Even his artsy friends were skeptical. But for $70,000, he knew he could find a way to make it work.
When Michael Northrup began fantasizing about buying a derelict fruit-processing and storage facility in Tieton, Wash., as his second home, even his design-savvy friends weren’t sure what to think.
On his first visit in 2015, he said, “I took a developer friend, an architect friend and my best friend.” They all thought he was out of his mind.
The roughly 10,000-square-foot building was uninhabitable and had been ransacked and stripped of much of its electrical wiring. But after months of house hunting in the area, which Mr. Northrup loved for its burgeoning creative scene about 150 miles southeast of his primary home in Seattle, he was ready to make a move.
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 to Cleman Mountain and the possibilities offered by a run-down warehouse from the 1950s.
That October, he bought the structure, which sat on a one-acre lot, for $70,000. Then he bought a vintage Timberline travel trailer and parked it inside. For the first couple of 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. Each winter, he drained the plumbing to keep it from freezing.
But he wanted something that didn’t feel so transient: a comfortable, permanent home he could use year-round. So in 2017, he commissioned Best Practice, a Seattle architecture firm, to come up with a plan.
Over the next two years, Mr. Northrup and his architects explored various options. He first asked for a home built from shipping containers, then decided that approach wasn’t ideal. The architects toyed with the idea of converting part of the warehouse into a home, or inserting a stand-alone house inside it. In the end, they concluded that the best course of action would be to demolish a garage at one end to make way for a two-story, 1,100-square-foot stand-alone house, linked to the original structure by a new courtyard.
“It was really important to get up high, because once you get above 10 feet, you’ve got a sweeping view of the top of the cherry orchards and the fields beyond,” said Ian Butcher, the founding partner of Best Practice, who positioned the living room and kitchen on the top floor of the new house. Where the house faces the warehouse, he said, “we carefully crafted a series of smaller, punched windows to highlight interesting, cool parts of the existing building.”
An elongated roof covers a 250-square-foot deck at the front of the living room, and the home’s single bedroom is on the ground floor.
For budgetary reasons and to reflect local building traditions, the architects worked with durable, economical materials, including concrete blocks and corrugated metal siding on the exterior, and plenty of exposed plywood on the interior. As Mr. Butcher said, “We were thinking 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 about $350,000. Since then, Mr. Northrup has spent most of his time there, enjoying the landscape, forging connections with other creative people in the area and experimenting with how best to use his warehouse.
“I call it ‘playing 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 up a tent.’ Or you can build something, or paint something, or paint over something. You’re just free to play.”
One day, he decided to paint a large-scale work of yellow semicircles to enliven the courtyard. Another day, he built a warehouse bedroom with friends, so he would have a place for overnight guests who don’t want to sleep in the trailer.
Along with a well-equipped workshop, “the primary, big room where they used to store apples is set up so it could be a tennis court or host a big dance party,” Mr. Butcher said. “He does movie nights there, with a projector and a bunch of sofas he’s put on wheels.”
This fall, he’s planning to hold a group art exhibition there.
“To this day, everyone’s like, ‘What’s the plan?’” Mr. Northrup said of his warehouse. “I’ve never known. Even now that I have a house there, it’s still constantly evolving. For now, we’re just going with it.”
meet the team
We’re a team (and a dog named Evie) inspired by diverse design perspectives, innovation, technology, art, and the world around us. We live for the chance to create and disperse powerful, genuine messages that resonate.
Growing up in Seattle, Amy was always exploring the great outdoors but she found a particular thrill in traveling. During a visit to New York City at age 10, she knew that was where she wanted to live. After high school she left her home in the Pacific Northwest behind for the great unknown to attend Fordham University in the Bronx. Upon graduation, Amy received a phone call from CNN offering a job opportunity of a lifetime working in television ad sales at Manhattan's Time Warner Center. When a job opportunity in Los Angeles opened up a few years later, Amy couldn't say no to a new adventure back on the west coast. But Seattle eventually called her back home and Amy returned to pursue a Master's degree in Business Administration with the hopes of learning the skills she needed to feed her entrepreneurial spirit. Before graduating, Amy co-founded Paxson Fay with Tessa Andrews in 2015. Amy focuses on marketing strategy, public relations, social media, and partnerships.
