5 of the Most Amazing Homes in the Pacific Northwest

Inspiring ideas for every style and every room

By Edited by Jennifer McCullum October 12, 2015


This article originally appeared in the October 2015 issue of Seattle magazine.

From modern masterpieces to 5-Star Built Green homes, we’ve rounded up the Pacific Northwest’s most beautiful houses and how to get the look in your own home.

1. Modern Retreat
An award-winning Winthrop home by famed local architect Tom Kundig balances big valley views with intimate spaces
By Sheila Cain; Photographed by Ed Sozinho

The home’s materials of steel, glass, concrete and reclaimed wood were selected to stand up to the extreme seasonal temperatures that define the region

You know a house is special when the least impressive thing about it is the 360-degree, panoramic view. Sure, the outlook from Winthrop’s “Studhorse” residence is spectacular—an eyeful of the jutting Studhorse Ridge, idyllic Pearrygin Lake and the picturesque Methow Valley below is available from almost every room in the house—but the sense of space (and place!) that the architecture creates is what amazes the most.

Designed by Seattle’s Tom Kundig of Olson Kundig on a 20-acre site at the north end of a 60-mile-long glacial valley, Studhorse is actually four separate structures (for living, sleeping, guests and a sauna) situated around a courtyard; a riff on the tradition of circling the wagons. The residents, a husband and wife and their two school-age children, spend most of their summers and holidays here. (Leschi is home base.) And it’s rare if a handful of family or friends don’t tag along.

A towering concrete fireplace anchors the main, lantern-like living structure on one end, while a row of I-beams slope along the ceiling to a kitchen and adjacent bar on the other. In between, floor-to-ceiling windows (which slide open to invite gentle summer breezes) make up the exterior walls. A reclaimed-lumber dining table connects the open living area to the kitchen. The steel- and wood-finished back wall of the adjacent bar flips open on hydraulic pistons for outdoor seating.

While the living structure excites with its dramatic views, there are plenty of places in the other buildings to decompress. In fact, having defined, intimate areas was a specific request of the homeowners. “Yes, there are lots of windows, but there are also some very cozy and closed spaces in other parts of the buildings,” Kundig says. “You never feel as if you are always in a ‘prospect’ situation.”

Growing up in eastern Washington, the homeowner has a deep appreciation for the natural landscape

One of these defined areas is the small master bedroom, located on the top level of the sleeping-quarters. Not far from the foot of the bed is a window that looks out over the valley—and down into the adjacent living structure. It’s one of the wife’s favorite places in the house. “The first morning we stayed here, I was lying in bed and saw a hot air balloon in the distance rising over the top of the living area,” she says.

Down the hall is the bunkroom for the kids (ages 9 and 11) and any friends they’ve brought along. On the lower level is one of two guest bedrooms (the other is located in a separate guest building adjacent to the garage and storage area). A bookcase and desk separate the guest bed from a workspace for the husband—one of the only places in the compound without a view. On the same level, a media room is tricked out for movie night with a big-screen television on the reclaimed-wood wall and pillows on the floor. If an outdoor movie is on the agenda, the cremone bolt is lifted and the wall swings 90 degrees outward and into the courtyard. Neither projector nor white sheet required.

All buildings open onto a concrete courtyard that can serve as a pickleball court, dance floor or canvas for chalk art, depending on the family’s mood.

The steel- and wood-finished back wall of the bar flips open on hydraulic pistons for outdoor seating.

A large 1,150-square-foot grassy space between the garage and sleeping quarters (the only formally landscaped area on the property) played host to a smattering of friends’ tents over the Fourth of July weekend. An outdoor swimming pool stretches toward Chelan’s Sawtooth Range before appearing to drop off to the valley below.

The structures’ building materials—mostly steel, glass, concrete and reclaimed wood—were chosen to stand up to the scorching summer sun and freezing, windy winters that define the region. The materials are expected to weather over time with their surroundings.

The husband, an eastern Washington native, and Kundig, who spent his childhood east of the mountains, share a deep appreciation for the landscape. Young and active, the homeowners don’t shy away from extreme weather, which is one reason they never thought twice about having separate buildings.

The second-story master bedroom

The homeowners talked about breezeways and considered tunnels, but in the end saw potential in leaving these transitions exposed. “Second homes are about adventure, and they are the homes that leave the most indelible memories,” Kundig says. “The best way to do that is to make them unconventional.” Scurrying across a snowy courtyard to the guest building after an
evening spent in front of the fireplace?  “To some, it would be an inconvenience,” Kundig says, “but to them, it’s something you never forget.”

