A Seattle Backyard Becomes a Calm Oasis For Two Book Lovers

By Lucy Wang

Tucked behind a Seattle home, this beautiful backyard reading retreat of glass, timber, and tile offers an idyllic escape from city life.

Once rendered unusable by a thicket of overgrown plants, a Montlake backyard belonging to bookstore owners Danielle and David Hulton has been transformed into a modern reading retreat, perfectly crafted for curling up in with a book.

“Before the project came to be, it was hard to visualize how much space there was hidden under all the vegetation,” says local design firm Board & Vellum, who was tapped by the homeowners to renovate the backyard with a new structure and landscaping.

“For inspiration to launch the project, the homeowners envisioned a ‘found shed’ with a modern twist, featuring plenty of glass to help blend the spaces,” adds the firm. “Everything in the shed would be meaningful and have a purpose, and every framed view—both from within and without—would be intentional.”

Thanks to full-height glazing and carefully framed views, the Backyard Reading Retreat feels much larger than its 169-square-foot size lets on. Sliding glass doors seamlessly connect the interior to an outdoor patio with built-in bench seating, a hot tub, and a fire pit.

Since the backyard borders a neighbor’s massive Atlas Cedar—designated an “exceptional tree” by the city due to its size—the project’s building footprint was limited by the tree’s dripline.

To emphasize the project’s site-specific layout, the firm turned the site constraint into a design feature that informs the curved forms of the landscape elements.

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