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photo of An American Place
Photo: Paul Warchol

An American Place

Seattle, Washington

An American Place

Seattle, Washington

  • Design Principal

    Jim Olson

  • Principal

    Stephen Yamada-Heidner

This understated house on the shore of Lake Washington defers both to its wooded site and to one of the nation’s premier collections of modern American Art. The design weaves art and nature together, creating a comfortable place to live.

A lofty hall extends from the steel-and-wood entry canopy and silhouettes a massive bronze nude by Gaston Lachaise. Cutting across this hall is a lengthy gallery leading from a study and master suite at the north through spacious reception areas to a glass bridge; the bridge connects to the upper level of a two story guest house, which sits in a gully to the south. Natural light is carefully balanced, and the paintings are unobtrusively protected from direct sun. Creature comforts are also present—notably in the glass-enclosed shower that juts into a walled Japanese garden.

The linear structure steps delicately among the trees while giving every room a view of the water. Portuguese limestone and stained cedar soften the concrete-and-steel structure, with their subtle tones becoming an integral part of the landscape. Shallow-pitched eaves hover over the long, low façade like those of a traditional Japanese house. Interior design by Terry Hunziker.

In a dark forest, a light‑colored flower stands out so bees and hummingbirds can find it. The same kind of contrast can be used to draw attention to works of art. It can create a sense of drama. Jim Olson, FAIA




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