Pro tip: “We relied on everyday building materials when possible,” Kundig says of constructing Studhorse, “but sometimes used materials in uncommon ways, such as exposed plywood for flooring or walls. The repurposed wood was sourced from an eastern Washington barn and corral.” For more information about Studhorse and Kundig’s design process, pick up a copy of the architect’s latest book, Tom Kundig: Works (Princeton Architectural Press, $65), out in hardcover this November.

Olson Kundig, architect, Pioneer Square; 206.624.5670; olsonkundig.com Schuchart Dow, construction, Fremont; 206.633.3003; schuchartdow.com

2. The Artful Home
A Broadmoor house exhibits fine art at home
By Jennifer McCullum; Photographed by Alex Crook

Local designer Christian Grevstad came up with the graphic black and white exterior concept for a private residence along the Broadmoor golf course
Bordering the Broadmoor golf course in Madison Park, a sleek white stucco house with a bold black roof and window trim peeks through the trees. The graphic contrast of the exterior hints at the striking artworks ensconced within. Designed by architect Stuart Silk, with interiors by Pioneer-Square based Christian Grevstad, the 7,400-square-foot residence is an elegant balance of the homeowners’ tastes. “I wanted a more modern house, and my husband wanted a more traditional, so we ended up with ‘transitional,’” the wife says. “It’s kind of a mix of styles.”

Standing in the home’s double-height entry, guests are immediately in the mix. Oak wainscoting in a custom ceruse stain is juxtaposed with a modern glass globe chandelier by John Pomp. Kenneth Callahan’s vibrant red and black composition “Figures in Motion” seems to leap down the wide-planked staircase from its second-floor wall above the entryway. A favorite piece of the owners, and one of three works by the late Pacific Northwest artist featured in the house, it was purchased as so many of the family’s notable works of art were: “along the way.” “We really wait until it’s something that we see and like,” the wife says. “We don’t try to fill a specific room or wall. That’s why it takes us forever.”

Fine art in the entryway includes a modern glass chandelier by John Pomp and two works by the late Pacific Northwest artist Kenneth Callahan
The rest of the house’s neutral interior palette serves as a fitting backdrop for the homeowners’ collection. The formal living room features a variety of art ranging from glass works by Seattle artists Dante Marioni and Martin Blank to a painting created by the homeowners’ oldest son when he was in elementary school. Work courtesy of the family’s three boys is also seen in the dining room where an almost life-size sculpture of a man (a school art project made entirely out of clear packing tape) lounges across the dining room table, situated between works purchased from the Traver Gallery and the Seattle Art Museum rental program. “I always use SAM’s rental gallery until we find something that we really want,” the wife says. “It could take us years to fill every wall but that’s OK.”

A lifesize sculpture of a man made entirely out of packing tape, the product of a school art project, holds court in the dining room between a glass work by Tobias Møhl (left wall) and oil paintings by Linda Davidson (right wall) purchased from the Seattle Art Museum rental program

Family dog Zach enjoys the family’s favorite area of the home
Having lived in the home for about three years, the family has yet to cover every wall of the five-bedroom house. But the walls of the main-floor living, dining and family rooms are spoken for. Here, glass doors offer lovely views of a covered outdoor sitting area. “Everything is kind of built around this [space],” the wife says. “We wanted a place we could sit year-round where you’d still get the light.” Their favorite section of the house, the area is where family members can gather outside in all seasons to enjoy the beauty of one of the home’s other works of art: a 76-year-old cherry tree in the backyard.

 “It actually gets used!” the homeowner says of the master bathroom’s freestanding quarry stone tub by Victoria + Albert.

Pro tip: Take art out for a test drive before you buy. Available for all Seattle Art Museum members (annual fees begin as low as $69 for an individual), works from the gallery can be chosen by patrons to display in their home for three months. Rental fees are 10 percent of the artwork purchase price paid up front, and can range from $25 for a piece that retails for $250 to $700 for a piece that retails for $7,000. Should members want to buy after trying, 50 percent of the rental fee can be applied to the total purchase price.

Stuart Silk Architects, Wallingford; 206.728.9500; stuartsilk.com; Christian Grevstad Interior Design, Pioneer Square; 206.938.4360; christiangrevstad.com; Seattle Art Museum, downtown; 206.654.3100; seattleartmuseum.org

3. Green House
A California family discovers the beauty and story of their modern green home
By Jennifer McCullum; Photographed by Tucker English

Salvaged wood from demolished bridges and buildings in Tacoma make up the end-block wall of this 5-Star Built Green home in Kirkland

When longtime California residents Jonathan Heuer and Jean Liu planned their move to the Puget Sound region for Liu’s new job heading up Seattle Genetics’ legal team in Bothell, they took a risk. They bought their future home on spec and as it was still in the process of being built. And even as they moved into the 3,900-square-foot Kirkland house last March, they were unsure about how they’d feel living in a more modern space.

