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Corten Steel, Little House Big Shade Dwell In Nature

by Joseph Lo November 25, 2021

Corten Steel, Little House Big Shade Dwell In Nature


The getaway was constructed by architect David Van Galen for himself and his wife, who have been visiting the forested island for decades. They started looking for land there years ago and ended up buying a five-acre plot with alder and Douglas fir trees.





What the modest structures lack in square footage (the main house is just 918 square feet, and the shed is only 223 square feet), they make up for in loudness. David, at 6 feet 8 inches tall, couldn't afford to scrimp on ceiling height. With that volume, he was able to experiment with compression and release in numerous places of the main home, articulating multiple zones within the compact space. The living space, which is placed under the loft bedroom, feels cozier due to the fallen, exposed ceiling, although the ceiling rises over the kitchen and dining rooms. A restricted material palette allows the eye to wander freely, typically to the ample windows on the north wall.


Outside, a raised terrace off the living room and another off the loft bedroom span west to catch the summer sun and warmth. "The only time you want to go outside is in the summer." Otherwise, the winter and fall may be rather dreary, with a persistent rain."






Standing seam metal roofs cover Corten steel panels accented by stained cedar trim and aluminum-clad wood windows. While most Corten architectural applications are pre-oxidized to give a consistent patina, the steel in this project has been permitted to rust organically, bringing the House and Shed into conversation with their surroundings. Each structure surface, like the trees themselves, responds differently to time, wind, water, and sun.


Both structures have essentially rectangular plans and sloping roofs coated in standing seam metal.





An insulated garage door retracts in the studio structure, converting the whole room to an outdoor space. Surfaces and materials are simple, with cork flooring and plywood walls where David may pin his watercolors to dry. A wall unit may be transformed from a pull-down work table to a guest bed. The transparent garage door and high windows guarantee that lots of natural light enters the room.




Among the earthy accents that help relate the home to its surroundings are Douglas fir cabinets and composite wood flooring. Neutral colors are accented with bright flashes of color, such as a rich crimson sofa. A local artisan created the dining table out of a salvaged old-growth timber.


All energy utilized on site is offset by a 9.3kW solar array with battery backup. Air source heat pump with in-floor hydronic loop, high efficiency wood stove, hybrid heat pump water heater with recirculating pump, low-flow fixtures, high efficiency appliances and fans, full LED lighting, and insulation above code minimum are among the building systems.





















Photograph by Lara Swimmer Photography.

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