A sloping, densely wooded Pacific Northwest property might deter many house hunters, but for one couple—empty nesters looking to build a new nest—the lushness of the site, its quietude and its pristine water views offered everything they hoped to find. “It was like being in the San Juans instead of a dense city neighborhood,” recalls the wife. “We loved our previous house, a 1930s Tudor with a formal garden, but we wanted to design and build something completely different, something simpler than what we had without it being stark or cold.” With a clear idea of their goals, the couple tapped architect Regan McClellan to design what would become a contemporary, glass-walled home and brought in designer Lisa Staton to give them the creative, uncluttered spaces, light colors and Scandinavian feeling they desired.
Tucking the new dwelling into the hillside was not without its challenges, but McClellan and project manager Christopher Tellone embraced the complications. They created a relatively compact abode composed of three interlocking sections: the garage, a central volume containing the living areas, and a bedroom wing that includes the main suite on the entry level and two bedrooms on the second. The kitchen was carefully designed to seemingly float within the living area. “It’s every architect’s dream to have a long, narrow site and follow that natural progression through form—there’s a beautiful flow and rhythm to it,” says Tellone, who worked closely with general contractor Bill Miers on the project. “We all thought of the home as a living thing, and Bill helped us work through the complicated details we wanted to achieve.”
To tie the glass structure to the surrounding cedar and fir trees, the architects incorporated wood throughout the interiors. Clear hemlock was used for the ceilings, and walnut was chosen for the vertical slat screens that define the dining and piano rooms. “Weaving woods throughout the house created visual interest and a sense of continuity,” says Tellone. That was an important factor for the homeowners, who, as veterans of previous remodels, knew that whatever they did choose needed to be consistent. “We wanted a limited number of finishes and design concepts repeated throughout the house,” the wife explains.
“Repetition feels soothing,” agrees Staton, and she created the cohesive feel the owners sought with a subtle palette of oatmeal, cinnamon and olive green. “They wanted a European feel,” she says, pointing to the powder room as an example. There she paired a contemporary white sink with moody, textured wall tile and an antique mirror. “To take a modern narrative and infuse it with history feels unexpected,” the designer explains. “It’s not just decorating.” Staton is also quick to note that she likes to “go deep” with original sources for a more authentic feel. “I’ll hunt for a true Karl Springer,” she says excitedly. And that’s something her team appreciates.
“We call collaborating with Lisa on furnishings ‘power jamming,’” says project manager Tori Pitroff. “We sit down together and reach out to our favorite vintage vendors to find the perfect items for a project. It was during one of those jam sessions that we found the Karl Springer coffee table for the living room. We started jumping up and down in excitement over the find,” she recalls. “I always tell my staff that if they’ve got a few minutes between meetings, hit an antique store!” remarks Staton.
In this case, the designers also had the benefit of the homeowners’ existing art collection and inherited family pieces. Staton gave their antique Swedish clock pride of place in the dining room and eagerly hung their Baccarat chandeliers—one in the couple’s bedroom and the other in an upstairs guest bathroom. In each of the bedrooms, Staton took “a more casual approach” with what she calls “European moments” that highlight the poetry of forms: mismatched tables, old and new lighting, simple coverlets or duvets and sheer wool draperies “that hang beautifully,” she explains. “This design doesn’t look like anything you see circulating the internet,” notes Pitroff. “It’s that element of slow curation that makes this house so charming.”