern furniture.

To offset the grey of Pacific Northwest winters, vivid sunset colors were chosen to illuminate the interior and afford warmth and drama in every season. Perched at the waters edge and surrounded by sun-bleached grasses, bamboo and towering firs, at night the house glows like a Japanese lantern.

The designers incorporated reclaimed lumber from Northwest buildings (often over 100 years old), to pay homage to Northwest culture and history, as well as to limit the impact of new construction on the environment. By doing so, the contractor estimated that as many as 60 trees were saved from cutting. The roof, a composite product made from recycled automobile tires, eliminated nearly 900 tires from landfills or being burned with the resultant air pollution issues. Construction lumber from the on-site demolition was reused where appropriate, and lighting and plumbing fixtures donated to other island residences and cabins. The majority of new lumber required was harvested from sustainable planted forests. The story of early Northwest architectures is quite evident from the ‘patina of use’ displayed throughout, with materials from buildings at the Port of Seattle, Port of Portland, Esquimalt Naval Base in Victoria, BC, and sawmill sheds in Port Alberni, BC, and Hood River, Oregon.

The budget constraints for the project offered their own challenges, and encouraged the reconfiguration and reuse of existing items where possible. In some cases ‘facades’ were created in place of outright demolition and rebuilding. The designer/owners plans enabled the program to avoid adding to the floor space, and few walls were eliminated or added. The wood and metal used in the design was usually left unfinished and allowed to fade, darken or tarnish naturally, resulting in beautiful natural patinas which, coincidentally, require very little maintenance.

The resulting design is a comfortable, easy to maintain island retreat, very suitable for entertaining, living and working. It is harmonious with the surroundings, within a community of Islands which are fast gaining recognition as one of the best places to live.

For additional information, please contact:

James Ferris Caroline Di Diego