Architect Stephen Bobbitt's Remodel of a West Seattle Home Honors its Past
“In a lot of ways, this is a classic Northwest contemporary home,” says architect Stephen Bobbitt as he glances about the wood-, steel- and glass-lined space. “There was a lot of this kind of home being designed by architects for forward-thinking clients in the late 1940s through the ’60s, but I don’t know of any house [in the Northwest] where they interpreted that aesthetic in steel.”
The steel appeal isn’t too surprising since the house, situated on the West Seattle shore, was designed in 1961 by Seattle architect Robert Durham for the founders of the steel-fabricating firm Leckenby Steel. And steel is the dominant driver of Bobbitt’s redesign. “We stripped all the finishes out, made some structural repairs on the steel overhangs, which had deteriorated and rusted,” he says, “then we basically rebuilt the house around the frame. We kept saying, ‘We must ‘honor the frame’ and, in doing that, we changed the house and simplified it in a lot of ways.” The design goal was to boil everything down to the simplest solution. “I think everyone realized going in that we had a pretty unique house, and we just didn’t want to screw it up,” he says with a laugh.
Simplicity, as well as greater light and openness, was achieved via some simply sublime adjustments. Walls blocking the entryway from Puget Sound views, and the living room from the kitchen, were erased to create one open great room, and visual clutter was banished wherever possible. Bobbitt’s approach dovetailed nicely with his clients Susan and Mike’s taste. “It was really important to us to maintain the spirit of the house,” says Susan, who, with Mike, had recently relocated to Seattle, “[so] a lot of what we kept doing was to simplify, simplify, simplify.” For example, the original ceiling’s layout of super-skinny boards was far too busy, she says. Bobbitt’s solution: fatter, easier-on-the-eyes fir panels.
A strategically positioned new clerestory skylight not only handsomely redefined the roofline outside, but funneled much more light into the heart of the house. The old house had a skylight, “but it didn’t really take advantage of the tree views above, or bring enough light into the center of the house,” says Bobbitt. The new skylight was a particular hit with Mike. “We haven’t lived in the Northwest since 1979, and we came back with some trepidation in terms of darkness, going back to the clouds,” he admits. “So there was a lot of focus on trying to keep the rooms light…that was huge.” Bobbitt’s new streamlined steel-framed glazing system for the window wall and glass-wrapped terrace design also improved the interior’s outlook onto spectacular views of Puget Sound.
While steel is the architectural backbone of the house, the new finish scheme is replete with warm woods. The great room stars a striking walnut casework, the cause of much brainstorming over its cubby-hole layout. Says Bobbitt, “We had a lively design team on this project: interior designer Sally Oien and a very activist contractor, Michael Bellan [the casework and cabinetry builder]....He’s not one of these ‘tell me what you want and I’ll build it’ contractors. “It’s like, ‘What do you want to do that for?’ He’s a provocateur, but I value that because he’s got good ideas and he’s very artistic.”
The site’s stringent zoning restrictions required Bobbitt to employ some artful manipulations to bolster the home’s connection to its natural surroundings. “It was a little bit of a puzzle as to what could slip in underneath the allowable [shoreline zoning] envelope and enhance the outdoor environment,” explains Bobbitt, but he was able to add two new decks and to completely rework the primary terrace, giving it a new jaunty, jutting-wedge shape that underscores the house’s inside-out appeal.
“An important principle of classic Northwest design are indoor-outdoor relationships,” says Bobbitt, “and that’s a big part of what this house is about. The glass is all about that. You feel like you’re outside when you’re in.”
To take the full photo tour, click here.
By Patrick Leuner, Leuner Landscape Design
The clients, consulting team and contractors all worked very well together to create and produce a gracious and functional habitat garden.
This garden has many facets that make it such a lovely and interesting garden to be in, move through or observe from the upper balcony. There's the entry garden, the woodland garden, the stream edge garden, the shoreline garden, the meadow or lawn area and the perennial garden.
The subterranean springs in the entry garden moving under the existing bank & exiting at the toe of the bank had to be re-routed and collected to prevent further saturation of the soils. New sandy soil blends were brought in to add to the growth & health of the imported specimen Kousa dogwood trees and specimen rhododendrons. These plantings serve as a buffer from the neighbors at the entry bridge and create interest all year with their springtime blooms, winter silhouettes, and habitat for bird life.
When one enters the house, the existing significant pin oak dominates the front garden as a large umbrella over the newly planted woodland garden. Selective pruning enables one to view out westward to the Puget Sound and Olympics. The woodland garden is a tapestry of buffering rhodos, to create privacy for the master bedroom patio, along with deciduous shrubs, perennials, ground cover and seasonal bulbs and corms. There is color and fragrance all year round.
The woodland garden is bounded on the north side by the stream edge garden that consists of native plantings that provide shade and natural habitat for spawning salmon. As the stream enters the Puget Sound, a shoreline garden moves along the west edge and connects to an arc of pine trees that form a screen and background for the fire pit. The fire pit is surrounded by glacial igneous rocks of all shades and colors. The arc of the pine trees connect visually to the existing scotch pine on the south side of the garden and the neighbor's Austrian pine to frame the western view of the Sound.
Access to the beach and the views were not disturbed or interrupted by shrubs or trees. The meadow or lawn area east of the shoreline landscape creates an openness for activity and entertaining off the patio and sets the pace for views of the Sound and beyond.
