Architect Chris Patano and his wife, Emily Trittschuh, build a family — and a spacious, light-filled home — in West Seattle

Share story

SHOULD WE STAY, or should we go?

That is often the question in land-scarce-as-hens’-teeth Seattle. And it’s one that architect Chris Patano and his wife, clinical neuropsychologist Emily Trittschuh, wrestled with from their southeast-corner West Seattle 1950s bungalow.

The West Seattle home designed by architect Chris Patano for his family was selected as an AIA Seattle Home of Distinction for 2015. The exterior is charcoal-stained larch. The house cost $720,000 to build. Landscaping is by Andrea Becker of Studio AB. (Benjamin Benschneider)
The West Seattle home designed by architect Chris Patano for his family was selected as an AIA Seattle Home of Distinction for 2015. The exterior is charcoal-stained larch. The house cost $720,000 to build. Landscaping is by Andrea Becker of Studio AB. (Benjamin Benschneider)

But they decided to stay put and rise up from the old foundation. “We didn’t want to be farther from the city,” says Trittschuh.

“There aren’t that many places where you can get this much sun,” adds Patano.

Most Read Stories

Unlimited Digital Access. $1 for 4 weeks.

Trittschuh bought the original house in 2009, when her family consisted of herself and her black lab, Macy.

Then, in 2011, she met this guy on match.com.

“This is what happens when you meet an architect, I guess,” says Patano. “I had a little boy (Nico, 8). Then we had a boy (Archie, 2). And we have a dog (Macy’s 9).

“We needed space for all of us.”

A wall of south-facing glass floods the stairwell with light. The home is super-insulated, floors have radiant heat, and glass offers plenty of passive solar gain. “You open this window, close that one to regulate heat,” says Patano. Across the way are two compact desks: one looks down into the home’s interior; the other has an exterior view. (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)
A wall of south-facing glass floods the stairwell with light. The home is super-insulated, floors have radiant heat, and glass offers plenty of passive solar gain. “You open this window, close that one to regulate heat,” says Patano. Across the way are two compact desks: one looks down into the home’s interior; the other has an exterior view. (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)

If by space Patano means the wide-open kind, there certainly is that. This is a city house on a city lot that has that indoor-outdoor thing all figured out, casually, elegantly and with privacy over three levels of rooms and decks and patios in 3,050 square feet.

“My architect was willing to work with me without too much moaning and groaning,” says Trittschuh, explaining that the husband/wife relationship came second to architect/client.

Architect Chris Patano reused the old house’s marble fireplace surround for the new living room gas fireplace. Windows, from Cascadia, are all the same size in the living room — 3 feet by 9 feet — for both unity of design and to hold costs down. (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)
Architect Chris Patano reused the old house’s marble fireplace surround for the new living room gas fireplace. Windows, from Cascadia, are all the same size in the living room — 3 feet by 9 feet — for both unity of design and to hold costs down. (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)

Particularly, she is pointing out a vertical tulip-glass window set into the wall between the family room and stairwell. The opaque panel is from the old house; Trittschuh wanted it to come with. Patano worked it in as a way to usher soft light into the home’s only space with no natural light. He also reused the old house’s marble fireplace surround for the new living room’s gas fireplace, black with gold and silver veining that the architect updated by wrapping in blackened steel.

Her requests for the kitchen? “Whatever you want, babe.” (Patano does all the cooking.) And here is a Pental quartz counter (Calacatta) 24 feet long, storage above and below all along the way. Cabinets are laminate from Pedini: “Between the dog and the kids, we thought it would be more durable and a little more affordable,” says Patano. (Likewise, for the simple and consistent palette of materials, Urban Concrete tile on floors, marble-patterned porcelain tile from Crossville in bathrooms.)

The long and highly functional kitchen features a Pental quartz counter, Calacatta, 24 feet long. Cabinets are laminate from Pedini. The backsplash is backpainted glass. (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)
The long and highly functional kitchen features a Pental quartz counter, Calacatta, 24 feet long. Cabinets are laminate from Pedini. The backsplash is backpainted glass. (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)

A kitchen accent wall, visible the moment you enter the home, is covered with a sepia-schemed map of Seattle (any map of anywhere: Wallpapered.com). A most modern way to offer a sense of place. Next to that is another signature bit of design: a larch vertical screen, left in its natural state. The ribs offer separation and privacy but allow light and air to filter downward from the central staircase. (Larch also is used on the home’s exterior and for stair treads.)

“Growing up in Idaho, it was my favorite tree,” says Patano. “It’s the best firewood; it’s a deciduous conifer and it has similar properties as cedar: It’s rot- and bug-resistant.”

Meanwhile, large fir Lindal sliders are accent pieces themselves.

The homeowners wanted sun, and to remain near downtown Seattle. Turned out, where they already lived was perfect; it was the house that had to go. These corner windows in the new master bedroom offer first-rate city views and loads of light. (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)
The homeowners wanted sun, and to remain near downtown Seattle. Turned out, where they already lived was perfect; it was the house that had to go. These corner windows in the new master bedroom offer first-rate city views and loads of light. (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)

The architect/husband/dad looks forward to his family’s home weathering and aging. Macy’s scratches on the stairs are patina. Standing on the large top-floor deck (16 feet wide and 40 long) with space for living and dining, Patano says, “You come up here and you’re on your own lot; it’s open, but it’s private.” It’s his favorite.

Trittschuh, however, is unable to choose just one thing. “I love the whole house,” she says, a catch in her voice. “I bought the old house with lots of hopes and a little loneliness, and now … ”