Though it’s just a bit more than an hour away from the urban core of Seattle, Camano Island feels like a world apart—an oasis of evergreen forests and windswept rocky beaches dotted with centuries-old fallen trees bleached white under the sun. The landscape still belongs to nature, to the nesting bald eagles and gray whales migrating through the Saratoga Passage.
Those seeking a serene refuge have long flocked to cabins on the coastline. A Seattle family—complete with two young kids and a large dog—found one such abode mere steps from the Salish Sea. But the original 1930s cabin had sprouted through the years into a rambling layout, with sections built in different decades spliced together. This left behind disjointed spaces and some awkward angles.
What the couple craved most of all was “a sense of minimalism,” says interior designer Shannon Adamson, who joined forces with architects Lane Williams and Kellen White as well as general contractor Mitch Falkner to bring cohesion to the vacation getaway. While the owners wanted to echo the sleek lines Williams and White created in their Seattle dwelling, they also hoped to infuse the Camano Island property with natural wonder. “We focused on keeping the view center stage,” Adamson notes. “To honor it, the home needed to be understated.”
When reconfiguring the structure, the team’s goal was “not so much to add to the existing house, but to take things away, clarifying the design,” Williams explains. On the front façade, they removed a bulky entry foyer and added a glass-and-steel door along with large windows. “We generally prefer as much glazing as possible because we want to see the view pouring in,” White notes.
They then focused on peeling open the interior by removing unnecessary walls, particularly between gathering spaces. Now the family’s life seamlessly flows from the living area to the expansive kitchen and dining room. As one wanders through, the uninterrupted beachfront vista unfolds through walls of windows and sliding glass doors leading to the back deck. The lone divider stands at the entry, a slatted screen allowing views of the water from the front door.
New drywall smooths sharp ceiling transitions, while interesting details, such as the central wagon-wheel skylight, are preserved. But, behind the scenes, “we had limited crawl space access,” Falkner says. “So, trying to figure out things like lighting without a major structural remodel was challenging.” Collaborating with lighting designer Nathanael Washam of Luminous NW, Adamson drew on her background in restaurant design for some elegant solutions, including adding a dropped beam to hang large pendant lights over the kitchen island. Since Northwestern sunlight ebbs and flows through the seasons, providing enough illumination was crucial. “We made sure we had lighting to address different times of the year, so the home always feels inviting and comfortable,” Adamson notes.
The couple wanted a neutral palette, so the designer took cues from the beach, looking to driftwood and stormy water for color inspiration. Darker accents anchor central spaces, from the ebonized kitchen island to the lounge area’s faux-concrete fireplace painted by Seattle-based artist Lauren Sloan. The boldest hues are found in the children’s playful bunk bedroom, where an impressionistic wallcovering “mimics the skyline of Camano on a misty morning,” the designer says. “You get this atmospheric perspective with layers of trees and mountains just beyond.”
Honoring the couple’s love for modern design, furnishings feature geometric forms, from the living room’s modular sectional to the stackable dining chairs. A limited palette and clean lines can become stark, Adamson notes, so she leaned in on texture. Cue the rattan, whitewashed woods and, of course, “the layers of linen throws and nubby cotton pillows,” she adds. “Feeling enveloped by textiles makes the home more inviting, especially on those colder, moodier days.”
The designer also made room for fanciful moments, incorporating specific pieces the couple had always wanted, but never had the opportunity to use. The wife dreamed of having a four-poster bed, so their primary suite has one made from reclaimed French oak. In the living room, the husband requested a rattan hanging chair overlooking the water. The feature is “just so whimsical,” Adamson says. “I love working on clients’ vacation homes because it’s a chance for them to try something more adventurous.”
But, for the most part, escapades here tend to be quieter. Indeed, far from the city’s lights, life unbuttons itself in this reimagined abode, and everyday drudgeries melt away into the island’s open sky.