Baby Cinderella


With an age-appropriate art studio and maximum volumetric landscape views, this home shows how well the architect knows his client..

For many architects, figuring out exactly what a client wants is a tricky, energy-intensive process, sometimes a real battle. But things were very different for Gary Gladwish and his last client, his own mother. “I know exactly what she loves and what she dislikes,” he says of Marie Gladwish, a retired graphic artist. “Thanks to this, I quite easily determined what spaces, what materials and sensations she expected from her future home. Sometimes clients themselves do not know what they want “.

Using this knowledge, he designed a house from damaged materials, which now stands on a sheer cliff, surrounded by forest, mossy rocks and the ocean – everything that inspires his mother for the works of art that can be found throughout the house..

Of course, according to Gladwish, the process was not always easy and straightforward. But he had an incentive to move forward when it seemed that construction was going at a snail’s pace. “We’ve been at the schematic design stage for a house for 20 years,” he says. “In the end, I stamped my foot and said:“ This is what you will have, ”and together we“ squeezed ”into the budget of the house everything that my mother wanted to see in her home. And now she loves her home “.

Project in numbers:

Location: Orcas Island, San Juan Islands, Washington State Coast

Who lives here: Marie Gladwish

Team: architect:  Gary gladwish; construction: Schuchart / Dow

Size: 1,800 square feet 1 bedroom, 1 ½ baths, plus an 800 square foot studio that converts into two additional bedrooms with two bathrooms.

Photo: Will austin photography

In fact, this project has been in development for decades. Marie fell in love with the island on a boat trip with her father through San Juan when she was 17 years old. Then she also decided that one day she would settle there. She returned back to the island 49 years later, occupied a piece of land and spent 10 years pondering what to do next..

By the way, the land here is amazingly picturesque: bright green moss and evergreen trees cover the rocky hills and cliffs that rise above the dark waters. You can get to the island by ferry, seaplane or private boat. There are several small towns nearby, consisting mainly of small country houses, there are also shops. The house that Gladwish designed sits on a hillside 900 feet above the water.

Marie handled the selection of materials, many of which were found in a landfill or purchased from Craigslist (an online classifieds site). Wood siding (exterior cladding) from a 100-year-old barn in eastern Washington, which Gladwish found on Craigslist, came to him for almost nothing. “In that area, there are no problems with small insects that spoil the wood, but it took a long time to water the tree with a hose to flush out the cow dung. But now it has a great rustic look. “.

Some people mistakenly think that the house is made of a shipping container, but it is actually corrugated COR-TEN (made of alloy steel) siding with a pattern called “West Ribs” that closely resembles shipping containers. This solution helps to significantly reduce operating costs – the material does not require painting and any additional maintenance..

Gladwish also chose the material based on its aesthetic value. So, the red-brown color corresponds to the tones with which the surrounding nature is saturated: the bark of trees and mosses is full of this color..

Storm channels conduct water from the roof into a dedicated settling pond, which helps to prevent erosion on the rocky surface.

Quio, the black dog of the Gladwishies resting on rocky terrain.

Sliding glass doors open, fully connecting the living room to the hillside.

Sofa: EcoBalanza; chair: Womb, Knoll; light: CB2.

Gladwish could have used single steel beams for the structure, but he chose to use double ones, which made it easier to operate the sliding doors..

Over time, the raw steel will rust to a reddish brown color, as has already begun to occur with the underside of the supports. Gladwish and her mother deliberately sought this effect..

The entrance to the house looks like two large glass panels, but in fact it is a swing door. The view from here stretches into the distance, right through the mountains and water. “The hillside is far from home, and when you are inside the house, at the top of the slope, it feels like you are floating in the air,” says Gladwish..

There is a small island right inside the house – a moss-covered garden with a large stone. This unusual solution seems to blur the visual boundaries between indoor and outdoor space..

This photo shows the atrium on the left and the hallway on the right, which houses Marie’s collection of rusty farming tools and leads to her master bedroom..

Marie painted a picture above the fireplace, imitating the surrounding trees, shrouded in morning mist. The painting hangs on wires with counterweights; Marie can flip a switch, and the picture moves, revealing the flat-screen TV.

The pile of large rusty chains in the fireplace looks very original, as well as the stylish framing of the fireplace itself, made of black glass and reflecting the look of the room.

The living room leads to a guest bedroom with a fold-out bed and a small work space.

A small piece of mossy soil, imitating garden soil, is also present in the bathroom. Marie wanted the bathroom to look like a grotto, but Gladwish interpreted her idea in his own way, covering the room with slate tiles..

The countertops, as well as the bath and shower ledge, are made of … bulletproof glass, which Gladwish got from one bank. He stored and polished the glass for years before he was able to give it the matte finish he wanted. “This is a very difficult material and a tremendous amount of work has been done over the years,” he says. “But it’s much better than the plastic that goes to landfills.”.

The backdrop for the master bedroom is the forest and the settling pond – it looks amazing..

Gladwish have come up with an interesting design solution for dealing with clutter: fewer surfaces. “If mom has a lot of surfaces where she can put different things, she just won’t be able to cope with the chaos that will soon reign here,” he says..

Eames chairs with new veneer. The worktop consists of two very large pieces of Peruvian walnut, whose deep and luxurious color gives the entire space a special sophistication..

The kitchen is designed in such a way that Marie and her partner can cook at the same time and not interfere with each other – in this they are helped by two kitchen islands. “There are no dead ends in the kitchen. There is always an alternative way to get through, ”says Gladwish..

The wall on which the kitchen cabinets are mounted is a large piece of colored glass, not only giving a bright juicy accent to the entire space, but also having reflective characteristics. However, the coolest thing about this space is what is hidden from view. The closet to the left of this colored glass surface is actually a hidden door that leads into the 800-square-foot studio where Marie creates her works of art..

Much of the home has been designed by Gladwish to meet the needs of the mother, so that the home “grows old” with her. So, the studio can be turned into two bedrooms, each of which has its own bathroom – this will comfortably accommodate family members who will stay next to Marie to look after her. In addition, all corridors and doorways – even the shower – are all built to accommodate a wheelchair.

Marie painted this picture with a rooster, using for some of the fragments a blackberry found in the forest..

A rocky slope leads downhill to the barn and walking paths.