This Busy Family Achieves Balance in their Home

A Mercer Island house is an exercise in the ever elusive work-life balance

By Shannon O'leary


April 29, 2016

This article originally appeared in the May 2016 issue of Seattle Magazine.

Of course, there’s no such thing as having it all.

But Thellea and J.C. Leveque, both with hyper-demanding careers (he’s a neurosurgeon, she’s an ophthalmologist), active lifestyles (they bike, ski and sail), two young children and a labradoodle named Echo, have managed to pull off a pretty impressive work-life balance. And it’s mostly thanks to their house.

Shortly after the Michigan transplants’ online search of “modern, Seattle architect, budget” turned up their ideal designer, Allison Hogue of Floisand Studio, they found their perfect property: A quiet, end-of-the-street affair with trance-inducing water views on Mercer Island. The island location itself provides a perfect pivot for this family, offering easy access to work (the doctors practice in Seattle and Kirkland) and play (such as kids’ ski lessons at Alpental, just 45 minutes away), and frequent cultural forays for the adults into downtown Seattle. Together, the trio brainstormed a dynamic dwelling that possesses an owner-mandated neighborly scale and 5,300 square feet artfully arranged over three distinct living levels.

Hogue’s strategic employment of light and dark elements—a new second story swathed in white stucco hovering above a black base—and carefully selected materials, such as luxe marble downstairs versus plastic laminate Ikea items upstairs, kept the budget balanced and created important design demarcations and connections.

Wall-to-wall glass lines the main floor making the most of the abundant water and mountain views

Upstairs is where the couple’s greatest work-life line of defense is deployed: a self-contained closet/office off the master bedroom (dubbed the “cloffice” by J.C.), equipped with a mini fridge, tea and coffee service, and direct access to the master bath to accommodate J.C.’s unpredictable on-call schedule. “This was a very key checklist item,” Thellea says. “J.C. can close the door, make his coffee, read his MRI scans, communicate with the hospital, take a shower, get dressed and leave. I don’t hear any of it.”

Adds J.C., “Basically, I can live in there.”

Follow the home’s walnut-paneled, central staircase down a flight, and an open-floor plan reveals the home’s most public level, as well as a chef-worthy kitchen lined in custom cabinetry and a runway of an island that houses everything from an instant hot-water sink to compost, garbage and recycling bins to cutouts for easy stashing and charging of tablets and smartphones.

“The home has got to work for you,” says Hogue. “We intended to provide a thoughtful spot for everyone’s needs with the design.”

J.C. gets to work in the 203-square-foot upstairs closet/office aka the “cloffice” just off the master bedroom

Thellea, Ansel and Sabina play a game of Ticket to Ride

The top floor, open hallway bridge

The new home meshes well with its lower-profile, mid-century modern neighbors

It’s the basement, however, that might boast the home’s most impressive display of utilitarianism. Designed for multiple uses, this family flex space encloses a kids’ play zone; a mother-in-law suite, with its own bathroom and entrance; a media room; and crafts room, where Thellea, an accomplished artist, routinely gets creative. (The art wall in the foyer features her eye-catching 3-D installation.)

“We live on the main level, but when we come down here, it’s only to play,” says Thellea. “I can do my art, or we can watch a movie. We sort of retreat into our little cave as a family. It’s really special.”

The kitchen’s 17-foot-long island discretely houses a dishwasher, recycling and compost bins and a smartphone/tablet charging station

A spacious master bath off the working space known as the “cloffice”

This modern home was selected by a panel of architects for the AIA Seattle ( Home of Distinction program in recognition of the architect’s careful translation of the client’s ambitions into the final design, which is a well-loved environment for family life and a resource for work life, too.

Floisand Studio
Allison Hogue, AIA, project architect; Richard Floisand, Kevin Tully, Ian Towle, Tim Carter, design team; 206.634.0136,

Ambrose Construction
Brad Wageman, general contractor, 206.455.9110,
Swenson Say Fagét
Gary Mackenzie, structural engineer, 206.443.6212,
Susanne O’Trimble Landscape Design, 206.399.0178

Seattle Manufacturers and Suppliers
Cabinetry: Northwest Custom Interiors Inc., 206.257.3085,
Steel fabricator: Mark Whitten, Twisted Metalworks Inc., 206.402.5695
Lighting: Inform Interiors, 206.622.1608,; Trammell-Gagne, 206.762.1511,
Stone supplier: Oregon Tile & Marble, 206.762.1858,
Stone fabricator: Architectural Stone Werkes Inc., 206.768.8305
Stucco installer: Gerry Rice, Rice Stucco & Siding Systems Inc., 206.718.5147,

The redesign corrected inefficient layouts and awkward connections to the home’s decks.

AIA Home: Goodbye 1970

Family fixes design flaws to bring midcentury home into modern era

“Treehouse” by Floisand Studio Architects returns to glory a Ralph D. Anderson home that had lost its compass. Nick and Rachel Lenington purchased the 1970 Mercer Island home in 2010, attracted to the quiet neighborhood because of its midcentury vibe, big, west-facing windows, and abundant wildlife. An advertised water view didn’t really pan out, but…

Photography by Netra Nei

Living: This Kitchen Really Cooks

Remodel preserves Victorian charm

Raised on an off-the-grid ranch in southern Oregon, Mandy Lozano took a don’t-fence-me-in approach to renovating her kitchen in Seattle’s Squire Park neighborhood. She sought to balance a respect for the 1900 Victorian’s heritage with a genetic predisposition toward creative license. “I don’t care for modern technology that much, and I don’t like fussy or…

IMG_1752 hero-min

It Costs What? High-End Seattle-Area Homes Skyrocket in Price

The rise in pricey homes throughout Seattle is nothing short of astonishing

It’s no secret that housing prices are skyrocketing. Some new numbers, however, may send you into a fit of apoplexy. A study by home buying and selling service Orchard finds that the Seattle region has experienced a whopping 180% increase in the sale of million-dollar homes in just three years. So far in 2022, almost…

The roof slopes to the south for greater solar-panel efficiency and the one-car garage was among several tradeoffs to improve energy efficiency.

Seattle Passive House Respects The Environment

Passive House in Ballard treats the environment with respect

Rade and Eli Trimceski didn’t set out to save the planet when they commissioned their new home in Ballard, but the planet sent its regards anyway. Designed and built by First Lamp Architects of Seattle, the project was named the Passive House Institute U.S. (PHIUS) National Home of the Year in 2020.  Billed as “the…

IMG_1 copy 2-cropped

Why This Tiny Cottage in Shoreline Works For a Family of Four

Why our tiny house makes sense

We live in a world full of hacks, loopholes and workarounds that often lead to more work and dead ends. When my wife, Kristy, and I discovered a way to live mortgage free, it seemed too good to be true. There had to be a catch. Six years later, we are still living out that…

The project resulted in an extra 5,000 square feet of floor space and a refacing of parts of the facade.

Seattle’s Former Columbia Congregational Church and Allied8: A Match Made in Heaven

The former Columbia Congregational Church was in disrepair before architectural firm Allied8 came to the rescue

The Columbia Congregational Church was harshly thrust into an uncertain future in the secular world.   It was founded in 1891, two years before the Columbia City neighborhood. The densely forested site was ringed by marshlands and served as the gateway to the untamed Rainier Valley. At the time, it was a common practice to donate…