Seattle Living

AIA Seattle Home of Distinction: Gabled Elegance

A trip to Germany influenced the design of this Issaquah gem

By Sean Meyers December 3, 2020

1120_SEM_021

This article originally appeared in the November/December 2020 issue of Seattle Magazine.

Tall, angular, elegant and earthy, the Grunewald residence in Issaquah is a sanctuary where a modern-day Abraham Lincoln might have been comfortable hanging his hat.

Lincoln didn’t mix metaphors, and neither does Adams Architecture. Led by life partners Anne C.and John H. Adams, the Seattle firm functions best when paired with homeowners whose goals accommodate its aesthetic ideals.

“We always try to create what we call a modern vernacular, a contemporary interpretation of traditional, familiar architectural forms. We like to use rich, living materials that have a quality of both patina and age over time in an attractive way — woods and metals that might not have a finish on them,” says John Adams.

In Calvin and Victoria Grunewald, the Adams landed architecturally savvy, collaborative and trusting clients. The Maryland natives were enchanted with the contemporary lodge style of many Seattle-area homes, with lots of big timber beams and warm woods inside and out.

“Some of the homes in the Harrison Street neighborhood of Issaquah Highlands are in that style, and we originally thought we wanted a house just like that,” says Victoria Grunewald.

A trip to Germany changed everything.

“We fell in love with the clean lines and steep gabled roofs of the countryside homes we saw there. We told Anne and John we wanted to change the style of our home completely, and they were more than happy to get to work,” Victoria Grunewald says. “We knew this new style would be unique in our neighborhood and that excited us. Our lot sits next to a very square home with strong features, and we wanted a home that could stylistically stand strong next to it. The uniqueness of shape is one of our favorite qualities of our home.”

Skulking in the back door is verboten at this 5,300-square-foot, five-bedroom, twin-gabled homestead. Visitors enter either via a drama-building, two-turn processional stairway or through the garage, which opens into the pinwheel confluence of the entryway, kitchen and living room — the warm beating heart of the three-story home.

The living room is A-frame in appearance, but not engineering. It features a vaulted ceiling and stretches 50 feet, counting a formal outdoor living area with a long, lazy view of the Seattle skyline to the west. A more private outdoor nook guards the eastern flank, capitalizing on an adjacent greenbelt.

A space that is truly great, but not overly grand. With a baby girl on the way, the Grunewalds wanted a living room that would invite immediate occupancy.

“We were both on parental leave, which meant we got to know our home very well. We spent most of our time in the living room then and we still do — it’s one of our favorite spaces,” Grunewald says. “The room is two-stories (21 feet) tall, but it never feels cavernous. It’s light and bright in the day, with lots of windows and natural light. It’s warm and cozy in the evening, with dimmable upward lights and a tall (hand-worked limestone) fireplace. It’s the soul of our home.”

From white oak floors to cedar ceilings, living materials dominate the structure. Just 6% of the floor space is carpeted, mostly to soften the bedroom of the new arrival.

Like many components of the home, the delicately spindled, brilliantly executed stair railing that rises to the 470-square-foot, third-floor master bedroom suite was custom-crafted by Gage Design.

The driveway doubles as a court for pickleball and other games. The exterior materials are low-maintenance and renewable. The standing-seam, living finish metal roof and charred shou sugi ban siding are expected to age gracefully.

This family home was selected by a panel of architects for the AIA Seattle Home of Distinction program due to its creatively changing the experience and views of this home towards a comprehensive design, all within the existing footprint. Dreaming about a home design project and not sure where to start? AIA architects can help

Follow Us

A Light-Filled  Oasis

A Light-Filled Oasis

Mercer Island residence embraces natural beauty by drawing it inside

When Kent and Lisa Sacia decided to put a bow on their latest remodeling triumph, they turned to a trusted collaborator, Sander Groves Landscaping President Dan Groves. He was more than happy to take on the project, a reimagining of a 1972 Northwest contemporary by a noted Mercer Island architect. “I am in a position to…

Living: The Lightness of Seeing

Living: The Lightness of Seeing

Challenging ‘Lopez Lookout’ project places a premium on spectacular scenery

The regulators and nesting eagles weren’t the only ones peering on with interest. The third largest of the San Juan Islands at 30 square miles, Lopez is home to about 3,000 year-round residents known for friendly waves at about anything that moves. Islanders are also known for their intense interest in protecting their remarkable environment….

A History Museum at Home | Sponsored

A History Museum at Home | Sponsored

Creating your own mini galleries with art, photos, and objects you love

  Everywhere you turn in Brendan’s home is a piece of history with a compelling story. A small delicate piece of metal stamped with a man and lion sits inset against a vibrant red matboard. “This is a gladiator fight ticket from the Colosseum in Thracian during the slave uprising in Rome. The time of…

A Poetic Quality of Light

A Poetic Quality of Light

Portage Bay floating home embodies a feeling of spaciousness

Suzanne Stefan rides a housing bubble that bursts many times each day. Stefan, a cofounder of Seattle architecture firm Studio DIAA, combined light, sound, and materials to create a bright, 650-square-foot floating home on Portage Bay (the eastern arm of Lake Union) that reverentially reflects its idyllic surroundings. Bright, but not dazzling, as glare, contrast,…