Seattle Culture

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

A Mercer Island home nurtures family ties

By Jennifer McCullum January 6, 2017


This article originally appeared in the January 2017 issue of Seattle magazine.

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

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