Share story

Anné and Brom Wikstrom have lived in the Magnolia neighborhood for a very long time. They’re used to beautiful views. Blue water. Purple mountains. Rising city.

So when they started talking about a new place, they didn’t talk about a nice view. They didn’t want a nice view.

They wanted a stunning view. This view: Puget Sound from Seattle’s shipping terminals, across Alki Beach, the sweep out to Bainbridge Island, Olympic Mountains, around to Queen Anne Hill, over the Space Needle, downtown, across the Great Wheel and over again. All beneath great various-shades-of-blue skies.

“We wanted as much view as we could get without blocking anybody else,” says Anné, directing her comments at the version of Mount Rainier that causes wrecks on the freeway.

Most Read Stories

Unlimited Digital Access. $1 for 4 weeks.

What? Oh. Yes! Of course. We’re hanging off the fourth-floor deck of the Wikstroms’ new tower of a home designed by Mike Butrim of David Vandervort Architects and built atop one of Magnolia’s highest points. (If you go on this year’s Magnolia Holiday Home Tour, you’ll see it for yourself.) Behind it, on a short dead-end street, are cedars even taller than the house. No views blocked.

“This is pretty much where I am all the time,” says Brom. This crow’s nest is his studio. Brom Wikstrom is an artist from a family of them (father, brother), a painter of everything from fine art to greeting cards, and co-owner, with brother William, of the Wikstrom Brothers Gallery in Tangletown.

Northwest art is in his blood, on his walls and, three floors below, packed into the racks of his new office. Working in all that art (and all those views) was part of the architect’s challenge. But only part.

“I was really nervous about relying on an elevator,” says Brom. “In the old place I could go outside to get my exercise.” The artist moves about the world in a wheelchair and has only limited use of his arms. (He paints with his teeth.)

“But we are at that stage in our lives that if we were going to have a maintenance-light grounds and house and the view and space for my mother, now’s the time.”

And this is the place. Downstairs, Dorothy Wikstrom, 87, is at home in her one-bedroom flat, open living room-kitchen, a large craft room/laundry suitable for quilting. (She makes them for the Moyer Foundation’s Camp Erin.)

“This is like returning home for Mom, because we grew up here,” says Brom. He used to play with the kid who lived on this very spot.

Between apartment and studio is a floor for bedrooms, another for the kitchen, living and dining rooms. Walls are glass.

“Brom calls this my floor,” says Anné, setting out fat slices of blueberry bread in the kitchen, which appears to extend all the way to Bainbridge Island.

Butrim offered his clients three plans and three contractors. “We interviewed them, but David (Vandervort) gave us the questions to ask,” says Anné. “The first two came in suits. No calluses on their hands.” They hired the third guy, Brian De Young, Stonewood Builders.

Items, whenever possible, are American made. Tile, countertops, floors. The architect worked his way up from the old foundation: Cantilevered cedar elements reach for the views and are anchored by the metal-clad central mass. At its base, the home is brick, a nod to those nearby.

“This is our forever house,” says Anné. “The apartment will be for our caregiver.”

But for now? “I think our favorite thing is the sunsets,” says Brom.

“The Ferris wheel!” says Anné. “We love the Ferris wheel. It’s mesmerizing.”

Rebecca Teagarden writes about architecture and design for Pacific NW magazine. Benjamin Benschneider is a magazine staff photographer.