Gear Loft by Johnston Architects

Gear Loft is a lovely cabin located in Winthrop, Washington, designed in 2019 by Johnston Architects.

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When two Seattle-based outdoor enthusiasts explored the Methow Valley, they knew they must put down roots. But without building their permanent home just yet, how could they accommodate all their outdoor gear and provide shelter for themselves during their visits to the Methow? With a restricted budget, the team set out to create a space that would contain all their climbing equipment, paddleboards, kayaks, skis, and bikes, while also providing a place to sleep, cook, and shower. The solution is a lofted, shed-inspired structure with a tiny footprint: Gear Loft.

The clients’ outdoor gear was cataloged and measured to inform storage requirements, creating solutions to simplify bringing the gear in and out of storage while framing views of its surroundings. An oversized garage door offers floor-to-ceiling views and rolls up to easily load equipment. Windows are placed at eye level, framing the landscape. Stacked openings give through-line views and provide a cross breeze on warm afternoons.

The sustainability of Gear Loft is its compact footprint and low energy usage. It lives large but consumes little. Materials are unsophisticated and accessible: concrete, plywood, glulam, and steel. Many of these can be reused, including recycled content, or are recyclable. The wood stove and vaulted ceiling make it easy to heat in winter, while the concrete floor and operable openings provide passive cooling in warmer months.

Exploration drives the project, from its garage door “windows” to the climbing grip “handrails” along the ship’s ladder to the loft. A sofa tucks under a wall of paddleboards and kayaks. Most of the cooking occurs outdoors, but the indoor kitchenette offers convenience. Casework stores climbing gear, shoes, and ski boots while specialized equipment clips hold larger gear off the floor. A built-in counter doubles as a ski waxing bench.

Photography courtesy of Johnston Architects

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- by Matt Watts