An abandoned warehouse as a second home?

When Michael Northrup began to fantasize about buying an abandoned fruit processing and storage facility in Tieton, Washington as his se...


When Michael Northrup began to fantasize about buying an abandoned fruit processing and storage facility in Tieton, Washington as his second home, even his design-savvy friends weren’t sure what to think.

On his first visit in 2015, he said, “I brought a developer friend, an architect friend and my best friend. They all thought he was crazy.

The approximately 10,000 square foot building was uninhabitable and had been ransacked and stripped of much of its electrical wiring. But after months of searching for housing in the area, which Mr. Northrup loved for its burgeoning creative scene about 150 miles southeast of his main Seattle home, he was ready to take a step.

It was an unconventional idea, but Mr. Northrup, 52, an amateur artist who works in cloud computing at Accenture, was struck by the beauty of the surrounding cherry orchard, the view of Cleman Mountain and the possibilities offered by a dilapidated warehouse. from the 1950s.

“I just couldn’t get it out of my head,” he said. “I asked too many people and had too many opinions, but realized I had to follow my gut. It was too fascinating not to.

In October, he purchased the structure, which stood on one acre of land, for $ 70,000. Then he bought a vintage Timberline trailer and parked it inside. For the first two years, he spent the warmer months living in the trailer, using the warehouse’s two bathrooms, and showering outside after connecting a hose to a propane heater. . Every winter he emptied the plumbing to keep it from freezing.

But he wanted something that didn’t feel so fleeting: a comfortable, permanent home that he could use all year round. So in 2017 he ordered Better training, a Seattle architectural firm, to develop a plan.

Over the next two years, Mr. Northrup and his architects explored various options. He first asked for a house built from shipping containers, then decided that this approach was not ideal. The architects had the idea of ​​converting part of the warehouse into a house or of inserting a stand-alone house there. Ultimately, they concluded that the best solution would be to demolish a garage at one end to make way for a two-story, 1,100-square-foot freestanding house, connected to the original structure by a new yard.

“It was really important to go up to the top, because once you get past 10 feet you have an amazing view of the top of the cherry orchards and the fields beyond,” said Ian Butcher, Founding Partner of Best Practice , which placed the living room and kitchen on the top floor of the new house. Where the house faces the warehouse, he said, “we have carefully designed a series of smaller, perforated windows to showcase the interesting and cool parts of the existing building.”

An elongated roof covers a 250 square foot terrace at the front of the living room, and the house’s single bedroom is on the ground floor.

For budgetary reasons and to reflect local building traditions, the architects worked with durable and economical materials, including concrete blocks and corrugated iron siding on the exterior, and plenty of exposed plywood on the interior. As Mr. Butcher said, “We thought of it as an abstract interpretation of an agrarian building.”

Mr. Northrup’s builder, Greg Stevenson, began work in the summer of 2019 and completed the house last fall, at a cost of approximately $ 350,000. Since then, Mr. Northrup has spent most of his time there, enjoying the scenery, bonding with other designers in the area, and experimenting with how best to use his warehouse.

“I call it ‘playing at the warehouse’,” he said. “I can do things there that you could never do in a house. I can say, “Let’s put a bunch of screws on the wall to hold a tent.” Or you can build something, or paint something, or paint over something. You are just free to play.

One day, he decides to paint a large-scale work of yellow semicircles to enliven the yard. Another day, he built a warehouse room with some friends, in order to have a place for the guests who don’t want to sleep in the trailer.

In addition to a well-equipped workshop, “the large main room where they kept the apples is set up so that it could be a tennis court or have a big dance party,” Mr. Butcher said. “He does movie nights there, with a projector and a bunch of sofas that he put on wheels.”

This fall, he plans to organize a collective art exhibition there.

“By now everyone is asking, ‘What’s the plan? ”Said Mr. Northrup of his warehouse. ” I never knew. Even now that I have a house there, it is still constantly evolving. For now, we’re just going with it.

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