$2M TUSSLE

Price Point: Suburban Expanse or Midcentury Swank?

Two Eastside homes, one $2 million budget.

By Sarah Anne Lloyd September 28, 2022

Welcome back to Price Point, our real estate column that features two homes at a similar price, but with different vibes. This month, we’re turning to the upscale suburbs on the Eastside. For $2 million, would you go for a high-design midcentury home in southwest Mercer Island or the supersize contemporary near Kirkland’s Juanita Beach?

House 1: A Giant Woodland Home in Kirkland

Right on the edge of the lush Juanita Woodlands Park, this five-bedroom home was built in 1980, but has the personality of one built a decade earlier thanks to organic details like plentiful exposed lumber. There’s even a sunken living room, nestled in a shallow heptagon right past the wood double doors of the front entrance. A lofted portion of the second floor floats above, and one wall is taken up by a big fireplace, with red stone stretching from the floor to the pitched cathedral ceiling.

The dining room perches above it behind a half-wall, delineated from the large kitchen by a breakfast bar and wood beams. It has its own double doors to the home’s generous wraparound deck easily the size of a couple of extra rooms. Around the deck’s corner, there’s a hot tub—and an entrance to a cozy den. The focal point of the den is the iron stove, set on top of a brick surround that takes up an entire corner and has what could be a built-in planter or firewood storage.

Upstairs from the dining and kitchen area, past a wall of tall, thin windows, find bedrooms and a few extra gathering spaces: The loft above the living room is large enough to be an upper den, and extends back into a less open space that’s currently a game and media room. The most impressive of the bedrooms is under a vaulted ceiling, with a wall of floor-to-ceiling, forest-facing windows sloping down with it. In addition to its own private balcony and gas fireplace, it has a five-piece bath and a walk-in closet big enough to be its own bedroom.

The 1.2-acre property is filled with trees, so between that and the adjacent park, much of the home is built around taking it in. (One second-floor bathroom even has a sunroom-like window above the shower.) The yard still makes plenty of space to play, cradled in by native landscaping. The south yard, just down from the wraparound deck, has a large lawn framed by trees and ferns. The north yard is more serene, with a Japanese-inspired tobi-ishi-like path, a bridge, a stone lantern, and a stone bench.

While there’s no meaningful transit access over in this corner of Kirkland, it’s a 30-minute walk to Juanita Beach Park, and the Finn Hill neighborhood is a sidewalk-deficit mile up the road—despite its idyllic surroundings, it’s far from isolated. There’s some serious potential for a multimodal commute if you ever do want to bus, bike, or train into Seattle instead of driving. There is plenty of parking for vehicles giant and small here, too, so your RV has a comfy place to stay.

Listing Fast Facts

List Price: $1,995,000
Location: Kirkland/11531 Juanita Drive NE
Size: 4,140 square feet/1.24 acres, 5 bedroom/3.25 bath
Year Built: 1980
Listing Agent: Cliff Weiss and Martin Weiss, John L. Scott

House 2: Midcentury Modern Marvel on Mercer Island

Near the southwest shore of Mercer Island, this swanky 1963 midcentury modern home has some updates, but hangs onto the good quirks. The front entrance takes you down a rich wood corridor to the living, kitchen, and dining areas. The living area has its statement brick pillar fireplace, this one embedded in what’s otherwise a full wall of windows, with a lightly vaulted tongue-in-groove ceiling that covers the whole area.

The handsome built-in bookshelves opposite the fireplace double as room dividers, and leave a little open space between layers for a short staircase to the kitchen, with low-profile wooden cabinets that complement the other wood finishes.

The dining area starts with a built-in (or at least custom) bench lining half of one side of the kitchen island, providing the perfect spot for a large dining room table. There’s a smaller sitting area, along with doors to a back porch, on the far wall, wrapping up just one large complex of a great room.

Down a longer hallway from the entryway, handsome midcentury-style wood cabinets feature prominently in three of the bedrooms. The fourth is a suite at the end of the hall, and swaps the cabinets for a full walk-in closet, along with an ensuite five-piece bath with a soaking tub. Even spaces that have clearly been updated still blend with the style in their own way, from the kitchen cabinetry to the sleek wood-trimmed finishes in the main bathroom.

Like many Eastside homes of the era, it’s surrounded by low-maintenance, evergreen-heavy landscaping, but does have a tidy lawn, a stone patio, and a back deck practically built for taking in the sunset over Lake Washington.

It’s about a 15-minute walk to the nearest bus stop—and it’s wedged right between Mercer Village, which includes a grocery store and other errand-running destinations, and the trail-heavy Pioneer Park.

Listing Fast Facts

List Price: $2,200,000
Location: Mercer Island/7965 SE 67th St
Size: 2,030 square feet/.36 acres, 4 bedroom/2 bath
Year Built: 1963
Listing Agent: Karl Lindor and John Kritsonis, Windermere

Final Notes

It’s easy to see the trade-offs and benefits of both these upscale Eastside suburban homes. In Kirkland, you have more than three times the land and twice the amount of house, but you’re a little more out of the way to Seattle and Bellevue alike. What the Mercer Island home lacks in space it absolutely makes up for in design, and its hyper-efficient floor plan packs a lot into its smaller (but certainly not tiny) package.

Between the upstairs game room, the den, and backyard, you could really make a ruckus in Kirkland—imagine the family gatherings and big birthday parties. It’s both expansive and secluded, and includes plentiful private and common space alike.

The Mercer Island home has more focus and poise, and practically decorates itself; it’s a swanky pad with minimal intervention, and the common areas of the living room, dining, kitchen, and back porch (with the partial water view!) can still accommodate all kinds of vibes. Imagine the dinner and cocktail parties.

If you’re going to be commuting to Seattle, the Kirkland place might be a tall order, unless you’re one of those rare people that’s cool with traffic and parking difficulties. But the trade-off might be worth it if you need space to house multiple generations of your family, or have both a boat and an RV to park. Mercer Island offers a one-bus commute, but also a more normal amount of house.

Both have a semi-secluded environment, amenities relatively nearby, and close proximity to nature, but the rest all depends on lifestyle. Is Kirkland too much house for you, or is Mercer Island not enough? 

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