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Garage Cabin

Seattle-based design studio Graypants transformed a detached garage on Vashon Island, off the coast of Tacoma, Wash. in Puget Sound, from a cluttered storage space into an airy waterfront retreat. In place of shingle-clad walls, the 420-square-foot structure now features a glazed envelope, with a bifold glass door that opens up the south façade.

Garage-Cabin-By-Graypants-03-Amos-Morgan-Photography-759x504 Garage Cabin / Graypants

© Amos Morgan Photography

Reclaimed pine slats line the pitched glass roof, which is accented with interactive LED panels that run down to the floor. Fir boards from the existing garage walls were refinished and repurposed to line the floor; embedded panels can be propped up to form backrests for lounging or conceal storage compartments when closed. A built-in storage unit holds bookshelves, a desk, cabinets, and a hidden bar, and a narrow passageway outside the north wall boasts an outdoor shower.

Garage-Cabin-By-Graypants-05-Amos-Morgan-Photography-799x1200 Garage Cabin / Graypants

© Amos Morgan Photography

The wood ceiling structure was built with reclaimed boards that came from the demolition of the old downtown Goodwill building. An industrial grade garage door made by an aircraft carrier door manufacturer was welded into place to open the building to the salt air. Oversized, one-half inch thick glass slabs were hoisted by crane over the building and then secured into the bi-fold door.

Garage-Cabin-By-Graypants-06-Amos-Morgan-Photography-759x542 Garage Cabin / Graypants

© Amos Morgan Photography

Garage-Cabin-By-Graypants-07-Amos-Morgan-Photography-759x590 Garage Cabin / Graypants

© Amos Morgan Photography

Standing seam copper was carefully chosen to encase and bookend the lightweight structure of the garage, exhibiting the effects of the shifting sun, fog and rain as it weathers. Garage is the reinvigoration of a post-World War II structure that was originally a simple wood-framed construction that had become tired, worn and useless but remained rich—coveted with memories of outdoor gatherings and form work.

Garage-Cabin-By-Graypants-08-Grant-Harder-759x947 Garage Cabin / Graypants

© Grant Harder

The owners’ love of poetry and family bonds became the inspiration for the separation and joyous recombination of materials, ensuring that old memories lived on as new ones came to life. Some walls remained as guardians of the new – grounding the space to its history, yet exposed in their slow decay – while other walls became floors embedded with concealed beds and lounges. A curated palate of natural materials absorbs the slow patina, which protects the structure from the marine, salt environment and forms over time.

Garage-Cabin-By-Graypants-12-Grant-Harder-759x489 Garage Cabin / Graypants

© Grant Harder

“The diagrams and the drawings are exquisite,” juror Joel Sanders said. “I think the way they found a balance between echoing the child’s notion of what a shelter is, but to do it in a way that feels very fresh and contemporary, is such a smart thing to pull off.” — Katie Gerfen/Residential Architect Design Awards

Garage-Cabin-By-Graypants-15-Amos-Morgan-Photography-759x506 Garage Cabin / Graypants

© Amos Morgan Photography

Garage-Cabin-By-Graypants-16-Amos-Morgan-Photography-759x506 Garage Cabin / Graypants

© Amos Morgan Photography


Garage is graypants’ award-winning debut architecture project. Set as a residential cabin, the building is a careful balance of preserving memory of the existing structure and repurposing materials extracted from it. New and old elements have been merged to celebrate the beauty of everyday interactions – such as entering through the solid Corian sliding speakeasy cabinet, illuminating the stretched canvas walls with a mobile phone, revealing hidden beds beneath wooden floor panels that fold into seating, and lighting the century-old wood burning stove.

Garage-Cabin-By-Graypants-17-Amos-Morgan-Photography-759x506 Garage Cabin / Graypants

© Amos Morgan Photography

Mystery, memory, poetry and light. Reinvigorating a tired, post World War II structure (aka: shitty garage) which was worn and forgotten. The existing was rich with stories, its walls layered with past impressions of formwork and family dinners. Separating, and then joyously recombining materials to impart them with new life. Scratched boards become a textured backdrop defining new functions, while the remaining structure is dismantled into flooring, concealing beds and lounges beneath. Reclaimed pine, a discarded basin, and a century-old stove introduce the memories of others: a remix of the familiar and the novel, the past and the future.

Garage-Cabin-By-Graypants-22-Grant-Harder-759x949 Garage Cabin / Graypants

© Grant Harder

The garage aims to make design mysterious. Making mundane tasks of our lives into opportunities that create beauty through joyful interaction. Providing a canvas that allows imagination to make new old and old new. The new becoming a theatre to watch the old gradually fade away. This space wasn’t about ordinary… it was about touching on boundaries of what is ordinary.

Garage-Cabin-By-Graypants-27-Amos-Morgan-Photography-800x1200 Garage Cabin / Graypants

© Amos Morgan Photography

Project Data:

Project name: Garage
Location: Vashon, Washington, United States
Coordinates: 47.488359, -122.479616

  • Type By Characteristic: Cabin / Hut / Cottage, Holiday House
  • Type By Site: Island House, Lake House
  • Type By Size: Tiny House – (less than 51 sqm)
  • Type By Materials: Steel House

Project Area: 39 sqm/430 sq.ft
Status: Completed
Completion Year: 2014


  • 2014 – Residential Architect Design Awards – Winner
  • 2014 – North American Copper in Architecture Awards – Winner
  • 2013 – The American Institute of Architect (AIA Awards) – AIA Seattle Awards – Honor Awards – Winner

The people:

Client / Owner / Developer: Private
Architects: Graypants – 3220 1st Ave S #400, Seattle, WA 98134, United States
General Contractor: Schuchart/Dow
Text Description: © Courtesy of Graypants, Schuchart/Dow, Residential Architect Design Awards, North American Copper in Architecture Awards
Images: © Graypants, Amos Morgan Photography, Grant Harder


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