Timber-Framing the Views
Outdoor places over indoor living spaces are just one way this house makes the most of its spectacular site.
Synopsis: After 16 years of building for other people, author Steve Mittendorf was thrilled when he got the chance to build his own home on a steep hill on San Juan Island overlooking Puget Sound in the south and Vancouver Island in the north. He and his wife decided on a timber-frame house, a natural for lofty ceilings, long views, and big openings for windows. They gave their timber frame an updated twist by using glulam beams laminated from kiln-dried finger-jointed 2x Douglas fir. To take advantage of the spectacular view to the west, Mittendorf decided to build a deck over the lower living space, which required the careful selection and installation of a membrane. The long, thin house has bump-outs for additional kitchen space and for a window seat overlooking the deck and the water beyond.
This project was my dream and had been incubating quietly for most of my career. After 16 years of building fine homes for others, i finally had the chance to build my own.
My wife, Lynn, and I had spent several years searching for property on San Juan Island in northwest Washington State. Our ideal piece of property would have a great view, which in the islands is typically interpreted to mean waterfront. At the end of a long day looking at mostly mediocre waterfront houses, we had one last stop. The gravel driveway wound up through a mature fir and madrone forest; then, with a final switchback, it got really steep. When we finally leveled off on a gravel bench at the top and I relaxed the death grip on the steering wheel, we took in a spectacular 180° view. It stretched from Puget Sound in the south to Vancouver Island in the north. With its seasonal community of orca whales, Haro Strait was…