Arboretum Atmosphere

Property Watch: A Midcentury Modern Marvel by Ira Cummings

This pristine home features landscaping by architects of the Seattle Japanese Garden.

By Sarah Anne Lloyd October 27, 2021

Image: Brad Farris

During the 1950s, Seattle experienced two overlapping booms: The national postwar rush in home construction and the Boeing Boom, which brought thousands of new residents to the area. A whole school of local architecture rose from this period, bringing us a wealth of beautiful midcentury houses. One of its most celebrated and sought-after names was Ira Cummings.

While many of his 500 known homes have changed hands and evolved over the years, this pristine example of his work in Rainier Beach has had just one owner for more than six decades, an increasingly rare trait in a midcentury home. Landscaping by Dick Yamasaki maintained over the years by T Yorozu Gardening adds another touch of architectural clout. Both helped the Seattle Japanese Garden in Washington Park Arboretum come to life—Yamasaki as principal rock setter and T Yorozu as general contractor.

Image: Brad Farris

The home still looks straight out of 1959 from the street, with a breezeblock wall providing a backdrop for a 70-year-old Japanese sculptured black pine. Inside, an entryway and hall with paved stone floor is separated from the living and dining rooms by sliding shōji screens, adjustable to create more seclusion or increased flow.

Image: Brad Farris

Past the screens, find the kind of breathtaking great room you’d expect from a Seattle midcentury home—wide and airy with a gently sloping wood ceiling, a statement stone fireplace, and floor-to-ceiling, east-facing windows with Lake Washington views. An extra bit of modulation creates three spaces: A dining room with an attached balcony, a fireside lounge, and a sunny gathering area with three walls of windows. Fans of midcentury fireplaces rejoice, because this one’s a stunner, with tidy stone facing, a brass-trimmed hearth, and built-in bookshelves on one side.

Image: Brad Farris

The kitchen can be completely closed off from the dining area—no knocked-down walls here!—but, as was common in the era, it opens to its own eating nook for casual gatherings or family breakfasts. 

The less-formal communal space is downstairs in the den—but it still matches the footprint of the living room above, with its own sunny nook and tall brick fireplace. Here, a back door opens to meticulous landscaping, along with a more traditional lawn.

Image: Brad Farris

The outdoor spaces are cohesive, with the front and back connected by a serene walking path. While it’s not visible in photos, John Minato, son of the original owners, notes that the highlight of the backyard is a dry pebble pond with a dry waterfall cascading to the neighboring yard. Minato is an architect himself, because how could you not be after growing up in this house?

Listing Fast Facts

10301 61st Ave S
Size: 2,920 square feet/.26 acres, 4 bedroom/2 bath
List Date: 10/22/2021
List Price: $895,000
Listing Agents: Nina Thornsburg, Berkshire Hathaway

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