A house of this size can be a little overwhelming,” designer David Lucas says about a 9,000-square-foot residence situated on a nearly 1-acre lot at the pinnacle of Clyde Hill with unparalleled, almost 360-degree views of Seattle and Bellevue, Lake Washington and the Olympic Mountains. To lessen the impact, David Lucas, along with his sister and partner in the firm Suzie Lucas, dressed the modern structure with limestone, stucco and a metal product that resembles wood. “We used the materials to help break up the form of the house without making it feel too busy,” David Lucas says.
Besides humanizing the home’s scale, adding the materials fulfilled the clients’ request for “a warm, modern Pacific Northwest home designed for their family but with a contemporary edge,” says David Lucas—and bridged the couple’s somewhat divergent styles. “My husband has a modern aesthetic, and I’m more traditional, so we were trying to figure out how to balance that,” the wife says. “We wanted the house to have clean lines but also be inviting and comfortable.”
The Lucases worked closely with their clients to adapt the design of architect Ben Mulder—raising doorway heights, adding windows to combat the gray winters and expanding room sizes to bring about both gravitas and functionality. A covered outdoor dining area grew to accommodate an outdoor kitchen and pizza oven, and the open living room was stretched to accommodate a second seating area embraced by double-height bay windows. “We pushed and pulled things to create the experience that the clients were looking for,” David Lucas says. The result is proportions that are tailored and more elegant, because it was important to the clients that the architecture have a presence.
David Lucas bestowed further architectural presence when he modified the plans to expose a steel structural beam that runs through the main corridor—just one of many metal elements throughout. There is also a double-height wall of blackened-steel panels behind the open stairway in the bright skylight-lit foyer. “The clients were worried that the metal would feel cold, but it actually adds warmth,” Suzie Lucas says, pointing to the rich warm finish on the metal with a soft reflective quality that brings light and life into the space.
Threaded through the home too is intricate woodwork: coffered-oak ceilings with a concealed light trough in the main living areas, fumed-oak columns in the dining room and sycamore cabinetry in the master suite and the husband’s clubby office. “You don’t necessarily need high contrast in a space for it to be interesting,” Suzie Lucas says. “We were subtle with our material shifts,” as she points to the way the cabinetry, French limestone flooring and quartz countertops in the kitchen complement the silk rug and neutral upholstery in the adjoining living area.
Subtle, however, doesn’t mean boring. A custom mosaic backsplash behind the range adds a splash of color without overpowering the other materials in the kitchen, while a hand-finished plaster accent wall with a chunky linen texture by local artisan Cathy Conner makes a powerful statement in the dining area, which is furnished with a custom steel table with a bog-oak top. “We wanted the wall to be almost like a piece of art,” Suzie Lucas says. “The way it reflects light gives it a life of its own.”
Husband-and-wife builders Adam and Julie Leland spent more than a year preparing for the project, poring over renderings before they ever put hammer to nail. “You almost had to build the house in your mind and then work backward from there,” Adam Leland says, noting that they employed laser levels to ensure that everything was positioned to the nth degree. “There’s nothing cookie-cutter about this home,” Julie Leland adds. “Every aspect was custom.”
The same level of care extended to the grounds by landscape architect Darwin Webb, whose process involved walking through the house to identify specific vistas that could be enhanced with evergreens, flowering plants and ornamental trees. “The house has many angled sections and also sits at an angle to all the property lines,” Webb says. “It was a challenge, but I think we accentuated the positive aspects of the site.” Between the main living area and bedroom wings, for example, he created a garden nook filled with ferns and decorative gravel. He also incorporated plantings to soften the sharp angles and emphasize key views, as in the case of a massing of structured evergreen plantings at the edge of the swimming pool that draws the eye toward the skyline beyond the water.
Although the task of building a new home is always daunting, the happy owners look back fondly on the experience and are ecstatic about the outcome. “Everything is calming and comfortable yet there’s a refinement to it,” says the wife. “It feels like a piece of art that we live in yet it’s still so accessible and comfortable. We’re so grateful to everyone who worked on this project.”