AIA Home of Distinction: A Mercer Island Residence of Heart and Soul

A Mercer Island home nurtures family ties
The Japanese Maple tree visible through the living room window of this Mercer Island home (alternate view below), was a gift to the owner when his father passed away. More than 20 years later it is a vibrant part of the landscape

Home is where the heart is for cardiologist Peter and his wife, Diane, a nurse practitioner. The moment he bought a small lakefront property on Mercer Island in 1989, he knew it was the spot where he would someday raise a family. “I had grown up on Mercer Island and I knew I wanted to live here,” he says.

Twenty years and three kids later, Peter and Diane’s vision for their home took shape. With the help of Rick Sundberg of Sundberg Kennedy Ly-Au Young Architects, they began plans to construct their ultimate house, one that would support their family’s growth in mind, body and spirit. “The original 1940s house was functional, but was early American, fallout-shelter styling,” says Peter. “We figured we’d let the kids destroy it in their younger ages and, once they got older, then we could tear down and rebuild.”

The house was conceptualized as two linear bars of space, one public and one private, connected by a wood and steel stairwell

Must-haves for the house included an open design that facilitated quality family time, lots of glass windows to capture the west-facing site’s natural light and being closer to the water…literally. “We manipulated the site a lot, building the foundation for the new house about 20 feet more to the west so the family could just walk down and out into the water,” says Sundberg. “The lake is peaceful,” says Peter. “I work on Pill Hill, and things are crazy; it’s urban, it’s busy. Our home is only 20 minutes from the hospital, but you look out at the lake and you feel like you’re worlds away.”

Other elements of the Pacific Northwest environment influenced the design of the house as well. Natural materials such as native cedar and wenge wood together with a neutral interior palette, conceived by designer Holly McKinley, make the light and views the focus. “There’s a sense of not being hemmed in,” Peter says. “You just feel like you have a lot of space around you.”

Diane’s favorite room is the master suite. “When I think about relaxing, it’s crawling into bed and looking out,” she says

Warm lighting and straight lines highlght the modern kitchen

The 5,500-square-foot house is designed around two main areas of space, one public and one private. The area for gathering and socializing—living room, dining room, kitchen—emphasizes the seamless connection between the internal and external environment, and family members’ relationships to one another. “The house was designed in a way that encourages the family to communicate, to really see each other,” says Sundberg. The main floor downstairs contains significant spaces for getting together, from homework at the kitchen counter to holiday gatherings for as many as 30 people. To recharge, everyone heads upstairs, where the master bedroom and children’s rooms are located. “When I think about relaxing, it’s crawling into bed and looking out,” says Diane, contemplating the home’s signature water views from the master suite. “Reading a book or watching a movie in there on days like today when it’s quiet, it’s peaceful…it’s really restorative.” 

Lake Washington is visible from almost every room, including the kitchen, ground zero for family time, from doing homework to meals to entertaining

A minimalist yet light and spacious bath

A private courtyard offers a mini-oasis hidden behind the front facade’s stone wall

The exterior of the house is clad in a Sikkens stained, clear cedar

This house was selected by a panel of architects for the AIA Seattle Home of Distinction program (American Institute of Architects; It was chosen in recognition of the care and craft involved in the details, celebrating the close working relationship between architect and local artisans that resulted in a house full of intimate spaces customized to the needs of the client.


Sundberg Kennedy Ly-Au Young Architects
Rick Sundberg, principal; 206.322.1130;

Mercer Builders 
Thom Schultz, partner; Ted Larsen, site superintendent; 206.275.1234;

Swenson Say Fagét
Structural engineering; 206.443.6212;

LPD Engineering
Civil engineer; 206.725.1211;

Holly McKinley Interior Design

Mazama Mountain Cabin Makes a Cozy, Stylish Retreat: A Home Tour

Mazama Mountain Cabin Makes a Cozy, Stylish Retreat: A Home Tour

In Washington’s North Cascades, a wood-paneled vacation home provides access to views and outdoor activities
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This house nestled in the North Cascades mountains in Mazama, Washington, reflects the rugged landscape around it while also possessing a modern, airy and stylish vibe. The remote vacation house is owned by a Seattle couple who were instinctively drawn to the beautiful setting of pine forests, crystal clear rivers and diverse topography, and where they spend their free time skiing, rock climbing and hiking. 

Big Rock House
Photo by Johnston Architects - Search rustic patio pictures

Walkways lined with concrete and bluestone surround the back deck. An outdoor fire pit and teak chairs from a friend create a timeless setting for entertaining.
Metal fire pit: custom made by Alpine Welding and Equipment

Houzz at a Glance
Who lives here: A couple who live full time in Seattle and work for Boeing
Location: Mazama, Washington
Size: 1,370 square feet (127 square meters); two bedrooms, two bathrooms

After finding a 1-acre plot with killer views, the couple collaborated with Mary Johnston of Johnston Architects to build a second home that would be cozy and easy to maintain. “All of the finishes used add to the rich simplicity of the home,” Johnston says. Although the site was challenging, Johnston and her team were able to incorporate the location’s spectacular views into the planning of the 1,370-square-foot residence, which has an open-plan living area, two bedrooms and ski-in, ski-out access.

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The unpretentiousness of the foursquare house begins with its exterior. The cedar siding and bluestone and concrete walkways also are durable and low-maintenance materials. Since most of their time is spent engaging in the outdoors, the couple felt it was important to have designated areas for storing sporting equipment. A long bench provides a spot for removing skis and boots. A contemporary glass door contrasts nicely with the adjacent metal grating, which offers a surface on which to lean skis and bikes while providing some lightness and texture.

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The clean look and rustic design continue past the front door and concrete floors of the entry, providing an unobstructed view to the back of the house. Pine-paneled ceilings flow throughout the house. At the far end of the hall, a custom sliding barn door leads to a gear room where the couple store sporting equipment and can sharpen their skis. The other oversized doors lead to a closet.

Paint throughout: Camouflage, Benjamin Moore

The warm wood tones are punctuated by blackened-steel pendants on the entry hallway ceiling.

Pendants: Caravaggio

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A dining room table and chairs sit between the kitchen and great room. The shelving was custom made to display accessories such as teapots, photographs and books. The couple wanted to have some fun with their other lighting choices, so instead of selecting traditional recessed lighting, they opted for black outdoor sconces that are typically used for signage lighting.

Lighting: B-K Lighting; dining room table and chairs: Room & Board

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In the sitting area of the great room, a sliding barn door hides a flat-screen TV and video equipment. A built-in bench runs the width of the room, inviting guests to curl up with a book or take in the fabulous mountain views. It is also long and deep enough to convert into a bed for two children.

Bench cushion and pillows: custom made by Manning & Son Upholstery, Seattle

Related: Cleaning Tips for Leather Furniture 

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Brown leather chairs and a sofa provide ample seating for gazing at the landscape through rows of expansive windows. A wood-burning stove brings a collected feel to the home and keeps it cozy and warm when temperatures plunge. “The homeowners spend very little time inside, but they wanted to make sure that it was very comfortable when they did,” Johnston says.

Sofa, chairs and tables: Room & Board; stove: Rais

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Sliding glass doors open the great room to the back deck.

Deck: ipe wood

Related: Why You Should Install a Sliding Barn Door in Your Home 

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The couple kept the master bedroom clean and sparsely decorated with only a bed and two end tables. Adding a bit of drama, the fir wood paneling was continued from the wall onto the ceiling.

Bed and end tables: Room & Board

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Mesh fencing on the master bedroom balcony keeps the space from appearing too dark.