False Bay Writer’s Cabin

Location San Juan Islands, Washington
Design Principal Tom Kundig
Principal Kirsten R. Murray

This 500 square foot island cabin serves as a private writer’s retreat and guest cottage. The owners wanted a space that would feel totally connected to the natural landscape, allowing them to take full advantage of the mild climate, scenic views and the proximity to wildlife; at the same time, they needed the cabin to be easily secured when not in use.

The cabin is basically a glass house surrounded by three wooden slat decks and topped with an inverted hip roof with deep overhangs. Through a system of hydraulic winches, wire rope, pivoting sheaves and lead blocks, these decks can be raised to serve as shutters, completely closing off the cabin. Open, the shutter-decks are outdoor living space, connecting to the interior with 10 foot tall windows and sliding doors. The south shutter-deck can be opened independently of the other two, and an interior fireplace can rotate 180 degrees to be enjoyed from the exterior. The inverted roof forces water to drain to the rear of the cabin, eliminating a drip edge on the shutter-decks.

It is intended to be a shelter of extremes, open or closed. In order to feel cold, you have to feel hot; in order to feel safe, you have to feel at risk. Contrast is the true measure of a complete experience.

Tom Kundig Design Principal

The interior of the space is essentially a single glazed room with a modest back-of-cabin area housing a small bathroom and kitchenette. Finishes are restrained, punctuated only by a blackened steel floor inlay that bisects the cabin. A rack attached to the back of the cabin organizes the owner’s kayaks.



Design Principal

Tom Kundig


Kirsten R. Murray

Project Manager

Paul Schlachter


Todd Matthes



Johnson, Mark R., and Kristen Sutter. “Simple Retreats.” Cabin Life, 16 Dec. 2011, 33. Print.

Welton, J. Michael. “Shutter Island.” Dwell Vol. 11 No. 8, July 2011, 44. Print. Web. 

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