Tessa graduated from Fordham University in New York with a dual bachelor's degree in Communications and Political Science. During her time at Fordham, she worked for an interior designer and at NBC News where she developed her love for both design and communications. After graduating, Tessa managed marketing at 3form, a pioneer in the sustainable building products industry. During her tenure, 3form was repeatedly named one of the most recognized manufacturers in the design industry among architects and designers, and the company won multiple awards for its innovative product launches. After 3form, Tessa consulted on marketing efforts with leading product manufacturers in architecture and design before starting Paxson Fay with Amy.
senior account coordinator
Claire Butwinick specializes in marketing and social media strategy, copywriting, and public relations. Formerly the Assistant Editor at GRAY Magazine, an international architecture and design publication based in Seattle, Claire brings to Paxson Fay her editorial background and a passion for all things design. In addition to her writing experience, Claire is a seasoned public speaker, moderating a number of panel discussions with IDS Vancouver and Be Original Americas, and hosting the 2019 GRAY Awards. Last year, she took her speaking skills virtual, conducting several Instagram Live interviews with designers amid the pandemic. A graduate from the University of Washington’s School of Communication: Journalism, Claire was honored with a Pioneer News Group Excellence Award for Visual Journalism, selected for the Communication department’s prestigious Career Exploration scholarship, and nominated for a Hearst National Journalism Award. Her work also appears in GRAY Magazine, Office Insight, SagaCity’s Jewish in Seattle Magazine, and more.
senior account coordinator
After graduating from Fordham University in New York City with a major in Communications and Media Studies and a handful of marketing and PR internships, Colby moved to Boston to manage marketing for a small, women-owned, creative consulting agency. While in that role, Colby managed public relations and marketing efforts for some of Boston's most prominent events and public art initiatives, including the Boston Pickle Fair and The Bulfinch Crossing Projections in downtown Boston. Colby gained experience crafting brand stories and identities through social media marketing and creative copywriting, seen through the successful launch of a premier Massachusetts adult-use dispensary and the revamp of her agency's own website. After two years, Colby decided it was time to figure out what the West Coast was all about. Looking to blend her marketing experience with her passion for design and architecture, Colby found Paxson Fay, where she focuses on social media strategy and management and public relations.
Chloe Edwards is a PNW native and recent Summa cum laude graduate from the University of Washington, where she studied Communication and Anthropology. While interning with the strategic communications firm Parsons + Co. Chloe developed skills in messaging and branding development, media outreach, and social media management. Chloe joined the Paxson Fay team as an intern in the fall of 2020. At Paxson Fay, Chloe creates social media content for a variety of client campaigns and profiles and leads engagement on several accounts, coordinates internal communications efforts, and assists with media outreach. As Paxson Fay's full-time Communications Assistant she uses her experience to achieve social media marketing, content strategy, and media relations success for clients and for the Paxson Fay brand.
digital marketing manager
Originally from Las Vegas, Ryan (they/them) graduated from the University of Washington (Go Dawgs!) and considers Seattle to be home. Ryan’s career has shifted many times - from being a campaign organizer in politics to being a professional photographer and wedding planner - but they have always gravitated towards the art of marketing and know it's their true calling. After working at multiple start-ups and building digital campaigns for companies like Google and Amazon, Ryan is excited to be a part of a team that aligns with their passions for architecture and design. Ryan is bringing years of marketing, data analysis, and social media experience to the team and is thrilled to start supporting clients in achieving their marketing goals.
what we do
We are a communications firm founded in our passion for good design. Our unique approach to marketing and public relations in the architecture and design community has elevated our clients work to the next level. We’re backed by a talented community of creatives. From copywriters to social media experts, we provide a complete package of customized services. We strive to create a personal experience with each client, integrating teams and tackling your biggest marketing and public relations challenges from a high level. Then we help execute those plans ensuring lots of reporting along the way, with lots of coffee breaks in between because we’re from Seattle and that’s what we do.
partnerships acquisition and management
media communications and outreach
awards: strategy, content development and submissions
platform strategy and management
results + reporting
budget strategy + negotiation
website and e-mail marketing
video: sourcing, storyboarding and scheduling
photography acquisition + curation
sponsorships + partnerships
Here is a little taste of who we love to work with and what we love to do.