Stoltz Kau Architects designs a mountaintop retreat that is both beautiful and strong, braced for any kind of weather.

Share story

FOR MANY, THE ISLANDS of Hawaii are one of the most special places on earth.

But for Cary Moore, born and raised on Oahu, that designation goes to Washington’s San Juan Islands. Specifically Orcas.

“Never go to a real estate office in a resort area when you’re on vacation,” is Moore’s advice. “Especially in July.”

Moore, an admitted islomaniac (lover of islands), came to this archipelago’s largest bit of land to deliver his daughter to summer camp. And, in truth, it wasn’t an agent who sold him on the place. It was the cool breeze.

Most Read Stories

Unlimited Digital Access. $1 for 4 weeks.

“It is amazing the weather you see out the front window,” he says

Specifically, Moore is speaking of his window in his house high atop Buck Mountain. A place he calls Lanihuli (“swirling heavens”), named after a mountain on Oahu’s windward side.

Spring Home Design

Indeed, it was a fairly quick hop from cool Orcas breeze to cool Orcas house, 1,935 square feet designed by island architects Susan Stoltz and David Kau of Stoltz Kau Architects.

“Certain times of the day you can look out and not see any evidence of human existence,” Moore says.

Expansive views toward Port Angeles begin here. The home was built by White Construction & Co. Floors are red oak. (Benjamin Benschneider / The Seattle Times)
Expansive views toward Port Angeles begin here. The home was built by White Construction & Co. Floors are red oak. (Benjamin Benschneider / The Seattle Times)

It’s true. This contemporary mountaintop retreat that launches from a slender ridge has perhaps the best view to be had in our parts: from slabs of lime-green moss-frosted boulders just outside the window, across the deep fir forest and sapphire-blue water, sweeping up to a sky with a watercolor-paintbox of hues.

The architects worked around and for this view at every turn, desiring to take advantage of the spectacular setting while also preserving it. Moore told them that there should be “no dreary winter days in this house.” Construction, by White Construction & Co., went slowly and carefully to preserve the rock and moss landscape, as well as several trees. (One large Douglas fir that was removed has retuned as slabs and boards featured in almost every room.)

The home is organized around a linear hallway. Custom barn doors there, along a 27-foot-long track, can be configured to turn a second bathroom, office and media room/library into a guest suite. On one end of the open great room is a woodstove for warmth. On the other, in the kitchen, a woodstove for pizza. Meanwhile, to the north sits the dining room, and to the south, a Stoltz Kau trademark, a sunny nook. Everything, everywhere always with views.

The master bedroom cantilevers (to protect the root system of a tree just outside), taking in views both distant and nearby.

Cabinetmaker Mark Padbury custom crafted enough live-edge pieces to hammer home that cabin feeling.

The entry hallway serves as a decompression zone before the kapow of the open main living space beyond. Behind the sliders are the more private parts of the home, the office, media room/guest room/library.  (Benjamin Benschneider / The Seattle Times)
The entry hallway serves as a decompression zone before the kapow of the open main living space beyond. Behind the sliders are the more private parts of the home, the office, media room/guest room/library. (Benjamin Benschneider / The Seattle Times)

Outside there is a shop building and raised garden beds, two designed as “conversation planters,” a place to enjoy both the plantings and a chat.

And while the views here are splendid, the weather can be downright rude. To counter, the exterior is durable and low-maintenance cement panel siding with a metal roof and aluminum-clad fir windows.

Moore’s new home means so much to him that at the end of construction he and Linda Hamilton were married there, atop the moss-carpeted slab of rock outside their door, joined together by Padbury, the cabinetmaker. Fine joinery, indeed.

At a project’s end, there is always a punch list of items that need fixing or tweaking. Well, almost always.

“There was nothing to punch,” says Moore, still amazed. “Friends from Hawaii are astounded when they see the house. I have to say, it came out even better than I thought. Perfect. Perfect, perfect.”