A repurposed building on Vashon Island that uses copper as one of its prime finishing materials was recently given a design award from the copper industry.
The building, referred to as “The Garage” by its owners as a nod to its former use, is now an ethereal multipurpose structure that has more glass than walls.
The 240-square-foot building was reconstructed in 2013 to become a gathering spot for its owners, who maintain a nearby weekend home on the island.
The building uses standing seam copper as one of its primary building materials. The striking design earned the building a North American Copper in Architecture award earlier this year.
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Copper encases and bookends the lightweight structure, which is used for relaxing, family dinners and extra sleeping space.
Seattle design firm Graypants is the brains behind the structure. Seth Grizzle, a founding partner, is an architect by training, but has spent the last several years designing and manufacturing lighting.
“Part of the lighting (design) was giving new life to discarded things,” Grizzle said. It was through the firm’s lighting work that they met the owners of the Vashon property.
“They liked our unique approach to design,” Grizzle said. Part of that approach was the repurposing of spaces and materials. “If you’re a good designer, you should just be responsible. That should be part of your ethos,” he said.
Grizzle describes the original garage as a “run-down structure that wasn’t getting used.” Then the owners had an intimate dinner in the space one night.
“They came to us with the question: how do you preserve a memory?” Grizzle recalls. “How do you give something being discarded a new life?”
The owners wanted it to serve several functions — but storing cars wasn’t one of them.
“It had to be this Swiss Army knife construction. It could be a room but also a party house, a guest house and a beautiful place for dinner,” Grizzle said.
The designers left an L-shaped portion of the old garage’s walls to preserve the texture and history. It now acts a breezeway and contains the entrance as well as an outdoor sink and shower. Wood from the building was remilled into flooring for the new structure.
The door of the building, made of Corian, has a handle that resembles a page fluttering up from a book. Inscribed into the door is a poem by Robert Creeley.
Inside is a wood-burning stove, dining table and chairs. Beds and lounges pop up from the floor.
The ceiling and most of the walls are glass, so Grizzle wanted to use a contrasting material that would “tell stories” as it aged. Copper, he said, was the natural choice.
“Because of the marine environment, it made sense from a purely functional standpoint. But it made even more sense because it allows a patina to have its own story about the weather,” Grizzle said.
Two copper bands bookend the building like clamps. The 2-foot-wide sections are custom-made standing-seam copper panels. Inside, they’re wrapped with fabric and hide LEDs and speakers.
At night they function as light fixtures. The whole building “glows in the landscape like a lantern,” Grizzle said.