Like a vineyard’s earth, topography and climate influence a wine’s flavor, the character of a location can seep into the walls of a home, imbuing it with the color, texture and atmosphere of the surrounding landscape. Seattle couple Cody Touchette and Mackenzie Banta wanted nothing less for their family residence in Matthews Beach. As lifelong Northwesterners and water-sport aficionados (as well as enthusiastic collectors of regional wines) they wanted a contemporary waterfront dwelling infused with a sense of place. “I remember in the summertime how the lake was always so alive with people,” recalls Cody of childhood days spent in the water with family and friends. “My dream was to have the lake house everybody would come to visit.”
Their location overlooking the vast expanse of Lake Washington perfectly exemplifies the area’s distinctive aura, where lush evergreens meet the waves. “When the sun hits the water, it almost becomes the color of mercury, a warm, silvery gray,” shares designer Gabrielle James who, with collaborators Alison Gilbo and Scott Butler, focused on cultivating organic spaces that seamlessly meld with the landscape.
The design team found fertile creative ground in the dwelling itself, composed by residential designer Elaine Simons Groth. Despite navigating a narrow lot, the modern three-story structure features “large openings, spacious rooms and floor-to- ceiling windows and doors,” she explains. “Though the house is very compact, every room has a view of the lake.” General contractor Mickey Hansen further enhanced the residence’s immersion into the environment during the construction process. Thoughtful details include the main living area’s pocketing multislide door system, which allows the home’s back wall to seemingly disappear. “This was essential for connecting the interior with the waterfront,” says Hansen.
Because the architecture thoroughly embraces these vistas, the silvery blues and grays of the lake and sky permeate the abode. However, James felt that filling the clean-lined, rectilinear spaces with Lake Washington’s cool, watery tones would prove too one note, creating a cold, sterile atmosphere. Instead, her team saturated the interiors with warmer complementary shades. This guided Gilbo’s curation of materials, like the wide-plank white oak floors running through the abode. “When the lighting hits that wood, you get this great combination of silver and amber,” says James. “You have both a warm and cool effect.” Honey-hued oak continues in the cabinetry and is tempered with stone, such as the deeply veined Calacatta marble in the kitchen.
Dark and metallic details introduce complexity into the material palette. See the black metal staircase and plumbing fixtures as well as the copper-hued accent cabinets sparkling in the kitchen for examples. To display the couple’s 400-bottle collection of wine (including a selection of beloved cabernet sauvignon from the Quilceda Creek Winery in Snohomish), the designers encased the wine cellar with dark glass and blackened-oak paneling. The final effect creates “a gem right in the middle of their main living space,” notes the designer. “We wanted to showcase their wines and actually make them a feature.”
The designers reveled in developing a tonal theme throughout. From the cushy living room sectional to the herringbone-patterned dining table, furniture favors relaxed and restrained silhouettes as well as finishes highlighting wood grains and natural textiles. More eclectic decor nods to the couple’s love of the outdoors, like the chandelier with light filtering through thin tubes of whitewashed wood, and a commissioned nautically inspired rope piece by local artist Stefano Altamura. James even hand-placed small white pebbles underneath the couple’s bathroom vanity, subtlety echoing “what one sees standing at the water’s edge,” she explains.
Filled with such sensuous flourishes, the new abode already feels richly layered with memories, encapsulating the couple’s new life by the water. Their walls (and hydronically heated floors) welcome them with warmth on cold, foggy mornings, but open wide to the seemingly endless sunlight of long Seattle summer days. Then, says Mackenzie, there are the after-dinner hours enjoyed with friends. “I love when we’re still sitting at the table, drinking wine and looking out at the lake,” she shares. “It’s those moments when we get to enjoy all the things in this home that are important to us.”