It feels like you’re in the middle of nowhere and in the middle of everywhere,” the owner of a home by architect David Coleman and designer Elizabeth Stretch says of its Bellevue locale. Situated on an acre lot, “the site offers complete privacy and has southern exposure,” the husband says. “It also has slopes and areas that are good for kids to explore.” As secluded as the surroundings seem, though, the spot is within easy commuting distance of downtown Bellevue, Kirkland and Seattle, adding to its appeal.
After living in the existing home on the property for several years, the family called on Coleman and Stretch to create a new abode that fulfilled their desire for a house with abundant natural light and a strong connection to the land. They were drawn to Coleman’s modernist vision that embraces indoor-outdoor fluidity and is as comfortable as it is artful. “There are large glass walls, water features and exterior rooms or courtyards that terrace up the site alongside the structure as part of the residence,” the architect says.
Coleman kept nothing from the existing dwelling, save one thing. “The previous house didn’t have much going for it other than its L-shape plan and the way it was sited,” he says, so the new structure occupies the same spot. “It worked well with our strategy of pushing the house back on the site to maximize the spaciousness of the lot.” The architect then divided the public spaces from the private areas. “There are two wings,” he says. “With its glass walls, the living wing is like a pavilion. It has tall ceilings and a roof form that resembles origami, and it is supported by large concrete columns in the front and the rear.” The exterior walls in those spaces are made of lightly colored fiber cement. As a counterpoint to the public wing’s soaring volume, the private wing has a low-slung at roof and is wrapped in a composite material stained to look like burnt cedar.
Despite their soaring feel, the communal spaces were invested with elements that bring the scale down. For example, a suspended ceiling made of sapele wood hangs in the kitchen, where it adds intimacy and warmth. “It floats beneath the more expansive ceiling of the public wing,” the architect says. And according to builder Mark Schilperoort, installing that kitchen ceiling was no easy feat. “It contains all of the lighting and audio for that space,” says Schilperoort, who worked with superintendent Brian Keller on the project. “The logistics of installing that kitchen element required a lot of planning and structural considerations.”
The crisp geometric lines of the architecture inspired a spare and deliberate selection of furnishings. “I always feel lucky to work with a clean, modern project,” Stretch says. “It means the furniture pieces are important objects that define areas and how they’re used within one big open-plan living-and-dining space.” Adjacent to the dining area, the designer arranged four pale blue tub chairs and a rug, which the homeowners found on their travels in the Kashmir region of India. “The clients had these rugs they wanted us to incorporate. They drove the palette in an interesting way,” says Stretch, who incorporated red, gray, blue and cream tones throughout. Another rug in similar hues makes a statement in the living room. There, Stretch placed sofas upholstered in charcoal gray and a pair of armchairs covered in a red fabric. “It’s a very tight palette,” the designer says. “The furniture shouldn’t dilute the purity of the architecture; it should add scale and warmth and define spaces without making too much visual noise.”
With the project’s landscape architect Bruce D. Hinckley, Coleman not only tied the home to its surroundings, but he also designed a structure that works in tandem with nature to create a dynamic experience. “We created a waterfall at the top of the entry stairs,” Hinckley says. “David agreed to let us expose and glaze what had previously been proposed as a subterranean wall. This allowed us to create a plunge pool between the house and the entry stairs. The water reflects ambient light onto the garden wall, a building wall and the ceiling.”
But however connected to the land this house is, it also suggests opposition to it. “I’m a contrarian,” Coleman says, noting that the abundance of timber in the Northwest often leads to construction featuring the material. “I look at that and think it’s a little too heavy and dark,” Coleman says. “My reaction to the Northwest is different. I want to create structures with lightness.”