A Contemporary Long House
Inspired by Northwest Native American homes, a new retreat points its gabled prow seaward and shows off its structure inside.
Synopsis: On the shores of Puget Sound, architect David Hall has designed a summer residence inspired by an ancient model: a Native American long house. This home shares the traditional floor plan of common spaces in the center, flanked by private spaces along the eaves. Three sides of the house face the sea and its attendant harsh elements. Roof overhangs, sunshades, and patios provide shelter, while stainless-steel tie rods provide wind resistance. A Kynar finish protects exterior metal details; natural, camouflaging colors help the house recede into its forest backdrop.
When the Christoffersens invited me to visit their summer residence, I was not prepared for such a remarkable site. A rocky peninsula, approached from the east by a gravel road winding through evergreen forest, offered commanding views of Washington’s Puget Sound. A charming but dated cottage sat on the outcropping.
Early discussions centered on a remodel, but poor conditions and low, dark rooms made this impractical. We decided instead to start fresh, although shoreline regulations required us to build exactly on the footprint of the old cottage.
A modern floor plan from an ancient model
Traditionally, Native Americans of the coastal Northwest built long houses with their gable ridges pointing toward the sea. Because the water served as both highway and market, front doors always faced seaward. Inside a long house, communal activities took place in the center of the structure, and private spaces for clan families flanked the outer walls. A fire pit, whose smoke rose through an opening in the cedar roof, occupied a place at the lodge’s center.
The footprint of the Christoffersens’ original cottage — long axis running along the length of the peninsula — allowed the design of the new house to follow loosely the floor plan of a traditional long house. Quite…