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Creative Core

Designed by Heliotrope Architects, this Seattle house of a young couple has an art studio at its heart.

Located in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, a contemporary residence was shaped for two bright and creative minds. She is an artist who loves to paint and he is an engineer who manages a major retail website. Both knew what they wanted in their new home and they shared their thoughts and tastes with Heliotrope Architects. Among some of the main elements from the brief were: designing an art studio in the center of the home; having large white walls to showcase a growing art collection; creating a strong connection with the exterior—the garden and surrounding neighborhood in particular—while also providing privacy (which was achieved by elevating the main floor of the home above grade); inviting a lot of natural light into the interior spaces; and including a separate wing for guests. “The resulting layout is reminiscent of a checkerboard pattern, alternating between interior and exterior spaces,” says Mike Mora, cofounder with his partner, Joe Herrin, of Heliotrope Architects.

Built by Dovetail General Contractors, the 3,953-square-foot house comprises two, stained, cedar-clad volumes. The street-facing one has a gable roof, echoing the surrounding houses, while the other features a flat green roof of native plants.

On the ground floor, the main living area, furnished with pieces by Ligne Roset, Tom Dixon and Charles and Ray Eames, opens up to the two patios—one at the front entry and the other at the back of the property. The Malm fireplace gives a feeling of coziness, and most elements were made-to-measure to perfectly fit the owners’ needs. These include the windows, the custom kitchen with walnut countertops, and the bookshelves. The architects used a combination of materials throughout, including polished concrete, tile and myrtle wood on the flooring, while they chose Western red cedar for the custom cabinets and the Japanese soaking tub in the bathroom.

Filled with natural light, the art studio occupies a double-height space with a cathedral ceiling. Adjacent to the living room, the studio is simultaneously separated from and connected to the rest of the house as a result of its unique positioning: The studio was thoughtfully sunk a half-level.

Situated upstairs, the master bedroom provides peaceful views of the Japanese garden, maintaining the visual connections between inside and outside.

“We wanted the project to look like a house, not a box,” the architect says. “And the clients wanted to be good neighbors, so the physical characteristics of the other houses on the street influenced the size, shape and construction of the new design.”

With its eco-friendly fluid-applied waterproofing barrier, radiant floor heating, green roof and backyard rain garden that absorbs rainwater running off the roof, this simple yet elegant house is in line with its context, but also displays pride in its own personality.

Photographer: Benjamin Benschneider

(Published in DIGS Magazine)

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