Miller Hull’s Island Residence

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The Miller Hull examines trends in modernist architectural design, sustainability and the built environment as a whole.

The Miller Hull Partnership, established in 1977 by David Miller and Robert Hull, is a Seattle based architecture firm. The two architects have always worked in collaboration—one partner birthing an idea, and the other refining.

The overall site plan of the island residence is designed to choreograph the three natural landscapes inherent within the site: a low meadow, an old-growth forest, and a steep bluff overlooking the Puget Sound and Olympic Mountains. One enters the site through the grassy meadow, open to the sky, path bending around a (future) pond and across it, the guesthouse. The path then closes in at the dense, shadowy forest of 75-100 foot tall Douglas Firs, winds around the chosen trees, and finally arrives in a clearing at the edge of the forest. Here, the main residence, separated into three wings, burrows into the bluff’s knoll and conceals the dramatic western views beyond. A low metal roof and stepping stone walls screen the larger wings and tenuously connect the North Wing, the Main Pavilion and the South Wing. Interruptions in the low roof and stone walls create understated entrance foyers and courtyards that blur distinctions between inside and out.

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Each wing is developed to uniquely suit the rooms it houses. The North and South Wings sit on exposed concrete bases and are sided with vertical cedar siding. Their asymmetric gable roof forms bracket the Main Pavilion situated between them. The South wing is comprised of the garage and an open Nanny/Guest apartment at the east edge of the clearing. The North wing is comprised of discrete rooms including the master suite, bedrooms, library, living room, media room, and recreation room. The North Wing juts out to the west, affording dramatic southwest views from the corner living room and master suite, but also nestles into the edge of the Old Growth forest. A wooden trestle, 14 feet above the ground, weaves further north into the forest, and culminates at a hot tub platform.

Salvaged Doug Fir timbers, raised from Willapa Bay after a shipwreck left them submerged since 1921, inspired the form of the Main Pavilion. The timbers were planed into 19″x19″ columns and beams, to form cantilevered frames that create three, open bays for the main family rooms. Two, massive, masonry hearths interrupt the timbers and define areas for dining, family and kitchen. Exposed steel T’s run across the timbers and support an exposed wood ceiling and low-slope metal roof, punctuated by the paired chimney masses and skylights.

Along the entire western edge, windows and doors fill the exposed wood structure to highlight Sound and mountain views. Large, custom wood doors slide away and interior rooms seamlessly extend into outdoor patios and terraces leading down to the garden, lawn, bluff, and beyond.

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