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On the Farm: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Whidbey Island Farm Retreat

A secluded forest haven, Whidbey Island Farm Retreat, explores the connections between time, space, and nature

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If one were to imagine a blissfully bucolic setting in the Pacific Northwest, somewhere like Whidbey Island might spring to mind. Situated in the cool waters of Puget Sound off the coast of northern Washington, the isle is a rural idyll, characterized by verdant forests, rugged hills, and small farms. It’s also the location of a very special family home, brought to life by the team of Seattle-based design studio mwworks.

Known for shaping exceptional spaces that blend timeless aesthetics with a tangible connection to nature, mwworks was a natural choice for the Whidbey Island Farm Retreat commission. The elderly owners wanted a versatile, spacious home that could occasionally welcome up to 20 people, including adult children and numerous grandchildren.

“It’s a rich agricultural site that has been part of the family’s history for a long time,” says Steve Mongillo, principal and co-founder of mwworks. “They wanted a house nestled in the woods out of respect for the turn-of-the-century farming buildings it overlooks. They wanted it to feel discreet and unobtrusive so that people might not even know it’s there. It also had to remain true to the landscape and history.”

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Top: The completed residence forms intriguing connections between the indoor and the outdoor, between the old and the new. Bottom: The designers chose neutral materials for their timeless quality and distinctive character.

A long-lasting design

A truly one-of-a-kind build, the completed residence creates connections between past and present, solidity and space, indoor and outdoor. It’s a thoughtfully designed home, with longevity and low maintenance in mind so that each new generation can enjoy it for years to come, without needing to remodel it.

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The concept of honouring nature was an essential element of mwworks’s design.

According to Mongillo, the company’s creative concept centred on “beautiful neutral materials that stand the test of time, while also feeling timeless in their appeal. Things that add character, but still feel warm,” he says.

Durable natural materials—weathered wood, deep oak, and locally quarried stone—are juxtaposed with soft plaster walls and black steel accents. The result is a house with a contemporary and clean-lined structure, softened by the rustic detailing and the warm, earthy palette that runs throughout. “We were always thinking about ways to create lightness in contrast to the heaviness of the materials,” Mongillo says.

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Essential materials, such as weathered wood, deep oak, and locally sourced stone create a warm, rustic ambiance.

Shaped by nature

Following the flow of the low wall stacked with local basalt stone, the three wings of the house are united by a natural woodland clearing, shaped into a subtle exterior courtyard lush with native ferns and shrubs. One wing consists of the owners’ office and bedroom, while the primary living wing allows people to meet and relax. Lastly, a separate bunkhouse over the garage features six queen-sized beds to accommodate visits by family and friends.

Order the Magnifissance print edition to read the full story.

This story is from Magnifissance Issue 124

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