After falling in love with the once agricultural center turned creative arts hub of Tieton, Washington, artist and collector Michael Northrup decided it was time to put down roots and build his dream retreat. Northrup didn’t want to take an existing house off the market — driving up prices for permanent residents — so he sought out a forlorn property he could transform into a unique home that would double as a gathering place for Tieton’s growing arts community.
With this goal in mind, Northrup chose an aging orchard housing a decommissioned apple processing facility for its warehouse setting and incredible views. He elaborates, “I love living near structures with tangible human history. I respect this building for withstanding the winds, protecting the fruit that passed through, and the many people who worked here.
There are recipes, drawings, and even romantic scribbles on the plywood walls. It’s an endless discovery.” Northrup was immediately attracted to the old apple warehouse and processing structure but had no idea how he could turn it into a home. After receiving a recommendation from a common architect acquaintance, Northrup enlisted the help of Seattle-based architecture firm Best Practice to imagine a humble home with respect for the history of the site and the spirit of the community.
Northrup says of his experience, “After our first meeting, I knew they would be fantastic to work with and could relate to and focus my vision. Everyone on their team confirmed my gut feeling at each step.” Best Practice worked closely with Northrup to develop a design inspired by the city’s mission to bridge the gap between the agricultural and arts communities.
With this intent, Best Practice came up with the design concept for Cloud Ranch.The team built a home separate from the existing barn structure — designed to enhance, not overwhelm the warehouse through visual contrast and deliberate placement. Best Practice removed a derelict portion of the warehouse to make way for the new home, strengthening the connection between spaces through a series of protected outdoor rooms.The design of the home is an abstraction of agrarian vernacular.
The Best Practice team intentionally chose rugged and low maintenance materials that would hold up in the tough climate – hot, windy, and dusty in the summer, and cold and snowy in the winter. Outside of durability, the design team utilized modest materials to blend with the existing language of the hardworking structures peppered throughout the area.
Concrete blocks, corrugated metal siding, fiberglass windows, interior plywood walls and flooring, and a metal roof fit in with the CMU barns and sheds of Tieton.
The two-story house takes full advantage of the distant Cleman Mountain ridge, Mount Adams, and a cherry orchard adjacent to the site. On the ground floor sits a simplistic bedroom and main bathroom.
Carefully placed windows and a walk-out covered patio welcome orchard views and sheltered respite. On the upper floor, one large living space opens to sweeping views of the property and provides moments of connection to the old warehouse, Northrup’s favorite element. “Best Practice knew how much I adored the warehouse, so they designed the most wonderful details: the precise alignment of windows and little spaces to feature the warehouse lines from certain perspectives, and the perfect blue punch of color.” A large accordion door leads to a second spacious patio shaded by a shed roof.
Peek-a-boo windows on the South and West sides limit solar gain during the hot months and provide privacy from the road and neighbors.
The old apple processing facility maintains a close connection to the new home – now housing creative spaces, a writer’s cabin, a workshop, rudimentary bathrooms, and a Timberline 5th wheel trailer repurposed as guest quarters.
Northrup uses the creative space for his art and collection storage but opens the doors to local creatives for collaboration and community building. In the future, the large structure will be used for local events and movie nights. Unlike traditional Washington state weekend homes, it wasn’t waterfront views or proximity to mountain resorts that attracted Northrup to Tieton.
It was the kind people and artistic community that made the unassuming location an ideal retreat. While most weekend getaways are designed for the individual, Cloud Ranch was envisioned as a welcoming gathering place to promote the arts. Northrup enjoyed his weekends spent at Cloud Ranch. So much so, that he decided to make it his permanent residence..
Cloud Ranch Gallery