Magazine article Sunset

Family Made

Magazine article Sunset

Family Made

Article excerpt


Six designers-all related-create the ultimate labor of love: their shared vacation home on Washington's Whidhey Island.

Some extended families manage to get together only once a year. For the Robertsons, family reunions happen every other month, and the entire crew- parents Don and Suzy plus their sons Nick and Chad, daughters-in-law Isabelle and Emily, and two young granddaughters- always decamp to the same place: the waterfront cabin they designed and built together.

In a family of designers, it's only natural that they were hands-on with the construction of the home, located on Whidbey Island, about 25 miles from Seattle. Still, the project took a lot of sweat equity and compromise to create. "Initially, there were two sets of plans," says Nick, who's quickly corrected by Chad: "There were more than two sets of plans," he says, smiling. "But everyone wanted the same thing: locally sourced materials, a big main room, lots of windows, a green roof, solutions that would last."

Every inch of the 1,200-square-foot home is Robertson made. Don, a master electrician, handled the electrical and plumbing systems, while Suzy led the decorating. Nick and Isabelle, who run architecture and design studio Piano Nobile, gave input on the structure and provided textiles. Chad and Emily, owners of furniture studio Chadhaus, crafted many of the furnishings. As a result, the cabin isn't just an escape but an heirloom. "This is something we want in our family for a long time," says Chad.

"The main room was designed as a big gathering space, " says Nick. It's comfortable for one or many."

Designing for family


"We wanted the main space to be one big room where we could all be comfortable at once," says Don. Because the family tends to gather in the kitchen, they placed the island iust steps from the living area so the conversation wouldn't stop for whoever's cooking.


"We used lots of white so we could add and switch out color in furnishings and accessories over time," says Suzy. "We also kept it simple because we couldn't decide on a paint color."


Everyone contributed to the look of the interiors. Chad and Emily designed the dining table and kitchen furnishings. Isabelle's textiles are sprinkled throughout. Exposed trusses, painted white, are Nick's handiwork, and the half-mirrored lightbulbs hung from the ceiling were Don's idea. Suzy was the lead stylist. "Suzy won't admit it, but she's the secret artist here," says Isabelle. "It's her ideas- the colorful ceramics, the mix of textiles, her beachy vintage touches- that bring together the spirit of the cabin."


The front deck was designed as an extension of the common area. "Even if you're outside on the deck, you're adjacent to everything else," Emily says. Dogs and kids are always running in and out, often dodging Don as he returns from clamming.

A made-for-ease kitchen


The kitchen features open shelving, so dishware serves as art. "You don't end up having a lot of stuff iust hidden away," says Chad. "All the things you use on a daily basis are right there. And with so many of us running around, nothing can be too precious."


The family didn't finalize the island's size (40 by 60 inches) until the drywall was in. …

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