“Modern homes can tend to feel cold with the angular design and hard surfaces,” Heuer says. But six months later, they’re in love—especially with the statement end-block wall, which sits atop the entryway’s fir and raw steel stairwell. Materials for the wall, stair rails and flooring were created using wood salvaged from demolished buildings and bridges in Tacoma, and it’s this reclaimed history that resonated with the owners. “The conservation aspect gave the house more of a story than a typical spec construction with all new materials would have,” Heuer said.

The rest of the story is that the house, designed by Medici Architects for sustainable developer Dwell Development, earned a 5-Star Built Green certification as a result of the project’s reclaimed materials and energy-efficient building techniques. Incorporating Passive House principles and modeling, the home uses a heat-recovery ventilation system to constantly bring in fresh air from the outside and preheat it in the system’s exchanger to warm the home. The radiant heating was another big attraction for the California couple and their two elementary-school-age daughters, concerned about Northwest winters.

“We’ve been pleasantly surprised,” Heuer says. “[On cold days] you barely need to turn the heater on for the house to feel warm and cozy.”

Pro tip: “The easiest thing owners can do to make their home more eco-friendly is to replace all of the incandescent light bulbs with LED bulbs,” says Anthony Maschmedt of Dwell Development. “The bulbs last significantly longer than traditional bulbs and use up to 60–70 percent less electricity. You can get a four-pack of 60-watt bulbs for around $25 at Costco.”

Dwell Development, Columbia City; 206.683.7595; dwelldevelopment.com; Medici Architects, Bellevue; 425.453.9298; mediciarchitects.com

4. Natural Habitat
A Richland family’s split-level shows good design is on the horizon
By Julie H. Case; Photographed by Steve Keating

Set at the foot of Badger Mountain, this 5,000-square-foot home features an outdoor pool, kitchen and dining area
When Jeff and Lori Wenner combined their families, each having two kids from previous marriages, they wanted to build a space that would fit them all. But the Brady Bunch they are not. And their new home is neither a ranch nor a rambler, but a stunning, modern two-story structure at the edge of Richland’s Badger Mountain Centennial Preserve.

Taking advantage of the view and avoiding the typical were two of the main objectives for the Wenners’ architect and lead designer, Taylor Callaway of Seattle-based First Lamp Architecture and Construction. “Stylistically, the family wanted a house that related to the site and that had Japanese influences,” Callaway says. “We looked at Richland and eastern Washington, and one of the biggest features of sites out there is the expansive horizon and big sky. Both strongly influenced the design of the home.”

A garage-style glass door on the eastern wall of the guestroom opens onto the pool deck
Built at the foot of Badger Mountain, the house is arranged perpendicular to the slope, literally connecting it to the natural landscape. The interior open concept and abundant windows further create this dialogue with the outdoors, as do the exposed concrete walls on the base level of the home and cedar elements employed throughout.

Standing in the front entryway, one is captivated by the view of Badger Mountain that can be seen through the dining area and living room, and out beyond the pool in the backyard.

A bluestone staircase with risers made from perforated, backlit metal separates the parents’ room on the main floor from the kids’ area on the walkout basement level below. There are four bedrooms downstairs and a rec room for the Wenners’ kids, ranging in age from 10 to 21. Each child gets a walk-in closet big enough to store everything from Legos to snowboard gear, which eliminates the need for clunky toy boxes or storage bins. Radiant floors help control heating costs, and Milgard fiberglass windows, which Wenner sourced from Perfection Glass, help moderate indoor temperatures in a climate that can range between 0 and 114 degrees.

A TV in the kitchen allows homeowner Lori Wenner, a faithful Seahawks fan, to prep food for game day without missing a single snap 
While it may eventually serve as a mother-in-law suite, a guestroom at the far end of the main floor currently functions as an unofficial family room. A garage-style glass roll-up door on the eastern wall opens up to the pool and cabana area, and Italian porcelain tile laid over concrete slabs make the suite’s bathroom slip-proof for wet kids. All of this is on the home’s main floor, so, should grandparents ever need to come live with the family, they can do so with a sense of independence and without stairs to navigate.

The favorite family activity (from in-laws to kids) is playing golf, so there’s a putting green just beyond the pool and spa, as well as a pickleball court. Lori teased Jeff about the poolside outdoor kitchen when they installed it, but it now gets so much use, the grill is turned on twice as often as the indoor oven.

