Squatting on two and a half acres of lush Woodway forest is a pinup star in the Seattle design community. Last November, local architects jealously patted the backs of Bohlin Cywinski Jackson principal Robert Miller and fellow plotter Amy Williams at Seattle’s American Institute of Architects ceremony, where the sprawling 5,500-square-foot 1950s remodel garnered the firm the AIA Honor Award. But the homeowner and his wife and two young kids barely seem aware of the house’s prestige among the city’s T-square brigade.
The family relishes the design, sure, the high ceiling, the floor-to-ceiling windows that greedily suck in daylight. A runway constructed from ipe wood decking cuts through the center of the home, the geometric shapes of which are framed by teak, Douglas fir and black steel. Aside from its only substantial ornamentation—two red rectangular boxes flanking the exterior like thrusters on a spacecraft—the structure epitomizes minimalism, with the kind of naked walls that make the children of wainscoting contractors go hungry.
But what really matters to this family is that BCJ transformed what was once a confusing, labyrinthine floor plan that cut them off from each other (the master bedroom and kids’ rooms were on opposite sides of the house) into a space that facilitates constant connections between family members—something they’d sought for years.
The homeowners lived in Ballard back in the ’90s and used to climb onto a motorcycle for scenic rides north—shooting straight up Aurora past car lots and burger chains, leaning toward Puget Sound, and S-curving through Woodway, a hilly, evergreen-filled community between Richmond Beach and Edmonds. Woodway is the fifth-wealthiest neighborhood in the state; its dense maples and Western red cedars wrap mansions in a leafy sound-absorbing gauze. The couple on the back of the bike liked the quiet (indeed Woodway’s real-estate-marketing sobriquet is “The Quiet Place”; the community newsletter, The Woodway Whisper). And they preferred the open space and privacy over Ballard’s tight bungalow-to-bungalow squeeze.