The Ultimate Backyard Accessory? A Sauna

What makes a house a home? For one Seattle couple, the answer seems to be a personal touch, and a little heat

This article appears in print in the July 2018 issue. Click here to subscribe.

A dedicated space at home for artistic endeavors is common enough in a creative city like Seattle, but a matching sauna? It was an obvious pairing for painter Natasha (who asked that we not use her last name) who was in need of a space of her own and who grew up in Russia, where the simple luxury of sitting and sweating in a sauna––or the similarly purposed banya––is embedded in her sense of home.

She, husband Bill and their three young boys reap the rewards of that nostalgia, thanks to the installation of twin (more fraternal than identical) Modern Shed structures in their backyard: an 8- by-6-foot sauna and an art studio of similar size. With the structures painted to match the family’s handsome mid-century modern home (designed by noted architects Bert Tucker and Robert Shields) and a sweeping view of Union Bay, their backyard is now the stuff of Instagram daydreams.

It’s also unique.

The inside of the sauna features just enough space to relax, and the dry heat works in tandem with a cold bath available outside.

The two sheds were designed to match the family's mid-century modern home designed by architects Bert Tucker and Robert Shields. 

Modern Shed general manager Tim Vack says the company––a family-owned local business that builds custom, eco-friendly sheds for everything from storage to living spaces––has completed many art studios, but only a couple of saunas.

Saunas, it turns out, are quite a different feat. “Obviously, there are huge electrical needs to keep the shed heated and warm whenever possible,” Vack says. Luckily, what could have been a major roadblock was mitigated when the couple hired an electrician before construction began. 

The next challenge they faced was setting up the bi-level structures in a way that fit the clean, modern aesthetic of the grounds. “The hardest part of the process,” says Bill, “was working on a foundation design that looks more like a built-in versus a raised shed on concrete pavers.” 

In the end, the stunning pair of complementary spaces blend in beautifully with the crisp and clean lines of the house. Or, as these two call it, home.

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