Seattle Culture

A Case Inlet Cabin Lets the Outside In

A rustic waterfront retreat unites two spectacular features

By Lauren Mang March 17, 2017


This article originally appeared in the March 2017 issue of Seattle magazine.

The fir plywood ceiling extends onto the exterior soffit with a steel staircase leading to the roof terrace, while the kitchen counter—concrete mixed with white marble dust—and custom steel barbecue grill continue outside

It’s been called “the magic house”—this unassuming modern cabin perched on a slice of tree-filled land overlooking south Puget Sound’s Case Inlet on the Key Peninsula. Friends of homeowners Harry and Claudia Bray named it as such for the serenity it bestows upon its occupants, a feeling Eric Walter and Steve Mongillo, principals with Seattle-based firm MW|Works Architecture & Design (, intended.

“Even modest design can be a powerful force in the daily lives of its users,” Walter says of the 2,200-square-foot vacation cabin, which replaced the original ramshackle ’70s-era lodging on the site in 2012 and affords the homeowners a tranquil getaway within nature. “We embrace simple concepts like framing views, harnessing light and using natural materials in respectful and transformative ways.” 

A sliding glass door seperates the tight-knot cedar lined shower wall from the deck

The firm, which received the 2016 American Institute of Architects (AIA) Northwest and Pacific Region Emerging Firm Award for its simple yet sophisticated work, situated the dwelling so it would get the most out of the site’s sweeping views of the Puget Sound, Olympic Mountains and nearby meadow scenery, while also being mindful of the connection between indoor and outdoor spaces. 

The outdoor deck, made of ipe (pronounced “ee-pay”) wood, has the best of both worlds and maintains a connection to land and sea. “Rather than placing the deck on the primary view side, where it would add a layer between the living spaces and the view,” Mongillo says, “we shifted the building out of the meadow and placed the deck off to one side of the view corridor, where it would enhance that connection between the meadow and water and get the most benefit from the path of the sun.”

Walls of glass connect the inside with the wooded, waterfront surroundings

An exterior steel staircase ascends to a terrace atop the home’s flat roof, creating another connection to the outdoors. In the waterfront-facing master bathroom, a large glass door slides open to reveal another deck just off the shower, giving the illusion of being within the forest.

“We wanted to build something new and fresh that would be respectful of this gentle and moody place that would shelter us,” the homeowners note, “but also allow us to feel part of the landscape, rather than an imposition upon it.” 

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