On a secluded site in Washington’s San Juan Islands, the Henry Island Guesthouse is a new addition to a main residence the team previously designed. The sensitively scaled dwelling reflects the vocabulary of the main home while also forging its own identity and allows a new set of owners to welcome family and friends for extended periods.
The initial residence on the 24-acre property was designed in 2012 and sits in a central meadow that overlooks a nearby shallow bay. New owners purchased the property in 2016 and reengaged the team for a guesthouse that respects the character of the island and its few scattered homes. The guesthouse’s location was informed by the experience of arriving to the island by boat, where a winding path leads from a dock through quiet woodlands before ultimately arcing back to the main residence.
For a young family from Seattle, the main home is a summer retreat from the bustle and congestion of city life. The idyllic Henry Island is not serviced by any ferries, and the clients enjoy hiking, kayaking, and sailing the remote setting with family and friends. While the original home is quite spacious, it was designed to accommodate a single family.
“It looks like a retreat more than a luxury home in the forest.” – Jury comment
The 1,350-square-foot guesthouse sits uphill from the primary home and marks the transition from dense forest to sunlit meadow. One end is anchored into the gentle slope, while its opposite hovers above the landscape upon slender columns. The program includes a pair of bedroom suites, each with distinguishing characteristics requested by the client, and a central living area that features a small kitchen where guests can begin and end their day on the island. The guesthouse’s adjacency to the main residence fosters a connection between both buildings while still maintaining privacy and respect for the site’s natural characteristics.
Materials for the main residence comprised steel, exposed Douglas fir framing, and glass, with weathered steel and cedar wrapping the exterior. Similar materials were used in the guesthouse to form a visual link between the two. The guesthouse’s entrance is signaled by a cast-in-place concrete ledge, which further tethers the building to the earth, and an aperture within the steel wall. Drawing inspiration from the main residence’s breezeway, the guesthouse’s form was envisioned as a covered porch flanked by its bedroom suites. Large sliding-glass doors that disappear into the walls on two sides open the space to the sights, smells, and sounds of the secluded island.
Henry Island Guesthouse
Architecture firm: Bohlin Cywinski Jackson
Location: Henry Island, Wash.
Project site: Previously developed
Building program type(s): Residential – single-family detached
Year of substantial project completion: 2021
Gross conditioned floor area: 1348 sq. ft.
General Contractor: Hoxie Huggins Construction
Structural Engineer: PCS Structural Solutions
Photography: Aaron Leitz and Ben Benschneider
AIA and it’s Small Project Design (SPD) Knowledge Community present the annual Small Project Award Program to raise public awareness of the value and design excellence that architects provide regardless of the limits of size and budget.
Submissions are welcome in four categories:
- Category one: Small project construction, object, work of environmental art or architectural design element up to $250,000 in construction cost
- Category two: Small project construction up to $2.5 million in construction cost
- Category three: Small project construction, object, work of environmental art or architectural design under 5,000 square feet
- Category four: Unbuilt project award: any unbuilt design that meets any of the category requirements above. This award is for projects that will not be built in the future (speculative work, conceptual work, competition work, student work, etc.)
In 2023, only recipients from Categories 2 and 3 won awards.
The jury evaluates entries based on how successfully projects meet their individual requirements. Entries are judged individually—not in competition with each other.
All projects must demonstrate design achievement, including how the project fits into its environment and how the project connects to the Framework for Design Excellence.
- Open to all architects, designers and projects that meet our category criteria below. Additionally, the U.S.-licensed architect must be a major contributor on the project.
- Built projects must have been completed after January 1, 2017.
- There is no requirement for professional photography.
- Any size firm may submit a project.
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Chandra Robinson, AIA, Chair, LEVER Architecture, Portland, Ore.
Madhubala Ayyamperumal, Assoc. AIA, Gensler, Oakland, Calif.
Chris Baribeau, AIA, Modus Studio, Fayetteville, Ark.
David Corban, AIA, David Corban Architects, Naples, Fla.
Katherine Hogan, AIA, Katherine Hogan Architects, Raleigh, N.C.