ARCHITECT ROY LUNDGREN plies his trade mainly on Orcas Island. But he and his wife, Laura, also needed a place for themselves in Seattle.
Roy found a prime piece of property in Madison Park, an actual stone’s toss from the water. Prime, but small, 40 feet by 60 feet. Because he couldn’t go out, Roy — one-third of Street Lundgren & Foster Architects — went up. And up. And up.
Thus, the Lundgrens’ house in town turned out to be an actual town house. And that’s just fine with Laura.
Her son, Erik Lindstrom, “gave me a wonderful book for Christmas called ‘Unassisted Living.’ The whole premise of the book is that you don’t have to go to a retirement home. You can make some small adaptations in your own home.
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“Having these staircases make us go up and down. We think that’s a good thing. And the book talks about that.
“People say maybe we wasted space with the circulation, but not by me.”
Not only do the stairs keep the couple, who are in their senior years, fit, they are pivotal to the home’s design: the central glass-encased floating stairs rising beneath a skylight and carrying both humans and light to the floor below. Two steel circular staircases, one inside, another out, unfurl like steel ribbons, saving space and adding a sense of play. (An elevator hauls only firewood, groceries, garbage and the occasional suitcase.)
“No one wants to do spiral stairs, but I found a guy on Camano who calls himself Spiral Stairs George,” Roy says. “He makes me look good.”
The architect is humble like that. Considers himself the conduit for showing off a homeowner’s personal treasures or of the those belonging to our Northwest landscape.
The Lundgrens’ own treasures are many and varied. “Laura,” Roy hollers up the stairs. “Who painted that?” (The stairwell is also a low-tech communication channel.)
Her answer might be Warhol, Miro, Chagall, Tsutakawa, Motherwell, Matisse.
Three of the home’s skylights cast a soft-white-bulb glow over a colorful set of paintings from Chile. “That’s a trick I’ve used a few times, to have daylight on a painting from an unknown source,” Roy says.
Elsewhere are Laura’s treasures, gathered from adventures around the globe. Carvings from Bali at the concrete fireplace in the living room. A 6-foot-tall Ganeesha in the master bath. “We had a devil of a time getting it back,” Roy says.
The couple has been to India three times in the 10 years they’ve been married. “Laura likes chaos, color and uncertainty,” Roy says. She is a professional traveler, though, having owned Seattle travel bookstore Marco Polo.
Roy designed the home — mahogany-stained cedar shingles — to fit the neighborhood. “But I had more fun back here,” he says, opening the steel door to a Julie Speidel bronze in the courtyard. Here also is the other spiral stair. Lake Washington in full sprawl over the trees from the rooftop deck.
Roy’s biggest challenge here (the fourth home he has designed for himself) was convincing Laura that the best place for their bedroom was in plain sight right off the front door.
It took some convincing. She is no architectural neophyte. Revered Northwest architect Roland Terry was her cousin, and she is the ex-wife of another, Richard Lindstrom. “First, there was to be a wall, then a window, then a bigger window …”
Rebecca Teagarden writes about architecture and design for Pacific NW magazine. Benjamin Benschneider is a magazine staff photographer.