It would be hard to imagine a time when someone didn’t jump at the chance to reside in Seattle’s Queen Anne neighborhood. Between the city and lake views and easy access to downtown, it is one enviable perch. But turn the clock back about a century and a half, and developers were offering two-for-one lot deals to anyone willing to build a home there and still coming up short. The reason was simple enough—it was too steep.
Fast-forward to the 21st century, and even with the advent of modern technology, the architectural team of Chris Pardo and Peter Greaves, along with their former associate Derry Betts, would find it a challenge to design a home on a dizzying 26 percent slope for clients David Barashi and Jeffrey Hansen. In an odd twist of fate, an existing 1928 Tudor would play a pivotal role in solving the problems of building on such a steep site. “The house is actually a remodel of sorts because it’s built on top of the footprint of an existing house,” explains Greaves, who took the lead on the project. “Parts of the original foundation remain in the basement of the new structure, which minimized the extent of the site work required.”
Not surprisingly, the phenomenal views and proximity to amenities first attracted David and Jeffrey to live on the precipitous slope. Looking to spend part of their time in Seattle, the couple were standing on the deck of a condo unit they were touring when they spied a “for sale” sign on the Tudor across the way. “In that moment we realized the potential of building a home in the area and decided to go for it,” says David.
Wasting no time, they assembled a design team that included builder Travis Gaylord. After scouring the Internet and poring over design books to learn as much as possible about modern architecture, the owners crafted a vision for their home that involved leveraging the views and maximizing the height of the house. “It’s a corner lot so we wanted huge windows but we also wanted privacy,” says David. Adds Jeffrey, “And we wanted every floor to provide a different perspective of the city.”
Conceptually, the vertical structure the team devised is a series of nested cubes where the interior form is expressed on the exterior, as well. “Dark and white metal, cedar and concrete balanced on each elevation tell a story about the inside of the house,” says Greaves. “The wood floors recall the cedar siding, and the dark metal stairs, doors and fireplace surround refer back to the reversed seam-metal cladding, while the white walls, cabinets and tile finishes reference the white flat aluminum-composite panels.”
Adds Pardo, “The home balances privacy and views by shifting planes in the façade and careful placement of glazing.” Installing those large expanses of glass put Gaylord’s building prowess to the test. “The pieces were too big to carry them up the stairs, so we had to cut a slot through the floor to transport them,” says the builder, who also oversaw the on-site construction of the sculptural stairs.
In lieu of one continuous staircase, the architects devised a series of stairs to vary the experience on each floor. The entry and its yard establish a neighborhood feel, while the middle level, with its open living room, dining room and kitchen, enjoys ever-changing views. “Depending on the time of day, you can see the Cascade peaks, including Mount Rainier, as well as the Space Needle, and at night the city turns into a sparkling jewel box,” says Jeffrey. By the time you reach the third floor and the self-contained master suite, you are 41 feet up with a clear sightline to Lake Union.
Selected by the homeowners, the furnishings are a mix of understated pieces—the gray wool sectional in the living room and molded white dining room chairs spring to mind. Elsewhere, the couple wove in eye-catching elements, including numerous colorful works by artist Barbara Kaempf Matkowski and the dazzling Jeremy Cole chandelier suspended in the stairwell. “We purchased the chandelier before we even closed on the lot,” says Jeffrey of the series of porcelain-formed leaves intended as the home’s centerpiece. Adds David, “We wanted it to be seen from every room in the house and from the outside, as well.”
The light’s beautiful warm glow is emblematic of how the owners feel about their home. “In the winter, we like to come into the living room and turn on the fireplace and just watch downtown,” says David, “and in the summer, we sit on the deck and enjoy the twinkling lights.” Jeffrey continues, “We feel so fortunate to be connected to the architecture of the city while living in this wonderful neighborhood.”
— Mindy Pantiel