Elements of Style
David Neiman designed this house with Seattle’s climate in mind. Its owlish outlook ensures the high-set windows can capture lots of light during our gray winter months
It was a routine jog around their Phinney Ridge neighborhood that resulted in Brenda Walsh and Greg Hollon building a new house in Ravenna.
As it happened, the young couple was expecting the first of two daughters and needed to make a major housing upgrade. “We were going to either renovate the Craftsman home that we were in, or move and renovate or build a new home,” explains Walsh. Thanks to their habit of outdoor athletics—both are mountain climbers, Walsh has summited Mount Everest, and Hollon also is a dedicated cycling commuter—they ran into a new house being built by Seattle architect David Neiman. “It was different from all of the other homes in the neighborhood,” recalls Walsh. “All of a sudden there was this gleaming, beautiful building that was modern, and Greg and I both enjoy that aesthetic.” They made a point of attending Neiman’s open house to quiz the architect on the ins and outs of building such a residence. Soon after, a property hunt yielded an ideal site for the couple and for their very first architect.
“When Greg and Brenda found the lot, they actually called me, and I helped them make the decision to buy the land, which [for an architect] is the best place to start in terms of conferring value through your knowledge,” says Neiman. “It doesn’t get any better than helping someone buy the right piece of dirt.” Not only did the Ravenna real estate fit the couples’ walk-, bike- and family-friendly criteria, but it was a perfect plot for creating what Neiman calls an “Umbrella House,” a contemporary dwelling cohesively adapted to the distinctive elements of our region’s climate. Says Neiman, “Greg and Brenda’s house was our opportunity to take that philosophy and extend it into the environmental systems of the building and its finishes and features.”
The architect’s design for the three-story house features an extra-broad aspect, an open interior layout, punctuated with lots of large, high-set windows (“so you can see the sky from as many places as possible,” says Neiman), which enables the best capture of natural light during our wet, gray months, while the use of durable, low-maintenance exterior materials, such as cement fiberboard paneling, ensures that it can withstand our weather’s worst. “Where we do use natural materials is in places where they are very well protected,” says Neiman. “So all the woods are on the soffitts or under deep overhangs.” He adds, “You can’t put these [natural] materials out in the weather and pretend that this is Los Angeles.”
Making the most of our weather’s glorious flip side—stretches of postcard-pretty temperate weather—is the other main driver of Neiman’s design. In fact, one of the reasons he originally was attracted to the property was that its raised grading would allow him to push the home forward without sacrificing privacy on its front side (a terraced concrete walkway leads up to the house, and there’s a green roof above the garage), thereby preserving the greatest green space for its back side. In order to connect the house to these outdoor elements, Neiman dropped in a jigsawing, six-panel lift-slide glass door off the kitchen and living room. “Five months of the year, you can just open it and flow in and out of your house,” Neiman remarks. Further extending what he describes as the house’s “shoulder seasons” (the transitions between the start of spring and winter), is a glass greenhouse-style roof pitched above the back deck.
Another important way that the structure literally communicates with its surroundings is via a sophisticated geothermal system that both cools and heats the house. A geothermal heat pump uses the earth as a heat exchanger, explains Neiman. “It generates 4 watts of heat for every 1 watt consumed.” (A number of other sustainable measures, including salvaging the original structure and creating low-VOC interiors, was the bailiwick of general contractor Tim Coulter of Madison Master Builders.) The geothermal system, along with a solar photovoltaic installation, was one the couple’s biggest design splurges. “It’s a large up-front investment,” admits Hollon, “but both should pay for themselves [over time]...and it was important to us to reduce our long-term environmental impact.”
Sums up one satisfied architect, “It’s all about creating permeable houses where the interior living space and exterior living space and landscape are really well connected.”
To take the full photo tour, click here
Open House Stats
Edition 9 :: Number 49
Architectural firm :: David Neiman Architects
Cost :: $256 per square foot for an 3,745-square-foot house (total project
cost might include additional fees for services not reflected)
Tour it :: Sunday, May 19
(see details below)
Open House Tour
Launched in 2005, our partnership with the American Institute of Architects’ Seattle Chapter (AIA Seattle) continues our commitment of bringing the experience of Puget Sound–area residential design to our readers. In each issue, we showcase an architect-designed home, selected by AIA Seattle and Northwest Home, that is open to the public for a free, Sunday-afternoon viewing. We invite you to tour this issue’s featured home, designed by David Neiman, AIA, of David Neiman Architects, located in Ravenna at 6816 29th Ave. NE on Sunday, May 19, from noon–3 p.m.
