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 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.
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.
Originally from Spokane, Washington, Stasha relocated to Seattle after completing her studies in communications at Eastern Washington University. Over the past seven years, she has held various communication roles at Amazon, specializing in crisis communication and brand reputation. In June of 2023, Stasha joined Paxson Fay as a Communications Specialist, providing her with the opportunity to blend her communications expertise with her passion for design. Stasha focuses on PR efforts for a variety of clients at Paxson Fay.
From San Francisco, California, Zoe moved to Seattle, Washington to pursue her undergraduate degree at the University of Washington. She graduated with a dual bachelor’s degree in Economics and Political Science. Shortly after graduation from UW, Zoe hopped across the pond to pursue her Master of Science in Urban Economics and Real Estate Finance at the London School of Economics. Focusing on Sustainable Development, she found herself drawn to adaptive reuse and preservation projects in the world of architecture and design. Building on prior marketing and social media experience, Zoe returned to the PNW in July of 2023 to work on social media strategy and content creation for clients at Paxson Fay.
Martina joined the Paxson Fay team as an intern when she was a senior at the University of Washington. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Public Interest Communications, Martina is now continuing with the team as a Communications Assistant. During her time at UW, Martina worked as the Special Sections Editor at the university’s newspapers where she won multiple awards for her front page spreads. Looking to blend her minors in real estate and environmental science with her focus in communications, Martina is passionate and excited to join the Paxson Fay team.
We are looking for a star communications specialist to join our team, leading creative brands in their communications efforts across platforms. Click here to read more.
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.