Image: Will Austin

Inside Outside

Materials Steel cabinet with gas flame
Architect George Suyama, Suyama Peterson Deguchi Architects

EVEN ON SEATTLE’S soggiest days, you won’t catch architect George Suyama complaining about the weather. In fact he believes local buildings should inspire us to spend more time in what he calls our “benign climate.” So when it came to designing a home for his family, Suyama worked to create a strong connection to the elements and avoid clear delineations between interior and exterior. A long ledge runs the length of the house—built on waterfront property in West Seattle—from the garage to the western deck, unifying a series of indoor-outdoor spaces: patios, gardens, and an open-air living room warmed by a built-in gas fireplace. The materials in the room are spare: There’s a concrete floor, a fir timber ceiling, and walls of cement plaster, horizontal cedar planks, and white plastic laminate. “When people see a photograph of the space, they sometimes say, ‘Well that’s an interesting living room, but it doesn’t have a lot of stuff in it,’ ” he says. “So it worked—it felt as if it were inside as well as outside.”

Into the midst of this serene chamber bursts a bright jet of flame, emerging unexpectedly from the low steel cabinet that runs along one wall. The design offers high drama, but including a fireplace was also essential to making the area usable during cold months. Although it is sheltered from the prevailing westerly winds and protected by glass skylights from the rain, the room faces north and lacks the heat buildup that would come with southern exposure. The warm glow of the gas fire, so quickly and easily lit, allows the Suyamas to hang out here year-round. “We use it spontaneously, even in February,” says the architect. “We go out with a coat on, light the fire, and we’re out of the wind and rain. We’re warm.”

Suyama Peterson Deguchi Architects, 2324 Second Ave, Belltown, 206-256-0809

Suite Success

Image: Will Austin

Materials Granite and glass,
gas jets in river rock
Architect Geoffrey Prentiss,
Prentiss Architects

IN THE BEGINNING, Angie and Steve Moore hadn’t planned to build a fireplace in their bathroom. The couple had recently remodeled their bedroom in Kirkland’s Holmes Point neighborhood, adding a horizontal sweep of windows overlooking the June grass and flowering flax planted on the green roof just outside. “In the bedroom we have surround sound and a view of the lake, so it’s a very nice and relaxing place,” says Angie. Geoffrey Prentiss knew that he needed to balance the window’s strong rectilinear form, so he designed a generous sweep of granite along the opposite wall, with a long, narrow gas fireplace set into it. 

Image: Will Austin

The architect realized midway through the design process, however, that because the wall joined the bedroom to the master bath, the fireplace could serve both rooms. The Moores loved the idea. “We thought it would be so cool to be able to sit in the bathtub and have a fire,” says Angie. Prentiss set the gas jets in river rock and surrounded them with panes of glass—making the flames visible from both rooms. On the bedroom side, a niche is cut into the granite above the fireplace; below, a drawer stores audiovisual components.

The technical details of this custom design required a good deal of tweaking. “When you put a gas flame inside glass walls, getting the air combustion just right is not easy,” says Prentiss. “Also, since it’s in the bedroom you have to think about heat and noise. You want to make sure it doesn’t get too hot, and that you can control it.”

Prentiss Architects, 224 W Galer St, Queen Anne, 206-283-9930