Before determining the palette for a project, designer Dixie Stark takes her time carefully observing her clients. “I look at things like what they are wearing and the color of their eyes to give me hints for dressing their rooms,” Stark says. For a couple building a house on Lake Sammamish, she waited patiently for the color scheme—discovered sartorially or otherwise—to be revealed. Finally, at one meeting, the wife walked in wearing a camouflage jacket, and the designer knew exactly where to take the design. “She looked so good in those colors, I knew olive green combined with neutrals was the way to go,” Stark says.
The restrained palette also proved to be the right complement for the equally reserved clear-cedar-siding-and-asphalt-shingle-roof structure designed by architect Jim Romano. “We worked to keep it simple both inside and out,” says Romano of his interpretation of the Pacific Northwest contemporary style. “The wood works well in this location, and the broad overhangs provide weather protection.” His vision for the exterior materials coupled with an approach that reveals a series of structures with slightly varied roof forms belies the spectacular setting that awaits on the other side. The architect controlled the massing so that it wasn’t overwhelming and collaborated with landscape architect Ken Philp to craft a welcoming entry. “We created a processional arrival sequence that begins at the parking area and moves you to the entry garden,” says Philp, who used oversize bluestone pavers with planted joints to create a soft progression along the entry court and planted star magnolias and Japanese maples to help frame spaces and serve as focal points.
On the building’s west-facing lakeside elevation, with its large spans of glass, different scaling tactics were required. A covered deck on the second floor and a covered terrace below control the bright afternoon sun while creating what the architect terms a more personable scale. The master bedroom and the sun room project out, bookending the structure, and on these sections the architect ran the darker siding vertically for added contrast.
When it came to outfitting the interiors, the homeowners opted for a minimalist take. “I used to be a real knickknack girl, but the architecture here has made me appreciate simplicity,” the wife says. For their new abode, the couple was looking for a place that would work effortlessly for both elegant entertaining and relaxed family gatherings. She also insisted the interiors acknowledge and embrace the natural surroundings. “I’ve become endlessly fascinated with the happenings of our resident bald eagles,” she adds. So inside, Stark and Romano determined that a limited number of hard finishes was the way to go, including an ash brown for the rift-cut oak beams and metal on the fireplace and kitchen hood.
Getting the perfect finish on the fireplace and hood, not to mention matching the grain on the kitchen cabinets and overseeing the craning in of a fully assembled exterior spiral staircase, fell to builder Klaus Toth. “The steel had to sit in an acid bath for over a month to get the desired effect,” he says. Post-acid marinade, the living room fireplace now serves as a commanding organizing feature for twin leather sofas and a super soft bamboo-silk-and-wool rug, both defined by understated olive tones that reference the inspirational camouflage jacket. Offsetting those hues and creating contrast are white shades. “It’s not a screaming palette,” Stark says. “Everything is intentionally subtle because the house is really a lovely backdrop for the view, which absolutely makes you gasp the first time you see it.”
Meanwhile, a round metal chandelier hovering over the living room seating area provides a tie back to the fireplace while introducing a curved element to soften the linear space. Similarly, the entry’s forged bronze lantern is a circular counterpoint for the staircase geometry, the wood-slat dining room chairs have a bend of their own, and the rectilinear sun room is offset by the barrel backs of four chenille-covered swivel chairs. Thanks to a series of floor-to-ceiling doors and windows, these spaces also afford sweeping views of the lake and a steady source of natural light. Elsewhere, the architect included clerestories to guarantee privacy. “Because of the home’s proximity to its neighbors, we controlled the views without sacrificing light,” Romano explains.
According to Stark, all their efforts came together to meet the homeowners’ refined yet casual criteria for their lifestyle while honoring the environment. “The living and dining areas are prime for formal entertaining, but you can set a cocktail on that sofa and not worry about hurting the leather arm,” Stark says about the home’s livability. “And even on a nasty day, you still have this amazing experience of watching seaplanes land on the water and observing those bald eagles.”