Living in the lone contemporary in a new development filled with Craftsman homes bothers the homeowners not one bit. They love their home and the lot it sits on.
IF YOU ARE invited to Jay and Larissa Massena’s for dinner, you will have no trouble picking out their place. On their Bellevue street, one of these things is not anything at all like the others.
Theirs is the lone little contemporary at the end of a line of cobblestoned Craftsman boxes. As if to say, “I’m over here!” its cherry-red wing wall reaches for the sidewalk like an eager handshake.
The Massenas, in a unique turn of events, were the first to buy and build in Parkland Estates, a new development originally for traditional homes. After they bought in, with the economy sinking, covenants were loosened to include the modern style.
But that doesn’t bother the Massenas. “We joke that we look like the neighborhood rec center,” Jay says over the rat-a-tat-tat of nail guns in a neighborhood rising so fast you’d think it was yeast-raised. They consider themselves to be lucky, living in their perfect home on the perfect lot.
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Credit, however, goes more to (home)work than luck, and their choice of the team at Build Llc. to both design and build their 2,400-square-foot home with three bedrooms and 2 ½ baths. “We really did due diligence to find the right architect and builder,” Jay says. “For starters, I have a background in software, and if a firm’s website was not functional, that mattered. But, in everything we chose, we wanted to reduce risk. We ended up on budget, and we had our whole contingency fund left.”
The Massenas had not intended to build at all. For years they rented in Fremont and searched for an affordable Seattle contemporary. Larissa commuted to Microsoft.
“We realized that if we were going to get what we wanted we were going to have to build,” Jay says. “We like Bellevue. We have easy access to everywhere.”
Then there was the matter of the lot. “We looked for about three years,” Larissa says. “We were very patient, and we were rewarded.”
Design began in January 2011. The Massenas moved in May 2012. The couple documented the entire process at www.massenamodern.com: “We recently made a classic mistake that cost us a bucket of money, and if we can help you avoid the same awful blunder, it will take a little bit of the sting out of it. Now we realize this isn’t about world peace or saving lives… it’s far bigger than that: Choosing The Right White.”
The white paint is now right, and the Massenas are seated in their living room, a place awash in light and color (thanks to Jay’s interior-design choices and an art degree from Cornish College of the Arts). It sits cantilevered to the woods, the back of the home a window to the wildlife there.
With due diligence came requirements: “The house had to be approachable and warm,” Jay says. “It had to be efficient in size, and it had to take into account how we use energy. The house had to be low-maintenance.”
Now that their home is complete (with landscape design by Darwin Webb, small grasses, delicate birches, wispy bamboo, fat gabion walls) the Massenas have this advice: “Describe to the architect how you live, not what kind of house you want. That’s like describing to the surgeon how to do your surgery.
“The way to preprogram your project for success is to choose good people. This is not a $5 million house. It’s not a modern house in Seattle. It’s a family home.”
Rebecca Teagarden writes about architecture and design for Pacific NW magazine. Benjamin Benschneider is the magazine staff photographer.