A Modern, Cedar-Clad Puget Sound Residence


Matthew Bergman’s residence on Vashon Island in Puget Sound needed to be many things at once. Although creating a comfortable family home was paramount, the residence would also require room for the owner to host charitable and political fundraisers. Given the home’s hilltop site, with views over the treetops to the water and Mount Rainier, the design demanded enough glass to properly unveil the postcard vista. Yet Bergman also has an extensive art collection that includes rare works sensitive to light.

Architect Rick Sundberg’s design provides for all these functional needs, but its collection of spaces rises to something far greater than the sum of its parts. “We spent a lot of time looking at the location and established a structural design that fit and was grounded into the site,” Bergman recalls.

The house, a kind of accordion shape festooned in wood with tall glass walls, is purposely oriented toward Rainier. “On a clear day it should feel as if the mountain is sitting on the window bank right in front of you,” the architect says. But as one enters the house, the view unveils itself gradually. “Visitors are kind of led through a sequence before they get the full view. When people go into a building, I think they should be tickled with a little bit of surprise, a little bit of joy,” says Sundberg, who collabo- rated with Gladys Ly-Au Young to complete the design of the residence.

To start the sequence of spaces, the entry becomes a room unto itself, wrapping visitors in cedar siding and featuring an oversize asymmetrical pivoting door. “You feel like you’re opening a castle door,” says project manager Doug Shay, who helmed the home’s construction with builder Terry Miller. Installing the door, he recalls, took a small team of people. Sundberg’s design divides the home into private and public spaces. This allows Bergman to host sizable gatherings in the living and dining areas, against a backdrop of Northwest abstract paintings and classical sculptures, while keeping the bedrooms tranquil. “It’s a great place to host parties but also to curl up and listen to music, and read and sip Scotch in the evening,” the owner says.

The dining room is anchored—literally—by a long wood table that seats up to 14 and is built into the poured-in-place concrete floor. Dividing this area from the living room is a block-shaped space paneled in bronze; the section, which holds a small bar, powder room and guest closet, has walls that extend only halfway to the high wood ceilings, thus resembling a cube floating within the larger volume.

The roof slants upward at the back to bring in an abundance of natural light from its floor-to-ceiling glass. The wood glulams forming the ceiling extend outward beyond the glass, also emphasizing the inside-out connections, an evocation of classic Northwest modern style. “I think the symbiotic relationship between interior and exterior is what I love most about the place and what I think Rick’s greatest contribution was,” the homeowner adds. “In the summer, we open up the huge sliding doors in the living room and family room. It’s just such a comfortable house to live in, and it works so well.”

Despite the size of the home, its architecture and landscape design (particularly a series of descending grass terraces) work in harmony to emphasize its blending into the hillside. “There’s a lot of lawn, but that site really lends itself to those strong lines,” says Suzanne Hattery, a horticulturist who worked with Sundberg on the landscape design and plant selection. “It also connects those strong horizontal lines with the sweeping views of Puget Sound and Mount Rainier. It’s pretty spectacular.”