Six designers—all related—create the ultimate labor of love: their shared vacation home on Washington’s Whidbey 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.
“We wanted the main space to be one big room where we could all be comfortable at once,” says Don. “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.
Because the family tends to gather in the kitchen, they placed the island just steps from the living area so the conversation
wouldn’t stop for whoever’s cooking.
The kitchen features open shelving, so dishware serves as art. “You don’t end up having a lot of stuff just 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
The family didn’t finalize the island’s size (40 by 60 inches) until the drywall was in. “We could then stand in the space
and imagine the best setup,” Chad says. The cobalt blue legs make the island feel like less of a workhorse and help it blend
in with the common area.
Like the majority of the cabin, the kitchen gives a nod to its locale. The cabinets are made from alder wood cut from aged
trees on the property, dried for 18 months, and milled on-site. Suzy lent her skills as a hobby ceramist to create a subtle
Since the kitchen is part of the common area, the family chose to use the base cabinets as a credenza, leaving off the traditional
doors in favor of additional open shelving.
With a view like the one out the Robertsons’ wall of windows, there’s no need for eye-catching color indoors. Instead, Suzy
used coastal-inspired blues and greens with a few strong pops; the creamy tones complement the white walls and the alder flooring
and furniture. Suzy also chose a “whitish mint” paint to unify mismatched dining chairs.
The family used the same deft touch with color in the cabin’s two small bedrooms. The bed frame has been in the family since Don and Suzy married 43 years ago. “It’s been yellow, blue, red,” says Suzy. This iteration—a bright grass green—complements the cherry red stool by Chadhaus and the washed-out colors of the pillows (designed by Isabelle).
Blond wood, white walls, and a host of creamy hues give this house its Finnish flat meets Northwest beach cabin vibe. The
paint palette consists of the following (clockwise from top center):
Nothing says, "Forget the 9-to-5," like a classic Adirondack chair. Blue coastal chair, $129; worldmarket.com
This do-anything, go-anywhere stool is solid wood. Vollen bench (18 in. high by 14 in. long by 24 in. wide), $450; chadhaus.com
Hand-dipped in white paint, this rattan basket makes a cool stash for extra blankets. Dipped storage basket, $129; westelm.com
The beloved (and super-durable) striped dhurrie rug gets a new take. Bark paddle stripe cotton dhurrie from $195; serenaandlily.com
Mint green gives this porcelain dinnerware a watercolor effect. Royal Doulton 1815 dinnerware from $5.99 each; bedbathandbeyond.com
Metal serving utensils get a pop makeover. Superior servers, $30 each; ladiesandgentlemenstudio.com
Bright stitched borders and graphic patterns let these organic linen napkins live a little. Piano Nobile napkin set, $30; studiopianonobile.com
Each of these beautifully marbled bowls is hand-sculpted from fallen cherry trees. Round cherry bowls from $48 each; spencerpeterman.com
Go ahead, leave pantry staples out in this vintage-looking vessel. Retro storage tall jar, $30; raredevice.net