But the kitchen inside remains Lori’s favorite room. Walnut horizontal cabinets frame honed basalt tile. A bar and sink bookend one side of the space with four stools in front of the chef’s island. “We didn’t want to have a TV in our living room,” Jeff says. “So we put one in the kitchen.” This means Lori can prep meals without missing a second of her beloved Seahawks play during football season.

The family incorporated Japanese influences into the home design, with an emphasis on simplicity and an appreciation of natural beauty

Exposed concrete and cedar were used throughout the home’s interior
When asked to choose a favorite feature of the house, Jeff pauses for a minute and ultimately settles on its beauty. “The house sits above the street 30 or 40 feet,” he says. “When lit up at night, it looks pretty amazing.”

Pro tip: “Polished concrete flooring is an easy way to add a modern look without a large cost,” architect Callaway says. “Since the concrete is just the floor of the foundation, all the client has to pay for is the polish, which costs about $5–$6 per square foot (compared with the cost of installed wood floors, which run about $10–$12 per square foot). The floor also pairs well with radiant heating as it better regulates temperature by contact with in-floor radiant tubes. It’s a difference of heat through touch versus heat having to travel through ventilation in the air.”

First Lamp Architecture and Construction; Taylor Callaway, founder and lead designer, firstlamp.net; Mandy Callaway NCIDQ, LEED AP, Mandy Callaway Interiors, mandycallaway.com

5. New Addition
A Tacoma addition offers more than just extra space
By Jennifer McCullum; Photographed by Coral von Zumwalt

Puyallup architect Ko Wibowo’s 800-square-foot addition (left) to a Tacoma house offers an ADA-compliant space to accommodate the homeowner, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease six years ago. The house was originally built in the early 1970s by celebrated Pacific Northwest architect L. Jane Hastings
For Puyallup architect Ko Wibowo, an introduction to a Tacoma couple five years ago presented a challenge in addition and subtraction. He was asked to design an addition to their 1973 bi-level home to better accommodate the husband, who was confronting the loss of memory and mobility and assorted health problems associated with a 2009 Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis.

The couple hoped the new 800-square-foot expansion could offer an ADA-compliant space that felt like home rather than a hospital. “For me, the project was about the context,” Wibowo says. “How I could make the house centered around this man and hopefully help him retain his memory.”

Custom shelves in the master bedroom display the owner’s signature ceramic vases

The addition’s tall windows and semi-enclosed deck allow the owner to safely interact with the natural environment
The home was originally designed for the couple by celebrated architect L. Jane Hastings, and the husband installed many of the cedar shingles himself. Wibowo used beveled cedar siding for the exterior, which both echoes and is distinct from the original shingles. “I saw the existing house as a tree,” Wibowo says. “The addition conceptually could be like a branch coming out of this tree.” It is connected via cantilever with an interior bridge linking the original home to the new master bedroom, study, an ADA-compliant bathroom and enclosed deck.

The couple’s single request for the project was that their bedroom and a full bathroom be on the first floor. The only full bath was previously on the second floor, and stairs now posed a health risk for the husband. In addition, Wibowo relied on a research publication from Australia, “Dementia Care and the Built Environment,” to ensure his design would accommodate the specific needs of the husband’s condition: the importance of the space feeling “home like,” with as much daylight and connection to nature as possible. “I tried not to [make it] too busy on the inside,” Wibowo says. “There’s no chandelier or fancy light fixtures. I didn’t want to introduce any objects that would confuse him.”

Beveled cedar siding will eventually weather to match the home’s original cedar shingles
The interior palette of white and maple wood is the perfect backdrop to showcase the objects that are familiar to the husband: whimsical pottery he created since the 1960s. “[At that point] he could remember how he made each one of them, how he had experimented with the color and shape,” Wibowo says. “I thought, ‘That’s his thing. That’s what makes him remember. I need to have a place for that.’”

Trying to use every single area as an opportunity for display, Wibowo put open shelves in the bedroom and built-in cabinetry throughout the addition to showcase the husband’s ceramic plates, vases and teapots. There’s even pottery accenting the enclosed deck, which, along with the project’s abundant windows, allows the husband to interact with the outdoors in a controlled environment. “Every point that research paper made, I wanted to fulfill,” Wibowo says. “Good design has an intention. Working with [this couple] was elevating, because their situation went beyond the programmatic need of simply wanting more space. The intention of the project was so much more than that.”

Pro tip: “Consult with an architect, even for just an hour,” Wibowo says. “There is a perception that hiring an architect is expensive, and that is not necessarily true. An architect will be able to guide and enhance the design beyond what most clients can manage on their own with suggestions and quick sketches that better visualize the space.” Fees vary with an hourly rate ranging from $100 to $400, with the norm ranging from $120 to $200.

Ko Sugeng Wibowo, AIA architectureforeveryone.org


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