A Seattle couple were seeking renewal without leaving home. After 28 years in a traditionally styled house overlooking Lake Washington and Mount Rainier, they wanted to go modern but keep their spectacular view. So they bought the property next door, razed the existing homes, and decided to build one house on the double lot. Architect Peter Conard, who’s firm was then called Sullivan Conard Architects, has been known for specializing in traditional homes but similarly sought a new challenge. “This was an opportunity to think more freely,” he remembers.
The new plan, thanks to a collaborative effort among the design team, emphasizes openness, simplicity and warmth—all executed with great precision. As one enters, the great room unfolds to reveal a wall of floor-to-ceiling glass, leading to a terrace and infinity-edge pool with the panoramic view in the distance. “One of the most powerful moments is opening the front door and looking through the house at the pool and the lake,” Conard says. “It gives you this great sense of connection.”
For simplicity and flow, Conard and designer Doug Rasar restricted themselves to just four basic materials: concrete, wood, steel and stone. Showing the influence of celebrated architect Louis Kahn, much importance was given to the use of concrete; it was placed very intentionally to create layers of transition from the street side of the house to the view side, and it clads the kitchen, great room and library fireplaces and dividing walls throughout. Just as significant, given the clean-lined contemporary style, everything was built with exacting detail. “The corners are so crisp you could cut yourself on them if you weren’t careful,” quips builder Mike Suver, who helmed the construction with project manager Chris Huggins and superintendent Bill Dwyer. “The house demanded a level of precision I haven’t seen before.”
At the same time, the design sought to be inviting and comfortable. The concrete, for example, was tinted a warm khaki-gray and given an almost buttery texture. The European fumed oak floors exude a silvery hue that seems to evoke the myriad shades of Northwest skies, while countertops in the kitchen and baths were chosen for their muted looks so as not to compete with the other surfaces, the extensive art collection or the view. “How do you make a concrete, steel and glass house feel warm, especially given the inclement weather in the Northwest?” proposes Rasar. “We really started to add soul to what otherwise could have been a cold, uninviting house.”
To balance out the precisely detailed and clean-lined architecture, Rasar, with the help of designer Christopher Martinez-Luna, chose several pieces for their roughness or age, such as the weathered elm planks used for the great room bookshelves, the classic Egg chairs nearby, or the mudroom’s pitted steel wall (with a built-in bench), created from salvaged industrial material. Select vintage furniture pieces and accessories came from Rasar’s company inventory. “There’s a mix of things that were old and authentic and handcrafted along with the more vintage contemporary pieces,” Rasar says. “I really think the combination of found objects and items that were procured is a great match.”
For the back terrace and entry pavilion, landscape architect Randy Allworth and colleague Nanda Patel chose a series of Japanese black pines and maple trees with a sculptural quality to soften and complement the hardscape. “One of the trees at the south end of the entry courtyard is 75 to 100 years old,” Allworth says. “There was a man here in Seattle who emigrated from Japan in 1907—he brought the tree over on a boat as a seedling and grew it in his private garden until another local collector acquired it and continued to train its shape in his nursery.”
The home also is energy efficient, with a ground-source heat pump system for heating and cooling and a green roof that further aids in insulating and quieting the home while helping to manage stormwater runoff.
“One of the most gratifying things about the house for me is when I go and meet with the owners,” Conard says. “They’re not talking about the finishes, although they appreciate that. What they say without fail is, ‘It is wonderful to live here. The house works so well for us.’ That’s the highest compliment I feel we can receive.”