Boathouse by Prentiss + Balance + Wickline Architects received a Merit Award in our 2023 Your Modern Cottage Design Awards Competition. The competition recognizes home designs that reflect our three principles of great residential design: Homes designed for the uniqueness of the clients; Homes built for today and the future; and Homes that are a retreat from the complexities of our world.

Located in the San Juan Islands, the 634-square-foot Boathouse stands foremost as a threshold between water and land – an idea it embraces literally by providing upland access to those arriving by boat or seaplane, and figuratively through its location and form. It straddles the elements, providing an entryway.

And it was thoughtfully and carefully designed to provide a flexible space to accommodate all of the owner’s desired uses – a place to prepare and drink a solitary morning coffee, host a family crab boil, a day bed for the occasional guest, a door that becomes a projection screen.

“This is a very elegantly detailed and coherently designed cottage that works very well with its environment and maximizes its potential,” says Mahdad Saniee, a judge of the 2023 YMC Design Awards and Owner of Saniee Architects LLC. “It achieves a beautiful design outcome without sacrificing the comfort and use. Enticing!”

The owners of this winning home love its location, specifically the immediacy of the water. The space is permeated by the sights, sounds and smells of the water as waves crash beneath the building and seals swim alongside it. In fact, they say that the building is closer to a boat than a simple room with a view and describe it as “magical.”

As one approaches the Boathouse from the land, it is barely visible through the trees; a dip in the topography together with the roof geometry serves to tuck the building into the landscape. Upon entry, the building opens dramatically to the Salish Sea.

Previously, there was an existing structure on the property when the owners purchased it. But it was structurally unsound. This replacement of one built structure with another was done with a strategy aimed to naturalize the shoreline. The shoreline restoration included the removal of a concrete breakwater and a significant number of old tires and detritus captured by the old structure’s foundation, replacing it with a native rock substrate.

Lightly landing at the edge of the sea, the Boathouse draws beauty and meaning directly from its surroundings and creates a place to contemplate, gather, and observe. 

Architect: Prentiss + Balance + Wickline Architects
– Dan Wickline, Principal, PBW Architects
– Philip Burkhardt, Project Architect, PBW Architects
– Kelby Riegsecker, Architect, PBW Architects
Contractor: Dalgarno Construction
Landscape: Green Man Landscaping
Structural: Harriott Valentine Engineers
Project Management: Bonewitz, LLC.
Environmental: Jen-Jay, Inc.
Interiors: LeeAnn Baker Interiors

Photography: Andrew Pogue, Taj Howe

To view the other winners of our YMC 2023 Design Awards, click here.