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Retractable Panels Protect Island Home from Coastal Winds

Lone Madrome is a one storey home located on Orcas Island, one of the San Juan Island archipelagos off the coast of Washington, USA. Designed by , the home has been fitted with retractable panels that protect it from the very windy storms the prevailing ocean currents thrust ashore in the winter. Sited on the coast of the island the home uses both the retractable panels and the surrounding forest as its winter protector.

The south facing site is rocky and surrounded by forest as it overlooks the Pacific Ocean. Heliotrope Architects used the natural patina of red cedar shingles and Douglas-fir millwork to help the home blend harmoniously with the surrounding landscape – both woods native to the location.

The surrounding forest helps protect the home from the weather with the trees acting as wind breaks.

Rock collected from the site was used to level the footprint the home sits on and the disrupted landscape was replaced with a green roof.

The site is within the San Juan Islands National Monument with environmentally sensitive shorelines and marine life so carefully engineered storm water flows were engineered to replicate the pre-construction conditions.

The wall panels are fitted into tracks, allowing them to close up tight or open wide depending on the weather conditions.

When the weather is nice and the panels are opened, set back into the facade is a wall of glazing that can also be closed up tight or opened wide for easy transitions to the outdoors.

This double system of sliding panels is used on both the front and the back of the home.

When both sets of sliding elements are open one can seamlessly travel through the house from the front yard to the back deck without once opening a door.

The wide open sections of wall line up perfectly and allow the oceanic views to travel unhindered through the home and into the front yard.

With the glass panels closed and the wall panels left open, chilly evenings are kept at bay without the view being compromised.

The exposed side of the home is also able to open wide to the landscape and here, the back deck is widened to allow for an el fresco dining experience.

A gorgeous outdoor dining table was fashioned from two planks of naturally weathered construction grade living edge wood for the table top and two thick slabs for the base.

The roof overhang and the deck are both western red cedar.

Around the back of the home the inset niche is also covered in western red cedar with the niche section clear coated and the exposed deck left to weather.

The back deck steps down to the portion of the landscape that was leveled for the home to sit on.

Inside the home, the wood flooring, ceiling and walls act as a frame to the impressive views and the edge grain Douglas-fir window frames create a sleek contrast to the knotty red cedar.

Even the views out the front of the home are beautiful and showcase the local animal life on a regular basis.

When the wall panels are closed the views out either side of the home can still be glimpsed and the natural daylight can still light up the interior zones.

On colder days when the house is buttoned up tight, a wood-burning fireplace is used to heat the home. Designed with open cubular shelving on both sides of it, the wall is a major focal point when the wall panels are closed.

As a tie in to the blues of the ocean and sky, several upholstered pieces feature saturated blue hues.

The indoor dining table is built out of a living edge slab of Douglas-fir wood, only unlike the outdoor dining table this one is not construction grade and has been clear finished.

The kitchen overlooks the side garden and deck and has four small storage rooms off to its sides that are the bump outs on one side of the two deck niches. Unlike the cedar walls, the kitchen (and the fireplace shelving units) features Douglas-fir millwork.

The bump outs on the other side are longer and contain the master suite overlooking the side garden and ocean as well as the guest room overlooking the side garden and the main bathroom overlooking the front yard.

Unlike the social zone, the bedrooms, bathroom and closets do not have wood clad walls.


Photography by
Douglas-fir and western red cedar are often used in Pacific west coast architecture, especially in waterside home design.

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