this 'water cabin' by olson kundig opens onto seattle's waterfront

this 'water cabin' by olson kundig opens onto seattle's waterfront

a floating cabin on the water


located among a larger community of floating homes on seattle‘s portage bay, the olson kundig-designed ‘water cabin’ establishes a cabin sensibility in an urban environment. low to the water and small in stature, the dwelling creates a platform from which to enjoy and engage with the surrounding waterway. a delicate galvanized steel structure supports generous roof planes and large areas of glazing that open to dramatic 180-degree views and blur the boundaries between indoor and outdoor spaces.

water cabin olson kundigimages © aaron leitz | @aaronleitz



the design by olson kundig


the team at olson kundig (see more here) thoughtfully organizes the interior program of its water cabin across two levels to maximize connections to the marine context. on the lower level, an open living space combines dining, kitchen and office functions, with a hidden murphy bed for guests. a glass corner and large sliding doors connect this space to exterior patios with rich IPE wood decking, where large roof overhangs support year-round usability.


the master suite on the upper level frames prospect views to the water and creates a cozy lookout, set back into the home’s footprint, for a sense of refuge. a roof deck and richly planted container garden continue the indoor/outdoor porosity established on the ground level, extending the bedroom outside.

water cabin olson kundig



echoing the weathered informality of a cabin


curating the water cabin’s materiality, olson kundig draws inspiration from the weathered informality of a cabin. lightly stained knotty western red cedar exterior siding will weather over time with minimal maintenance. the siding’s thin, vertical wood slats are arranged in an irregular articulated pattern, recalling the random composition of trees in a forest.


durable, low-maintenance metal elements like galvanized steel and flame-sprayed zinc nod to the demanding marine environment. these metals will complement the color of the siding as it silvers with age, as well as the shifting blues and grays of the surrounding bay.

water cabin olson kundig



a celebration of timber interiors


wood continues to feature heavily throughout water cabin’s interior, with warm oak flooring and casework balanced by cooler silver and black metals. russian birch plywood ceilings extend to exterior soffits, further breaking down barriers between indoor and outdoor spaces.


knotty wood wall finishes in the main stairwell – which also acts as a light well to capture natural daylight – and master suite likewise weave exterior materials into the home’s interior. this informal, low-contrast interior supports a sense of the home as an oasis, despite its location in a bustling community.

water cabin olson kundig


this 'water cabin' by olson kundig opens onto seattle's waterfront



this ‘water cabin’ by olson kundig opens onto seattle’s waterfront
this ‘water cabin’ by olson kundig opens onto seattle’s waterfront
this ‘water cabin’ by olson kundig opens onto seattle’s waterfront

project info:


project title: water cabin

architecture: olson kundig | @olsonkundig

location: seattle, washington, USA

project team: jim olson, FAIA, design principal; jason roseler, LEED® AP, project manager; betty huang, architectural staff; christine burkland, eunice kim and hunter van bramer, interior design staff

key consultants: dyna contracting, general contractor; voelker engineering, structural engineer; brian hood lighting design, lighting design

completion: 2020

photography: © aaron leitz | @aaronleitz






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