Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The design!

Now to the fun stuff: the design of our house! The house was designed within the context of both our family’s needs and the strong constraints presented by the combination of an odd lot and Seattle city codes. We presented PB with a big list of needs and wants, along with a collection of images of houses that we love. The highlights of our “program” (which is the architectural term for the client’s needs):
  • Between 2000-2500 sq ft in size.

  • Three bedrooms plus a home office.

  • Smooth integration between outdoor and indoor entertaining spaces.

  • Open spaces, minimalist and modern finishes.

Beyond our program, the site presented unusual challenges and opportunities.
  • The buildable part of the lot is small and sloped by about 20 degrees.

  • The setbacks (i.e., the boundaries of the buildable region specified by the city) are diagonal across the lot.

  • There is a driveway through the middle of the lot.

  • There is the possibility of great Western views, but only from high up since there are houses and trees blocking the exposure.

I think the design PB came up with in this context is genius. The most striking aspect, obviously, is the diagonal cantilever sticking out of the front. Here are some images. The first is a rendering, and the rest are Google Sketchup captures; note that the terrain is actually smooth, but the survey data is discretized:

The diagonal cantilever doesn’t exist just to be cool (though it is pretty cool). The diagonal jog is parallel to and right up against the diagonal setback specified by the city. The cantilever allows us to extend beyond the small buildable area and use more of the lot, without sacrificing the small backyard play area. Finally, only the third floor is cantilevered because Seattle requires a 16’5” clearance over driveway easements (we originally planned to cantilever two floors before finding this out). Thee city even has a helpful diagram for this seemingly unusual situation :)

Another unusual feature of the design is that the living/kitchen areas are on the third floor. The downside of this is the need to carry groceries up two flights of stairs; however, it allows us to capture Western views in the living room. Also, the primary and most spacious outdoor areas are on top of the building (the rooftop deck and third-floor deck), so we wanted the kitchen to be next to these areas for entertaining. The floating staircase, with windows underneath it, is designed to make the experience of ascending to the third floor a little less tedious. We’re also excited that the living room features 11 feet ceilings! Finally, here are a simplified version of the floor plans, from the bottom up.


  1. Wow - this is spectacular! You must be VERY, VERY happy. Can I be so bold to suggest a laundry chute from the second floor (near the back bedroom) down to the laundry room. We designed one in our 3 story house and LOVE it. Of course a dumb-waiter would be even better to get he clean close back up to floor #2 :-)

    Again - BEAUTIFUL!

  2. Hi Rob, thanks! We're very happy about the design, but also a bit nervous about getting it built.

    We considered a laundry chute, but there is only 1 floor between the laundry area and bedrooms. We figured we could handle that.

  3. Hi Aseem,
    It is great to see a blog on building modern here in the Seattle area!! Congrats on the land acquisition, a beautiful design and exciting times ahead!!
    When are you scheduled to break ground and what's the estimated build time?

    Also, off-topic, are you by chance active on the Redfin forums under screen name Oberon? I started a thread a while back on building modern and someone replied mentioning PB and the same areas you are looking in, could be coincidence though.. Either way, I'll be following this closely, good luck!!

  4. Sounds good - I'm pretty lazy and hate stairs. Good luck on the build - there are ALWAYS issues, but it seems in most cases, the end result is worth it. Judging by your design, I bet you project will be no exception.

    Looking forward to watching the progress -

  5. michelUSA: We're waiting on permits, but hope to break ground around the end of June. Estimated build time is 6 months. I did indeed post once or twice on Redfin forums under Oberon.


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