Seattle Culture

AIA Seattle Home of Distinction: Gabled Elegance

A trip to Germany influenced the design of this Issaquah gem

By Sean Meyers December 3, 2020


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

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