Don’t forget the past

Don’t forget the past

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This house is a 1,100 square foot remodel of a 1930s cabin that overlooks Agate Pass on Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula. The home of Alan Maskin, a principal and owner of Olson Kundig, includes a renovation and building addition, interior design, landscape design and an art, design and custom furniture collection. Maskin’s design intervention delineates the house’s two different eras: the 1930s and today. Maskin said of the house, “ Like almost all real estate transactions, I needed a building inspection of the 1938 beach cabin to determine the existing structural conditions, particularly because I knew I would remodel the house. I climbed on the roof to see what the view of Agate Passage might be like…A dozen bald eagles were flying in a sphere about twenty feet above the house. I recall laughing and telling the neighbour that I might as well cancel the inspection as this was a sign that I should buy the house.

“Prior to signing the purchase and sale agreement, the owner said there was something I needed to know about the property. She told me that she had given birth to a baby named Morris who had died in childbirth, and that she buried his ashes beneath a tall Douglas fir tree that grew on the property line. She said she felt the tree would protect her child.

“The neighboring site was purchased by a building contractor who had successfully applied for a set-back variance in a building permit application for a speculative house project. The variance would allow him to build several feet closer to the shared property line. In order to construct his house, he felt it was necessary to remove the tree. The two neighbors disagreed until, one day, the contractor cut it down, creating havoc and distress for the entire neighborhood. Several months later, the building contractor also lost a child in childbirth.

“Most people would understandably try to forget histories like this, but I couldn’t. The design of the project, its architecture, its interiors, and the objects collected inside the cottage are inspired by the old cabin and these stories. It includes art pieces about trees, the life of trees, and severed trees. Various types of wood were used to establish demarcations or property lines between what was then and what is now.”

Maskin’s rehabilitation of this small beach cabin on the Olympic Peninsula has been a decade long undertaking. The design of the structure, its interiors, and the assembled art and furniture collection were directly inspired by the history of 77-year-old cabin and the events that transpired on the property.

www.olsonkundigarchitects.com | Photography by Kevin Scott

Jade Tilley
Jade Tilley
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