The home opens up to the private garden but remains hidden from the street by sheltering trees.

Tucked in Medina, where bloated McMansions preen for attention, a wallflower hides among the trees. At a tidy 1,200 square feet, it’s far from flashy. Only a pair of quiet ponds and a two-car garage keep it company.

In a shortsighted rush, some might call it simple. But take in the wood-wrapped walls, the gently sloping roof, the expanses of glass, and it becomes clear that this is a home as thoughtfully considered as it is beautiful. Everything has been distilled and purified, leaving behind just the essentials. As its creator would say, it’s elemental.

“We’ve tried to reduce the visual noise of the house to become very, very quiet,” architect George Suyama says of the project, which his firm Suyama Peterson Deguchi completed in spring 2012. “When you reduce the visual noise, the surrounding environment becomes that much more important.”

As unfussy as the end result may be, the road to get there was much more convoluted. The homeowners, who purchased the property in 1983, wanted to build their dream home.

“The original house didn’t open up to the garden at all,” says Ric Peterson, who handled day-to-day architecture needs. “And there’s a park just east of them, so they had to keep their window shades drawn.”

Rhododendrons, Douglas firs, Japanese maples, and native plantings comprise the low-maintenance landscape. (Click to enlarge)

With privacy and indoor-outdoor living as top priorities, the architects drew up plans for a two-story stunner, harmonizing it with the landscape redesign by R. David Adams Associates. They obtained permits, broke ground, and then received a bombshell. Without a costly foundation, the soil was unsuitable for construction. 

The homeowners altered their plans, deciding to move full time into their downtown Bellevue condo and use the new home as a daytime getaway. Just give us the essentials, they requested. The architects ripped the design apart at the seams and started over.

Off came the top floor and superfluous design features, shrinking the home by half. New permits were obtained, a cost-effective foundation was proposed, and work began once more.

Halfway through construction, the homeowners delivered their own bombshell. They loved the design so much they wanted to make this property their full-time residence again. 

The architects reacted with something akin to a shrug. “We shifted a few things around to make it work,” Peterson says, “and kept going.”

The third design, in the end, is what the homeowners—and the architects—loved best. One long, open space encompasses everything, from the living area to the bedroom, with the bathroom housed in a cube within the larger volume. The park-facing side of the home sports a solid wall for privacy, while garden-facing walls were fashioned from glass, allowing the homeowners to enjoy the landscape from anywhere in the house.
 

Areas in the open floor plan are defined by carefully placed design elements, such as the 20-foot-long dining table.


Materials flow freely from indoors to out, blurring the boundaries of the home. Concrete floors seep beneath the building and envelop the patios. Wood wraps from the exterior into the kitchen, cutting through the bathroom and bedroom before venturing back outside.

The rest boils down to form and function. Windows are left unadorned as sleek rectangles that suck in sunshine or—in the case of the park-facing wall—are triple paned for additional soundproofing. A 20-foot-long surface doubles as dining table and office desk, highlighting the length of the floor plan. The covered patio shelters occupants from rain but remains gloriously open to a lily pad–dotted pond. And a fringe of rhododendrons, enkianthus, and Japanese maples bloom and blaze throughout the year, while Douglas firs and Western red cedars shield the home from the street.

“This house was such a joy,” Suyama says. “It’s very, very minimal, and that results in a certain love of the house itself.”
 

Wood and concrete flow from the bedroom to the patio, emphasizing the indoor-outdoor connection.


Resources
 

Architecture: Suyama Peterson Deguchi, 206-256-0809; suyamapetersondeguchi.com

Landscape: R. David Adams Associates, 206-324-9492; rdalandscapes.com

Structural Engineering: Swenson Say Fagét, 206-443-6212; swensonsayfaget.com

Contractor: ESMB, 425-739-9248; esmbinc.com

 

This article appeared in the September 2014 issue of Seattle Met.