For more information on the tour program, or to submit a project, visit aiaseattle.org or call 206.448.4938.
AIA Seattle tour committee: John D’Agnone, Erik Barr, Julie Campbell, Luke Doubravsky, Milan Heger, Megan Donavan, Michael La Fon, Ed Sozinho, Alexandra Steele, Susan Ingham
FIND IT Resources
Architect: David Neiman, AIA, David Neiman Architects, Capitol Hill, 1521 31st Ave.; 206.760.5550; neimanarchitects.com. General contractor: Tim Coulter, Madison Master Builders, Fall City; 425.417.7772; madisonmbi.com. Structural engineer: Jim Harriott, Harriott Valentine Engineers, Seattle; 206.624.4760; harriottvalentine.com. Energy-efficiency systems: Jonathan Heller, Ecotope; Seattle; 206.322.3753;www.ecotope.com. Realtor: Greg Lewis, Windermere NW, Ballard, 2626 NW Market St.; 206.789.7700; windermere.com. Landscape architect: Kraig Kemper, Kemper Iversen, Seattle; 206.329.6633; kemperiversenltd.com. Landscape installation: Scott Reaser, Green Knight Landscape; 425.828.4073. Geothermal/hydronic heat: Gerard Maloney, EarthHeat, Duvall; 425.788.5214; earthheat.com. Photovoltaic solar electrical system: Mike Rehder, A&R Solar, Seattle; 206.707.9937; a-rsolar.com. Insulation: Mark Boggan, Washington Insulation; 253.261.5037.Electrical/low voltage: Mike Young, Sound Electrical Contractors; 206.409.7866. Cement board panel siding: Larry Greenleaf, Greenheart Construction; 425.252.5471. Asphalt roofing: Tim Fergin, Royal Construction; 360.631.0885. Framing carpenters: Able Richardson, Ridgeline Contractors; 206.550.3056. Plumber: Jeff Williams, Excell Plumbing; 206.650.8227. Bamboo hardwoods: Ioan Duciuc, Eurocraft Hardwood Floors; 425.670.6769; eurocrafthardwood.com. Finish carpentry: Van Kimball, Mavcon; 425.208.6087. Stone/tile install: Quality Tile; 425.710.4059;seattlequalitytile.com. Aluminum/wood-clad windows: jeld-wen.com. Six-panel lift-slide door: HH Windows & Doors; hhwindows.com. Kitchen range: GE Monogram, Frederick’s Appliance, Redmond, 7509 159th Pl. NE; 425.885.000; fredericksappliance.com. Fireplace: Montigo L42, Fireside Home Solutions, Kent, 21402 84th Ave. S; 425.251.9447; firesidehearthandhome.com. Fireplace tile: Cementi, Pental Granite & Marble, Georgetown, 713 S Fidalgo St.; 206.768.3200. Master bedroom pendants: LBL Hover. Low-VOC paints/wood finishes: Green Depot, SoDo, 1950 Sixth Ave. S; 206.315.1956; greendepot.com. Precast concrete sink/fireplace hearth: Dogpaw Design, Ellensburg; 509.933.1099; dogpaw.com. Custom bamboo cabinets, dining table, stereo shelving, fireplace mantle: Fin Jensen, Evergreen Custom Cabinetry & Design, Tacoma; 253.566.2230. Kitchen counters: Pietra Lavica 3-cm basalt, Pental Granite & Marble. Kitchen backsplash: Parc Charcoal, Cultural Brick, 6 by 24, Pental Granite & Marble. Kitchen pendants: LBL Mini Volo, North Coast Lighting; northcoastlighting.com. Master bath wall: Venezia series, 12 by 12, Bottle Green Gloss. Master bath fixtures, sinks, showerheads: Danze, Grohe, Bob Cameron, Keller Supply Company, Georgetown, 3209 17th Ave. W; 206.270.4724; kellersupply.com. Bar stools: Bottega height-adjustable stools, Design Within Reach, Belltown; 1918 First Ave.; 206.443.9900; dwr.com. Living room furniture: BoConcept, Downtown, 901 Western Ave.; 206.464.9999; boconceptseattle.com. Kids’ nook furniture: Stuva Grundig wall storage, Galand art table, Ikea, Renton, 601 SW 41st St.; 425.656.2980; ikea-usa.com. Kids’ nook rug: Pottery Barn Kids; potterybarnkids.com. Back deck furniture: Racer lounge chair, rocker and sidecar; lolldesigns.com. Entryway metal table: Flight Bench by Orange22 Design Lab; botanistseries.com/collections/bench.