Everyone's a happy camper at this summer-fun retreat — complete with tents, campfires and a mess hall — on Washington's Puget Sound.
Kathleen Renda: It's sleepaway camp all over again! Did the clients request that vibe?
Steve Hoedemaker: Not exactly. They brought us on — myself as the architect, Tim as the designer — to overhaul some run-down 1930s and '40s cottages on their waterfront property near Seattle. The idea was to accommodate as many guests as possible; it's not unusual for them to host 40 family members and friends at once. We wanted to let everyone connect with nature while maximizing the property's unbelievable views of Puget Sound. Then it hit us: summer camp. For me as a kid, camp was life-altering: the quiet of the woods, the freedom and the opportunity to develop a different version of yourself. Why not try to capture that feeling? Especially since this family has teens who love the outdoors. Luckily, the homeowners are adventurous nonconformists. They immediately got on board with what we dubbed Tent City.
What inspired the style of the tents?
Tim Pfeiffer: As an outdoorsy kid and Eagle Scout raised in the Northwest, I was familiar with tents. Two of my favorites are the classic platform tent at Boy Scout camp and an authentic mess-hall tent I played in as a little kid, which originally belonged to my grandfather, uncles and dad — they pitched it when they rode into the Yukon on horseback to hunt big game. Our updated version is a rectangle constructed of canvas duck, with rafters and struts crafted from kiln-dried stained oak. The plank floors are super-tough ipe wood. Each tent has locally quarried bluestone at the entrance, like a little front porch. The tents aren't weatherized, but there's electricity and space heaters. You can camp out seven months of the year.
SH: Yurts were another option. I have some at my weekend home on Washington's San Juan Islands, and the structural soundness is amazing. But they're tricky to decorate, because the curves aren't furniture-friendly.
How did you approach the interiors?
TP: We created a narrative about a family that had been here for generations, gradually collecting pieces that tell the story of the area and their lives. This is a major shipping port, with Victorian-era towns, so they would have amassed antiques and far-flung imports along with the trappings of a coastal fishing cottage. We also layered in elements of alpine cabins, national park lodges and Works Progress Administration campgrounds. It's as if it all casually floated to the island and into the tents.
Where does everyone eat?
SH: We gutted a cottage and transformed it into a central gathering place. It has an open floor plan with a living area and a large communal dining area for group meals. There's also alfresco eating on the ipe-wood deck overlooking the bluff, which is bonus space we gained when we tore down the cottage's bedroom, mudroom and garage.
Is it true that Tent City is a tech-free zone?
TP: The wife was adamant: No electronics allowed! But in place of Wi-Fi gizmos, you hear the calls of bald eagles and the low foghorns of passing freighters. You smell the salty air carrying scents of cedar and campfire smoke. There are ghost stories, sing-alongs and s'mores. For the owners, it's a place to spend time with people they love, making d memories the old-fashioned way — together, without distractions.
This story originally appeared in the July/August 2017 issue of Natipernavigare.