Editor’s Note: George Suyama’s Quiet Serenity

George Suyama has left an indelible mark on Seattle Architecture

By Rob Smith March 20, 2023


This article originally appeared in the March/April 2023 issue of Seattle Magazine.

Richard Nguyen was walking along Seattle’s Magnolia Bluff when he came across a home that caught his eye. Its low-slung, crisp, understated exterior “stood out against all the other houses on the bluff,” he recalls.

Later, while perusing a book about noted Seattle architect George Suyama, he saw the exact same house.

“The photos of the spaces were captivating,” he recalls. “I bought the book and dove into deep admiration of his work.”

Years later, when it came time to remodel their home, Richard and his wife, Pei Chin-Nguyen, knew exactly who to contact: George Suyama. Richard says it was “a bit surreal” to sit and drink tea with Suyama in the architect’s West Seattle home.

“Even more unreal was having our home remodeled with his unmistakable touch,” he notes.

Bobbe and Jon Bridge had a similar experience. Bobbe, a former associate justice of the Washington Supreme Court, and Jon, retired co-CEO of his family’s iconic Seattle company, Ben Bridge Jeweler, interviewed several architects when it came time to remodel their home. They, too, chose Suyama, and ended up razing their existing house and building another one from the ground up.

Bobbe says the house is now filled with the iconic characteristics of Suyama’s style, including blackened steel features, open staircases with oak and steel, and a coordination of furnishings, accessories, and cabinetry that creates a holistic environment.

The house is now filled with the iconic characteristics of Suyama’s style, including blackened steel features and open staircases.

“George’s attention to detail is an extraordinary gift,” Bobbe says. “It is open, light, inviting, and warm, in spite of — maybe because of — its artistic elegance. It exudes simplicity but is so complex.”

George Suyama at the Junsei House

Cover photography by Kyle Johnson

This issue of Seattle magazine is devoted to the unique architecture and innovative designers that define the region’s built environment.

Suyama, a Seattle native who received his architecture degree from the University of Washington in 1967, is at the top of that list. You can read more about his influence — and those of countless other architects — starting on page 106.

For Richard and Pei Chin-Nguyen, Suyama remodeled the front entryway and downstairs. In keeping with his signature style, he created a serene and calm space expressive in small details. The front of the house has a very Suyama-like street presence complete with minimal ornamentation, handsome lines that frame the landscape, and unique rhythms and intersections, Richard says.

The front pool courtyard “feels private, open, and welcoming,” he adds. “And that feel flows seamlessly into the indoor spaces.”

Bobbe Bridge calls Suyama’s attention to detail “an extraordinary gift.” The house contains the Bridges’ extensive collection of multi-cultural and eclectic art, and the built-ins create clean, uncluttered lines. Nature is a full partner in the design. The outside terraces, water features, outdoor fi re pit, and deck “become part of the inside,” she says.

The Bridges even introduced Suyama to a family from Japan who wanted him to design their home.

“George has left his mark on Seattle architecture,” she adds. “At the same time, he is known and respected around the world. His work is genuine and authentic, as is he.”

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