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[All photos by BUILD LLC]

It’s rare when an opportunity arises to design a residence on a generously sized lot here in Seattle. These days, the scarcity of land and increasing density typically produce more vertically oriented architectures. The considerable parcel size was the first thing that struck us at the initial design meeting for the recently completed Magnolia House + Guesthouse. A double lot also provided the luxury of designing a separate guesthouse and multiple vantage points to enjoy the sweeping views of the Puget Sound, Bainbridge Island, and the Olympic Mountains. Add to all of this, a spacious program with a focus on art, and the design eased into a natural balance along the horizontal plane. The owners and BUILD decided early on to reuse a foundation from an existing mid-century modern home on the site, and this provided the long linear geometries from which to stretch the new massing into low, elegant lines.


The landscape design was key to the success of this project and the architecture team worked in close collaboration with the landscape architects at Langstraat-Wood from the very beginning. Significant works of art are carefully integrated into the landscape, as the interiors of the residence have a considered relationship to the exterior. One of the primary design moves is a linear circulation axis between the main house and the guesthouse. A slab on grade walking path is defined within a field of pervious pavers for the driveway court.  The landscapes, hardscapes and Flora Felt green-wall are the product of the hardworking team at Calluna’s.

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As avid art collectors, the owners carefully selected works as focal points within the sequence of experiences leading up to the front door. The totem below, Coastal Spirits by Martha Pettigrew, greets visitors and provides a first glimpse at the collection upon arrival.

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The hardscapes clearly define the walking and driving paths at the exterior, while closer to the house, a softer palette of a Japanese Maple accent surrounded by low plants and a grove of fruit trees plays off the geometries of the residence. The envelope of the house is separated into distinct volumes consisting of Sil-Leed rainscreen panels at the heavy massing, stained, horizontal T&G cedar at the lighter cantilevers, and traditional 3-coat stucco walls by Allied Plastering define the entry. The Bronze anodized aluminum windows by Marlin are matched with steel channel sunscreens by Bart Gibson, which follow the outline of the house and provide a handsome horizontal datum.

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At the main entry, a series of shallow steps leads to an ipe bridge deck spanning across a shallow pool of water. Grass reeds soften the architecture on the shaded south side, while a fountain by Archie Held at the north provides the desired acoustics of a waterfall.  In the distance, the guesthouse echoes the material palette of the main residence as the stucco walls carry through in alignment with the main residence. The upright posture of the guesthouse captures views of the Olympic Range and Puget Sound over the main house.

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The guesthouse interior is designed as a large volume for the possible inclusion of a large hanging sculpture at the atrium space. An open bedroom space at the second floor opens to the atrium and can be closed off with concealed Raumplus sliding doors behind the guardrail. At the lower level, a common area includes a tidy kitchen with cabinets from Griffin Cabinets and a sleek appliance package by Metropolitan Appliance, along with ample space for the living and dining functions. A powder room is discretely tucked beneath the stairway and a full bathroom resides adjacent the loft bedroom on the upper level. The open cubby stair allows for convenient storage of shoes and extends out from the wall as a design feature. The common area opens to the courtyard via a 5-panel La Cantina accordion door which matches the bronze window system. Because of the strong inside-outside relationship of the guesthouse, and a desire for low-maintenance materials, the guesthouse implements a polished slab-on-grade floor at the lower level.

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Back at the main residence, circling around to the south elevation, cantilevered exposed steel beams expand the square footage of the main floor, while keeping to the original concrete footprint below. This allows the increased square footage desired of most modern homes without the need for additional foundation work. It also provides a dramatic architecture at the south lawn with interiors that reach out to the views.

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Moving around to the south-west of the residence, the cantilever allows the master suite to perch over the slope and stand center stage to the view. The steel channel sunscreen carries through to the elevated dining room where a cantilevered roof celebrates the common area of the residence and provides added shade to the interiors. Large La Cantina sliders at the dining room open to a low ipe terrace carefully defined by planters of lavender.


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The increased height of the dining room shares massing with the entry, and together this architectural symmetry provides a helpful formality to the residence. At the centerline of the symmetry hangs a colorful glass chandelier by Dale Chihuly which fills the dining room space and offers an artistic focal point from outside.

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The north elevation of the residence offers a bit of respite from the sun and a large ipe terrace explores different degrees of shading, from full daylight, to trellised sunshade, to full cover. Once furnished, this space will become a seasonal outdoor living room.

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La Cantina accordion doors fully open up the family room to this outdoor room and full length shallow steps allow for an informal seating to watch the sun disappear behind the Olympics. Attenuated steel columns and steel channel beams keep the structure minimal while a cedar lid maintains a warm, cozy feel.

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The roof of the main residence is broken out into 4 different volumes with the raised standing seam metal roof by Esary Roofing at the center. Flanking each side are “flat” roofs (actually sloped ¼” per foot) which are planted out in order to meet the requirements of Seattle’s stringent storm water code and also for the aesthetic beauty which can be seen from the guesthouse. The trellis and full cover over the north deck are situated to the right.

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[Aerial Photo by Savatgy]

Inside, the stucco walls carry through the entry as an accent of color and texture. Symmetry and formality are maintained with alignments between the hallway openings and the clerestory windows above. A highly textured oak plank floor by Olde English Hardwoods adds warmth and character to the interiors while enhancing the long linear corridor connecting most of the functions on the main level.

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Opportunities for large scale wall hangings and floor sculptures are designing into the corridor and common areas of the residence. Additional area at the entry to the main residence will accommodate a large scale book acquired on their travels as well as a bronze family crest set into the floor by Rod Zullo.

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Knowing the specific pieces of art that will be celebrated in each space made the design process much more effective with this residence. The glass chandelier at the dining room, for instance, required additional structural beams at the roof framing for the increased point loads as well as consideration of the interior volume. Other areas of the residence benefit from additional space for circulation around known art pieces.

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Combining artistic pieces with necessary functions was another strategy employed throughout the design process. The hand crafted bowl sink by Wawirka at the powder room, for instance, combines an element of utility with an inspiring focal point within the powder room. The sink is paired with a wall mount-faucet and matching matte black hardware by Brizo.

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The poetics of this curated residence are dependent on a carefully organized set of strategies from symmetry and formality to the clean lines of the circulation and view corridors. Deliberate spaces for specific works of art and the thoughtful integration between structure and landscaping were equally key to the success of this project. One of the greatest pleasures as an architectural team is a mindful design process and the opportunities behind the Magnolia House + Guesthouse allowed for thoughtful decisions from start to finish.

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Cheers from Team BUILD