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Delve Into the Details As You Soak In the Serenity

An architect/landscape design team transform an open field into a place for reflection

When husband and wife architect/landscape design team Matthew Swett and Sarah Birger established Taproot Architects in 2001, they did so with the desire to "create beautiful places that addressed both human and ecological needs," and with each project they undertake, their objective is collaboration with their clients in creating places that delight, nurture, and inspire. So when the firm was asked to create a bathhouse and lush surroundings from unused pastureland, they embraced the challenge.

As the slideshow illustrates, this restful retreat supports Taproot's mission to fashion well-crafted spaces that engage the heart and uplift the spirit.

BEFORE: This almost-blank canvas of grazing land became the site for a bathhouse, sauna, outdoor shower, and multiple ponds, and gardens.
As the site underwent its extreme transformation, Taproot Architects and the homeowners stayed true to their belief that the outdoor areas were as important to the whole as the bath and sauna areas. They employed a balance of geometry and yin/yang sensibilities to design the series of ponds, waterfalls, buildings, and outdoor rooms. This view across the pond shows the integrated nature of the buildings and the landscape. The soaking room is positioned in front with a view down the length of the pond. The sauna building behind provides the support spaces, including a modest water closet, a dressing area, and a mechanical area.
A closer view of the soaking room shows the waterfall to the right. Rain runoff from the roof is carried into the pond via a drip chain. Low lights at the base of the building reflect off the water's surface to bathe the pond and landscape with a soft glow at night.
The three telescoping shoji screens can be opened in any configuration, allowing in as much or as little light as desired. A relaxing soak is enhanced by the soothing sound of the nearby waterfall and the sight of the koi swimming in the pond.
The east-facing bathhouse allows the bather to enjoy early-morning sunlight or glare-free evening soaks.
With the shojis shut, the bathing space glows. As it enters the bathing area through translucent windows, the soft glow of light warms the contrast of wood against stucco.
Timber framing and invisible connections were used so that the ceiling structure is also a finish detail.
The builder was Dr. Jack A. Krug, of Langley, Washington, with assistance from Steven Ostrander Construction Inc, of Breckenridge, Colorado. The bathhouse was completed in 2007.
Before photo: courtesy of Karen Krug; all other photos by: Matthew Swett
From Fine Homebuilding199 October 15, 2008