A Summer House In Harmony With Land and Sea on Orcas Island

This minimalist seaside retreat embraces nature with a living roof, rain collection, solar retention, and glass walls throughout

A Summer House In Harmony With Land and Sea on Orcas Island


Field Mag


Sean Airhart

Courtesy of your highly caffeinated and ever thankful editorial team at FM HQ

As any follower of our longstanding Arch Inspo series has surely noticed, our spotlight has lately shown bright on micro cabins, DIY cabin kits, and short term rentals. But the roots of the feature run deep in private architecture—summer retreats and weekend escapes for families and clients unknown. This week we’re sidestepping the approachable for the sake of pure admiration. Enter North Beach, a uniquely low-impact summer house by Seattle-based firm Heliotrope Architects.


Set along the shoreline of Orcas Island, a particularly beautiful and prehistoric island among the San Juan Islands archipelago of northwestern Washington State, the North Beach house embraces nature in every aspect of its humble design. The minimalist structure floats above the undisturbed earth and under mature fir trees. Floor-to-ceiling glass walls on the long sides of the rectangle building allow stunning ocean and prairie views to be seen from most any room and any position on the secluded property.


To further embrace nature and integrate into the surrounding landscape, the house features a living vegetated roof, which filters rainwater that is collected and stored for irrigation of a seasonal garden. Roof mounted solar panels and PV panels elsewhere on the property help heat potable water and provide supplementary power, all of which combines to achieve net zero electricity use over the course of a full year.


The design brief called for a very low-impact, easy to maintain summer home that provides necessary programmatic functions with minimum distractions from the land and the view. I’d say the architects did a fine job of it.


Visit Heliotrope Archtects for more on North Beach and to browse the firms other, equally thoughtful projects.


Published 04-06-2020