Sound House: This home in Seattle’s Magnolia neighborhood offers views of Puget Sound, for a family to rival the Bradys
Spectacular views and melodic notes define this home
By Sean Meyers
October 14, 2022
For nearly two decades, Brandon Ebel dreamed of building a compound in a modern steel and concrete style.
He found a steep double lot in Magnolia with a plateau featuring a satisfying 360-degree view of Seattle, but he faced a conundrum: How to integrate a contemporary 5,500-square foot house into a well-established neighborhood of traditional, mostly smaller stick-built homes?
Enter Aimee O’Carroll and Jon Gentry, cofounders of GO’C, a Seattle firm that prides itself on finding opportunity in constraint.
GO’C, a previous winner of the AIA Northwest Emerging Firm award, gained worldwide attention for “wa_sauna,” a small floating sauna anchored in public waters beneath Seattle’s skyline.
Gentry is a North Carolina utilitarian with an impulse to challenge norms, and O’Carroll a native Londoner with an appreciation of European modernism.
“Our styles complement each other, and I think you can find examples of both in this project,” O’Carroll says.
Sound House is so-called because of its view of Puget Sound, but also because it is home to a family of eight recently blended in a clamorous Brady Bunch meets Partridge Family fashion.
In 2017, Ebel, founder of Tooth & Nail Records and father to three children, became engaged to Sarah Jio, “New York Times” best-selling novelist (and former “Seattle” magazine contributor), mother of three.
Neither of their houses could accommodate the new family and the idea for Sound House – where everyone plays a musical instrument – was born.
The six Ebel children have it better than the six Bradys, who were packed unceremoniously into two bedrooms. Each Ebel has a simple 80-square-foot bedroom grouped around a communal area with desks.
Evident here and throughout the grounds is the concept of numerous large communal areas to encourage family interaction, interspersed with terraces, garden rooms and other smaller nooks for occasional privacy.
No beachheads have gone unmarshalled in this campaign, including extending the children’s playroom onto the roof of the existing garage.
It is an imperfect society. The older children called dibs on the bedrooms with southern exposure (Marsha, Marsha, Marsha!).
The home appears as two levels from street level, but in practice serves as four, counting the basement cut into the rear slope and a well-traveled, 1,300-square-foot rooftop entertainment area and garden, which provide herbs and more for Sarah’s gourmet kitchen.
The home’s final height is four feet below code and lower than its neighbor, Gentry notes. Its defining characteristic may be its jutting cantilever primary bedroom suite, which seems poised to either hang glide above the Sound or do a back flip into the lap pool below.
“We liked the architectural gesture of reaching out over the pool and outdoor dining area. It just kind of becomes this nice moment,” Gentry notes.
The pool level includes a game room and media room. As visitors ascend the stairs to the main floor, a peekaboo window teases a glimpse of the utilitarian wine cellar.
Burnished Venetian wall texture by Cathy Conner softens the open plan living-dining-kitchen complex and provides a dignified backdrop for art. Conner has an appetite for complexity. For fun, the former pastry chef once baked a cake that required 20 pages of instructions. She now produces frostings that are entirely inedible but totally scrumptious.
“She’s an amazing plaster artist,” Gentry says. “We were like, ‘OK, we got to stop somewhere, but we’d love it if could continue up the stairs into the primary bedroom, too.’”
A perforated metal stairway to the rooftop garden crowns in a beckoning “light monitor,” a skylight that sprinkles the interior with sunshine. The stairway and railing are the work of Alpine Welding, headquartered in Twisp, population 1,200, which bills itself as the capital of the Methow Valley and is, however unlikely, a burgeoning enclave of metal artists. Its team traveled west for several weeklong sessions at Sound House.
Alpine demonstrated its full range, crafting a brass basin (or “vessel” in polite society) in the powder room.
“We also wanted them to install brass pedals to operate the hot and cold water, like you might see in a dentist’s office, but Sarah said ‘no,’” Gentry says.
But mostly the Ebels said yes, encouraging artistic expression on the $5-million-plus project, including the fireplace in the library, where Alpine assembled rustic metal plates complete with roller marks from the manufacturing process.
“It was one of those things where we said, ‘Whoa,’ that may be too much,’ but we loved the way it turned out,” adds Gentry, noting that the painting hanging above the fireplace inspired Sarah’s newest novel.
There are sure to be plenty of plot twists ahead at Sound House. Stay tuned to learn whether Eight is Enough.