Rolf Preuss bucked "the Northwest style," going in the other direction for the Sand Point home he designed for his family in 1979.
SEATTLE ARCHITECT Rolf Preuss built only one house in his long career of designing apartments, condos and small office buildings.
But it’s a good one.
“When I was younger, the Northwest style was it. But I went totally the other direction,” he says of the home he designed for his family in Sand Point in 1979. “Seattle is so gray six to nine months of the year. I wanted to get in as much light as possible.”
And in it comes. On this determinedly foggy morning, light soaks the home after its journey over the Cascade Mountains and across Lake Washington. Not just through panes and panes of east-facing windows over three floors, but down through a skylight the size of a garage door. Once inside, white, white walls kick it around. Even the exterior cedar of this flat-roofed study in geometry is hot, light white.
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And then Rolf says, “I like color, because I paint. That’s what people notice about my paintings, the colors. “
No kidding. The architect is seated on a sizzling hot-pink velvet sectional and wearing a lemon-yellow T-shirt. Two chartreuse occasional chairs keep sizzling hot-pink sectional company. Everything is held together by an area rug in blocks of pink, navy and chartreuse, a color palette chosen for the rainbow-loving Preuss by interior designer Alexa Milton. And if that’s not enough, across the room two fat, round chimney stacks shoot through the roof in, yes, hot pink. Even Jane Preuss’ geraniums, inside for the season, follow the color scheme.
“We went to Hawaii for a year and stayed for 10,” Rolf says. “We were going back and forth all the time. We had to commit to one place … “
“The skiing is better here,” Jane laughs, finishing his sentence.
Rolf and Jane Preuss bought the second-to-last lot in their Sand Point neighborhood for $11,500 in the 1970s. It was down the street from Jane’s parents. Great views, great place to raise two kids.
Jane had one requirement for their Seattle home. “We have this amazing view. We can see the lake; we can see the mountains. So the kitchen is on the view side.
“We eat all our meals outside when we can; we get the morning sun,” she says with a wave to one of the home’s four decks; some high over the lake, another private, tucked into the shade of the surrounding greenery. “And over here, in the dining room, it’s kind of cozy.”
The side-by-side chimney stacks serve wood-burning fireplaces on two floors, living room and three steps down in the dining room. Little stairs are everywhere in the house that hugs the hillside. Eight up to the TV room and tiny art studio (160 square feet); seven down to the play room; three more down to the master suite; and three more to Jane’s office, a guest room.
Bedrooms hold only beds. Drawers, desks, shelves, bunks are built in.
Rolf was 42 when he designed their 2,600-square-foot home, this celebration of ’80s modernism, 35 years ago. Tweaks have been minimal; new kitchen surfaces and appliances, the art studio added a few years ago. Rolf is 77 now, and his design still serves, delights.
“A lot of people come in here and think the house is new,” he says.
Have there been any surprises over the years? Jane answers instantly.
“We have a playroom, and our kids never used it. But our grandkids use it exactly as my husband intended.”
Rebecca Teagarden writes about design and architecture for Pacific NW magazine. Benjamin Benschneider is a magazine staff photographer.