[All photos by BUILD LLC]

While most examples of architecture are static objects, when it comes to thinking about the experience of design, most designers tend to think about architecture in a very dynamic way. How the architecture feels when you move through it is just as important as the object itself. It is this movement that produces curiosity and wonder. The experience of architecture can build on itself to create a sequence of moments which weave together a narrative. When successful, this narrative is much more than the sum of its parts.

For us, there is no better place in design to develop this sequence of experiences than the approach of a house itself. This sequence might begin with how a house feels from the moment you spot it down the street, to how it opens and unfolds as you move through the landscaping, to the serendipity of the front door, and finally culminating in a pleasant moment of arrival inside.


A recent project of ours in Magnolia provides a nice example of this philosophy and today’s post shares the sequence of experiences along with some of our design thinking behind the scenes.

This particular neighborhood has an urban “hard-edge” and most properties incorporate a solid fence or brick wall to maintain privacy around the site. We felt it most appropriate to continue this massing along the property line while using a staggered fence geometry that softens the wall a bit. The entry to the home is distinguished by a break in the fence for the garage and pedestrian entry. Lighting and the address display also encourage the way-finding.


Upon closer proximity to the fence, the staggered horizontal cedar boards allow subtle peeks into the landscaping beyond. The light gray stain of the cedar was chosen, in part, to compliment the vegetation beyond. It’s also a fence construction that keeps a finished appearance on both sides (as opposed to a front and a back).


Once the gate is open, further architectural moves, like the trellis, reveal themselves. The walking surface becomes articulated with gravel breaks at the interior landscaping to align with the trellis supports and lend a more human scale to the ground plane.


Further along, an etch-matte glass cover is added to the trellis and the walkway opens up to a lush yard. The stone of the existing house was maintained and painted dark gray to provide a backdrop to the vegetation. The twisting limbs of two Southern Magnolias provide a canopy to the yard and give the house a comfortable scale. The garage entrance tucks in under the covered trellis so that a smooth (and dry) transition is established between the house and detached garage.



Passing the yard and proceeding under the shelter of the covered trellis, the first portions of the house can be viewed. A transparent wall housing the home office can be fully opened on nice days via an eight-foot accordion door. The first indications of the interior of the home are apparent here.


Opposite the accordion doors, the walkway opens up to a courtyard space. When the accordion doors are in the opened position, the office and courtyard become an indoor-outdoor space for entertaining or a refuge from the direct sun in the warmer months.


The courtyard includes informal seating, an outdoor dining table and a fountain for acoustic white noise in the background. In the evenings, the cedar wrap of the house and wall-wash lighting envelop the courtyard in a warm glow.


Moving up to the front door, it becomes clear that the exterior cedar walls carry through to the interior and the abundance of natural light alerts the visitor to something special awaiting inside.


The entry area of the house is bookended in a continuation of the cedar walls which create an axis ending in a wonderful view of a park, the Puget Sound, Bainbridge Island, and the Olympic Mountain Range beyond (not to mention some spectacular sunsets).


Whether a visitor is aware of these deliberate architectural moves is less important than creating a pleasing experience of moving from one discovery to the next. While good architectural design concerns itself with the behind the scenes mechanics, good architectural experiences allow people to enjoy the design without forcing them to work through the technicalities.

This sequence of experiences was a pleasing one to design, build, and share. Thanks for coming on the adventure with us.

Cheers from Team BUILD