We borrowed the landscape next door belonging to the neighbor by acknowledging the existing small to medium tree canopies and then adding evergreen broad leaf and deciduous shrubs and perennials in a layered format to create the perennial garden on the north side of the property. These shrubs, ground cover and perennial species added to the garden were meant to attract song birds and butterflies to the garden.
The birds and salmon have returned to the sanctuary.
Editor's Note: Another great landscaping feat is the seemingly natural rock formation, situated outside the guest room/office's new deck, that was lifted in courtesy of the Marenakos Rock Center (Issaquah, 30250 SE High Point Way; 425.392.3313).
Open House Stats
Edition 9 :: Number 48
Architectural firm ::
Stephen Bobbitt Architects
Cost :: Approximately $483 per square
foot for an 4,988-square-foot house
(total project cost might include
additional fees for services not
Tour it :: Sunday, March 17
(see details below)
Open House Tour
Our partnership, launched in 2005, 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. 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 Stephen Bobbitt of Stephen Bobbitt Architects, located in West Seattle at 9105 Fauntleroy Way SW on Sunday, March 17, 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, Ed Sozinho, Erik Barr, Scott Becker, Milan Heger, Megan Donavan, Alexandra Steele, Michael La Fon, Jeremy von Wandruszka, Julie Campbell
Find It Resources
Home of the Month: Architect: Stephen Bobbitt, Stephen Bobbitt Architects, Queen Anne, 318 W Galer St., No.101; 206.728.4400; srbarch.com. General contractor: Michael Bellan, Bellan Construction, Georgetown, 5319 First Ave. S; 206.329.3121; bellan.com. Interior designer: Sally Oien, The Oien Collaborative, Montlake, 2211 22nd Ave. E; 206.617.8907; sallyodesigns.com. Landscape design: Leuner Landscape Design, Patrick Leuner, Hansville; 360.638.0800; leunerlandscapedesign.com. Landscape construction: Brian Sundberg Landscape Construction, Port Orchard; 360.710.0543. Structural engineer: Andy Herrick, Sliderule Engineering Works; 206.380.0732. GeoTech engineer: Bo McFadden, GeoEngineers, Downtown, 600 Stewart St., No. 1700; 206.728.2674; geoengineers.com. Mechanical: Brennan Heating & Air Conditioning, Rick
Clements, Seattle; 206.248.7900; brennanheating.com. Electrical: Pat Looney, All City Electric, Shoreline; 206.533.6333; allcityelectric.biz. Insulation: Burnham Insulation, Bothell; 425.881.2666; burnhaminsulation.com. Plumbing: Best Plumbing, Bill Lilleness, Wallingford, 4129 Stoneway N; 206.633.1700; bestplumbing.com. Drywall: Level 5, Dennis Boyle, Kirkland; 425.820.2120; level5inc.net. Painting: Steve Elliott, Elliott Painting, Seattle, 11206 Des Moines Memorial Drive S, No. 106; 206.241.6267; elliottpaintco.com Roofing: Mark Gobble, Loberg Roofing, Lynnwood; 425.775.2276; lobergroofing.com. Garage doors: Anderson Door, Haller Lake, 12714 Aurora Ave. N; 206.362.0777; andersonsdoorco.com. Lift/slide doors: Hopes Windows, Jamestown, NY; 716.665.5124; hopeswindows.com. Skylights: Dave Deantonis, DeaMor, Vancouver, WA; 888.284.6799; deamor.com. Tile/stone: Richard Grandy, Grandy Marble and Tile, Poulsbo; 360.297.8330; grandymarble.com. Hardwood floors: Blake Howell, Old English Hardwoods, Seattle; 206.854.4670. Appliances: Albert Lee, Interbay, 1476 Elliott Ave. W; 206.282.2110; albertleeappliance.com. Security system: Froula Alarm, 861 Industry Dr., Tukwila; 206.575.1969; froulaalarms.com. Sound system: Wayne Wray, Definitive Audio, Bellevue, 2045 120th Ave. NE; 425.260.7887; definitive.com. Window shades/mechanical: Collin Tsuchikawa, Penthouse Drapery,
SoDo, 4033 16th Ave. SW, Suite A; 206.292.8336; penthousedrapery.com. Architectural steel fireplaces, hand railings, ceiling/wall panels, exterior main entrance door: Susan Bellos, Shopworks, Georgetown, 5319 First Ave. S; 206.767.2621; shopworkscabinets.com. Custom casework: Shopworks. Lighting: Lighting Supply, Jim Peterson, Denny Regrade, 2729 Second Ave.; 206.441.5075; lightingsupply.net. Dining room steel light fixture: Shopworks. Kitchen
side chairs: Inform Interiors, South Lake Union, 300 Dexter Ave. N; 206.622.1608; informseattle.com. Bar stools: DuGraf & Associates, Esther DuGraf, Queen Anne, 2233 15th Ave. W; 206.281.9366. Custom living room sofa: S and S Custom Upholstery and Interiors, Tim Shelton, Lake City, 12545 Lake City Way; 206.478.4140; sandscustom.com. Living room chairs/TV room Hide-A-Bed: A. Rudin Co, Trammell Gagne, Seattle Design Center, Georgetown, 5701 Sixth Ave. S; 206.762.1511. Antique Rugs: Turabi Rug Gallery, Turabi Topal, Pioneer Square, 113 First Ave. S; 206.624.7726; turabiruggallery.com. Antique furniture: Owner collection.