A North Cascades Escape
A small two-bedroom cabin on two acres near Mazama
When architect Ryan Stephenson, owner and design principal of Stephenson Design Collective, first received his assignment from a Seattle couple it seemed simple enough: Build a small two-bedroom cabin on two acres near Mazama in the North Cascades, four hours northeast of the city.
But upon closer examination, Stephenson noticed some serious complexities: The site is on a steep slope, subject to intense summer heat and heavy winter snow. Backed up to public land, it also faces a thick growth of ponderosa pines.
Undaunted, Stephenson worked with Tim Smith of Big Valley Builders to turn the potential complexity into a design opportunity. His clients envisioned the new home as a retreat from the bustle of Seattle. “They wanted to turn off for the weekend, so the question was: How could this place do that?” he explains. The solution? “We focused on views of the trees.” Averse to cutting into the hillside, Stephenson looked for a natural indentation. “The site has a 15-degree slope, so we used it to our advantage,” he says. “We found a depression in the hill for the lower level.”
The exterior materials of the 2,100-square-foot cabin blend easily with the colors and textures of the surrounding wilderness. Stephenson chose a palette of dark-stained western cedar, cold-rolled steel (which weathers to an attractive brownish-red), and durable concrete floors to withstand wet, muddy snow boots. A sloping roof, covered in snow for four months during winter, needs to support that weight until it melts in spring. So Stephenson chose Nu-Ray standing seam aluminum. “It solves all the problems—you snap it together and go,” he says. “There’s a 2:12 pitch on the roof, with no exposed fasteners that could lead to water penetration.” Above the ground-level media room and storage space is a huge deck with expansive views. “You sweep it off and it’s good to go,” the architect says.
While Stephenson designed the kitchen, bathrooms, built-ins and storage areas, the homeowners took the lead on selecting interior furnishings and décor. “They wanted something comfortable and easy,” Stephenson explains. “Although the house is very modern and utilitarian, the furniture is more of a farmhouse style that adds warmth and comfort.” The home’s west-facing interior spaces are simple and uncluttered, with furnishings by Restoration Hardware. White walls act as a neutral backdrop for the home’s natural finishes and verdant views.
The pair expressed little desire to make a big statement with their home on the hill. “That’s how I designed it—to fit into the site and respect the area, because it’s a beautiful spot,” says Stephenson. “It’s a place that’s quiet and meant for relaxing.”