A Hunts Point house was designed around artwork, including treasured pieces by homeowner Daryl Russinovich’s 89-year-old father.
AT FIRST GLANCE, even from a distance, Mark and Daryl Russinovich’s distinctive Hunts Point home expresses artful design: Dark steel joins sturdy stone, muted stucco and etched matte glass in a strikingly contemporary interpretation of midcentury-modern architecture, horizontal planes tossing straight-edged shadows beneath the relaxed branches of longstanding trees.
Come closer — across the concrete auto court, then the bridge over the sparkling water feature — and you start to get the full expression, as in art-full design, inside and out.
“We designed this house around art,” says Brian Brand, of Baylis Architects. “We were creating a legacy gallery. From the entry, artwork is part of the procession.”
That glorious hues-of-blues collage you see from the entry bridge — it anchors the glass passageway that links the home to the garage — is by Daryl’s 89-year-old father, Kenneth Fiske, an artist and former University of Texas art professor who lives in Austin with Daryl’s mother.
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Daryl rescued and restored much of his art — and treasures it all, on so many levels. “It’s amazing what he can create,” she says. “His art is so expressive, and he’s not so much.”
Her collection ranges “from two pieces he did as a student at USC, and spanning oils; landscapes; and, the last 40-plus years, only collage,” she says. “I remember sending Brian photos of all my artwork and how big they were. I wanted lighting for each piece.” She has 40.
Brand was a little overwhelmed, then moved, then inspired. “Sometimes I get tears in my eyes; it’s such a sweet story,” he says. “She has so many. And we were working with a narrow lot, on a view property with lots of windows. When there’s all that glass, how do you find room for artwork?”
One beautifully practical solution: Run the display space perpendicular to the windows. “The art became a cool part of the house,” he says.
Actually, the house is nothing but cool parts, all adding up to one cohesively cool three-level whole: warm materials, neutral tones, variable ceiling heights, universal space, carefully placed skylights and clerestories — and even more collections, with even more creative means to showcase and celebrate them:
• Daryl collects glass art, too — lots of glass art. “She has way more pieces than we could display,” Brand says. “So we created display spaces for her collection, plus lighted niches for special pieces that rotate (positions).”
• Mark, chief technology officer of Microsoft Azure and a cybercrime novelist (“Everything he’s written has happened,” Daryl says), collects photographs, certificates and “Star Wars” memorabilia. Not Pez-dispenser-level memorabilia — serious stuff, as in the series’ first script, Daryl says, and as in, Mark sometimes backs out of online auctions when he realizes he’s likely bidding against Paul Allen. But Mark wins often enough to fill his office (where Brand designed a special corner computer desk to accommodate the stretched-out legs of a 6-foot-7 collector) with prominent display cases of prize pieces.
• The whole family (other members: 16-year-old daughter Maria, plus look-alike labs Max and Missy, and one aging kitty cat named Boo) collects experiences. So one hallway wall has become its own framed-photo gallery: the Russinoviches with famous politicians, the Russinoviches with each other. “Daryl loves photos,” Brand says. “The interior designer (Robin Luchsinger) spent a lot of time on the patterns, sizes and organizing.”
And, because Daryl volunteers extensively with local charities, the entire lower level is designed for everyday living and extraordinary entertaining experiences. “We do entertain a lot,” Daryl says. “We like to do it big when we do it. Kenny Loggins played in the backyard for Mark’s 50th birthday.”
That extensive backyard has two impressive water features of its own (a pool/spa ringed with must-have palm and banana trees, and shiny Lake Washington) and a huge covered/heated terrace that flows seamlessly inside. “I experienced the house in party mode,” Brand says. “There were 150 people here for the housewarming. The house functions very well — lots of places for people to gravitate.”
The lower level recalls the Russinoviches’ last home, in Clyde Hill, Daryl says. “We liked the layout of that: two kitchens, up and down, and a rec room. Brian looked at that home, but it wasn’t contemporary. We always wanted contemporary — and to showcase my father’s artwork. What I liked: Brian saw the vision with my dad’s art. He had to find places for it.”
He did: special places, for special pieces.