Architect Heather R B Washburn’s Way Redmond, Washington based architecture studio Calico Studio designed Nautilus Studio in Seattle. Most artists if pressed could work in the most awkward of spaces, adapting to their means. Their artist wanted a space that would call her to create. The studio is tucked in between existing trees in close proximity to the main house providing a visual connection to her family that can easily be broken and re-established. Calico Studio found inspiration in the spirals of the Nautilus, which are reflected in the studios placement on the site and in the section of the building. Conversations are natural occurrences on the front porch under the far-reaching overhang, protecting visitors from seasonal rain and direct sun in the summer.
Calico Studio put much effort into finding materials that are reminiscent of ancient cathedrals, but modern in their efficiencies. AAC, aerated autoclave concrete, masonry was chosen for its insulating properties and aesthetically to ground the building. We were also looking for a material to balance the cool white block walls and we found humble OSB. Most readily used underneath materials they brought OSB front and center. On the ceiling it is raw and as a skin for their casework and support spaces it is stained with a semi transparent finish. Their textile artist retreats inside under custom glulam beams that stretch in broad areas capturing and bouncing natural light into the workspace.
By broadening the underside, the exposed beams reach from inside the studio out into a six-foot overhang toward the landscape and main house creating a haven for the family to gather and relax. The wedge shape for the studio is based on a golden rectangle that was squeezed by sight constraints. The loft acts as a girdle to provide stability to their long tall east wall. The open workspaces are split into a dry space for textiles and wet for painting. The spaces are flexible and the custom wheeled furniture can be set up on the fly to adjust to the needs of the artist. A downed cedar tree milled onsite was utilized for the furniture. The overhang was designed using sun diagrams to prevent direct sunlight from bleaching the textiles inside.
Accessibility to the loft storage is achieved with adjustable custom metal ladder. Calico Studio needed a way to get larger supplies to the loft easily and fashioned a block and pulley system using an antique hay trolley and marine cleats. The shape of the roof implies a passing breeze or a rolling wave, spurring camaraderie. White dapples light reflects off the walls onto the terrace, providing areas for conversation or spontaneous inspiration. The nautilus studio utilizes a straightforward pallet; where color, texture and pattern work with shape and structure to provide a calm cantered space that is also ready for the unexpected whims of its artist.
On a great day, Heather R B Washburn spends most of her time drawing, losing herself in the lines on the page. Every now and then she tries to think through how she ended up where she is. She didn’t really know what an architect was until high school and even now she blurs the lines between architect and artist. When you have the chance to start over how do you start? It’s a daunting question, for which there isn’t an absolute answer. She believes you have to ask questions and keep asking them. Slowly patterns begin to emerge and clarity is brought to the challenge. It’s also important to build a team that is willing to fully participate in the process. She moved to the west coast in 2005, and became a bi-coastal architect for the last six years. Last summer it was time to further explore opportunities in product design and sculpture by opening Calico Studio. She has always been a strong leader, and she wears a lot of hats. She takes these experiences and use them to help decipher questions and find answers. She meets with my clients and listen and look for the patterns, taking in their body language, what they say, and what they show her. Washburn is also looking for the unexplored creative vein. What tools can she use to push the envelope? When she reflects back, she is looking for not only the “big puzzle” but also how it connects, how the individual pieces have notches defined by their components and rules. These connections could be the understanding of subtle differences of a new culture. It could be the reasoning behind a sculpture or painting, the relationship between two people, or simply how to make an aspect better. She is searching for the exhilaration of the “ah ha” moment. The one you get right after finding a solution, and what’s better than that is when someone is along with you for that discovery. It’s lasting, and it’s what Washburn loves about architecture and art.