From the Cutting Room Floor: Family-Made Whidbey Island Cabin

June 4, 2013 | By | Comments (4)

Every month, only a fraction of the photographs we take make it into the magazine. Here, we share the shots and ideas we didn’t have room for in our June issue.

We spent two beautiful (and fun and delicious) days photographing the “Family Made” story about the Robertson family’s Whidbey Island cabin and ended up with enough images to fill a whole issue. The home is so dreamy (and the family so cool!), I may have asked them to adopt me. 

Here are some favorite snaps.

Don (left), and sons Nick and Chad on the cabin’s green roof!

The roof of the former (unsalvageable) cabin on the property couldn’t be kept in good condition because it was always covered in moss. So the family decided to turn Northwest’s rich, green climate to their advantage: Nick designed a green roof, which they laid with native soil. Since then, it’s self-seeded with clover, native grasses, and wild flowers—and sometimes even attracts deer! “It’s like Judo,” explains Nick of the green roof as a solution. “You use your opponents weight against them.”

Exterior and interior entry.

ABOVE AND LEFT: The flooring, dining table and bench were crafted from old Alder trees on the property the wood was dried for 18 months! RIGHT: Lighting design by Don and trestle system by Nick. 

The Robertson’s creative minds are only matched by the lush Northwest landscape, which in turn provides inspiration for their day jobs. “We try not to do any work at the cabin, but when you allow that free space in your mind, we end up with so much inspiration” says Chad. “We get some of our best ideas there,” adds Emily. Similarly, Isabelle finds time for artwork every visit: “In my Seattle work studio, I don’t have a lot of play mess around time,” she says. “I always pack paints and papers for the cabin, and find time to just paint.”

ABOVE: The kitchen island and cabinets were designed by Chad and Emily of Chadhaus; dishtowels, aprons, and melamine plates are by Isabelle of Piano Nobile

LEFT: The shell-imprinted ceramic tiles were crafted by Suzy.
RIGHT: Coastal collections by Suzy adorn a living room bookshelf unit designed by Don.

LEFT: Paintings by Isabelle, console and lamp base by Chadhaus, lamp shade by Piano Nobile. RIGHT: Chad and Emily relax by a bench seat they designed.

ABOVE: Red stool by Chadhaus, textiles by Piano Nobile.

While the initial floorplan and framework were very thought-out, “a lot of it was ad hoc,” says Nick. The bathroom was originally plumbed for a shower but they ended up with a tub (the shower spigot how secures the laundry line), and they’d intended to have a second story, but that became an economic issue: “It was supposed to be design-build, but it’s actually build-design.”

LEFT Nick and Clara; RIGHT Chad, Clara and Emily.

The cabin lifestyle is as casual at the aesthetic. “We have something called ‘Beach rules’,” says Chad. “You do want you want to do. If that means you want to have a beer with lunch, or not take a bath.”

Suzy grows fresh herbs, potatoes, kale, and some berries. Inspired by neighbor Linda, the veggie garden fence was designed to keep deer away.

Nick barbecues pizza on the grill (which lost its legs in a grilling incident years ago).

Their Whidbey cabin (just 90 minutes away from their Seattle homes by car and ferry) is “an escape from urbanity,” says Nick. “But it’s not always peaceful or quiet—we have dogs, and kids, which have lots of excitement.” “But that’s the good part,” chimes in Isabelle. “It’s a change of rhythm,” adds Don, who likes shore activities like clamming and kayaking. “The rhythm of the tides.”

Time on the water is at the center of Robertson family trips to Whidbey:

Don digs for clams.

Stairway to heaven: 82 stairs from cabin to shore!

Styling by Bergren Rameson. Photographs by Thomas J. Story.


  1. Sunset Magazine | Family-made Designer Home | Robertson Family Cabin on Whidbey Island | Chadhaus

    […] 2013 issue of Sunset Magazine. Two wonderful days were spent with the Sunset staff, who captured plenty of flattering images of our family cabin on Whidbey […]

    January 21, 2014 at 3:06 pm
  2. Jaclyn

    Where is that futon from? I’ve been searching for a similar one. We get Sunset magazine and saw the shot of the full couch, with the extra topper. Would love to know the details. A couch like that would work perfect in our space!

    August 15, 2013 at 7:24 am
  3. Doug

    Is there more design info available? I have a similar banked property on kitsap peninsula

    June 25, 2013 at 7:54 pm
  4. bethanymcgphotography

    I would LOVE a getaway like this! WOW! I’d ask if they could adopt me too!

    June 4, 2013 at 7:05 pm

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