When Michael Northrup first began to dream of buying a derelict fruit processing and storage facility in Tieton, Washington as a second home, even his design-loving friends didn’t know what to think of it.
On his first visit in 2015, he said, “I took a developer friend, an architect friend and my best friend with me.” Everyone thought he was crazy.
The approximately 10,000 square meter building was uninhabitable and was ransacked and stripped of most of its electrical wiring. But after months of housing hunting in the area, which Mr. Northrup loved for its burgeoning creative scene about 250 miles southeast of his primary Seattle residence, he was ready to move.
It was an unconventional idea, but Mr. Northrup, 52, an amateur artist who works in cloud computing at Accenture, was impressed by the beauty of the surrounding cherry orchard, the views of Cleman Mountain, and the possibilities a rundown warehouse offers the 1950s.
“I just couldn’t get it out of my head,” he said. “I asked too many people and got too many opinions, but I realized that I had to follow my gut instinct. It was just too fascinating not to do it. “
In October he bought the building, which stood on an acre lot, for $ 70,000. Then he bought an old Timberline trailer and parked it in it. For the first few years he spent the warmer months living in the trailer, using the camp’s two bathrooms, and showering outside after connecting a hose to a propane heater. Every winter he emptied the pipes to prevent them from freezing.
But he wanted something that didn’t feel as fleeting: a comfortable, permanent home that he could use year round. In 2017, he hired Best Practice, an architecture firm from Seattle, to draw up a plan.
Over the next two years, Mr. Northrup and his architects explored various options. He first asked about a house made of shipping containers and then decided that this approach was not ideal. The architects toyed with the idea of converting part of the warehouse into a residential building or adding a separate house to it. In the end, they concluded that the best thing to do would be to demolish a garage at one end to make way for a two-story, 1,100-square-foot, stand-alone home connected to the original structure by a new courtyard.
“It was really important to go high, because as soon as you are over 3 meters high, you have a wide view of the top of the cherry orchards and the fields behind,” said Ian Butcher, the founding partner of Best Practice, who positioned it Living room and kitchen in the attic of the new house. Where the house faces the warehouse, “we carefully made a series of smaller, punched windows to highlight interesting, cool parts of the existing building.”
An elongated roof covers a 250 square meter terrace at the front of the living room, and the single room of the house is on the ground floor.
For budget reasons and to reflect local building traditions, the architects worked with durable, economical materials, including concrete blocks and corrugated iron cladding on the outside and plenty of exposed plywood inside. As Mr. Butcher said, “We envisioned it as an abstract interpretation of an agricultural building.”
Mr Northrup’s builder Greg Stevenson began work in the summer of 2019 and completed the house last fall for about $ 350,000. Since then, Mr. Northrup has spent most of his time there, enjoying the scenery, socializing with other creatives in the area, and experimenting with how best to use his warehouse.
“I call it ‘playing warehouse,'” he said. “I can do things there that you could never do in a house. I can say, ‘Let’s put some screws on the wall to hold a tent in place.’ Or you can build something or paint something or paint over something. You are just free to play. “
One day he decided to paint a large format work of yellow semicircles to liven up the courtyard. Another day he and friends built a camp bedroom so that he would have a place for overnight guests who do not want to sleep in the trailer.
In addition to a well-equipped workshop, “the primary, large room that used to be used to store apples is set up to be a tennis court or host a large dance party,” said Mr Butcher. “He’s doing movie nights there, with a projector and a bunch of sofas that he’s put on wheels.”
In autumn he is planning a joint art exhibition there.
“To this day everyone says, ‘What’s the plan?'” Said Mr. Northrup of his camp. “I never knew. Even now that I have a house there, it is constantly evolving. At the moment we’re just doing it. “
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