The homeowners, advocates of urban density, are committed to their Mount Baker neighborhood, enjoying the vibrancy of it, the people, the restaurants. What they wanted in their home, and got, were lots of white walls for art, a real kitchen for real cooking, space for family and friends, a light-industrial look that included rusted steel,...
IF YOUR house could be a vegetable, what would it be?
Yes, it’s a real question. Yes, you should think about it.
Dan Robinet did. A beet. He and his partner came up with a beet. And it was the seed from which sprouted their new contemporary box of a home in Mount Baker.
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“We love beets. We love the color, the saturation,” he says. “And if you’re going to work with beets it’s messy.”
So, Beet House it is, their cool home of glass and rusted metal rising from the foundation of what had been an old row house.
The veggie question was just one among 12 pages of them that the couple got from Daren Doss and Lisa Chadbourne in a getting-to-know-you interview. From it the architects learned what music their clients like, which room they use most in the mornings, their definition of a party. And on like that.
“We took an AIA class about how to choose an architect,” Robinet says. “We interviewed maybe five architects. But Daren and Lisa were the only ones to take us to their office. It’s really cool and contemporary; barn doors and corrugated walls. We walked away with a lot more confidence about what they had to offer, and they sent us away with the interview.
“They asked some Barbara Walters kind of questions in there, but within three designs the house was done,” he says. “We didn’t have to spend a lot of time having to teach them about us.”
The pair, advocates of urban density, are committed to Mount Baker, enjoying the vibrancy of their neighborhood, the people, the restaurants. What they wanted in their home, and got, were lots of white walls for art, a real kitchen for real cooking, space for family and friends, a light-industrial look that included rusted steel, and open access to the charm-packed backyard garden by Allison Greene of Greene Garden Design. On a modest budget (they assembled the cabinets and finished the floors themselves). The home was built by Fackler Construction.
“We like to cook. We like to cook together, but we cook differently,” says Robinet, resting a hand on the steel counter. “I stir. He preps and walks away. I make the risotto. He makes the roast.” Eighteen flavors of jam line a shelf over the fridge.
The house stands tall in its neighborhood of bungalows, but does not impose. It sits on the original foundation, 1,450 square feet of space over two floors. The blackened-steel staircase, rising in full street view, gives the modest-sized house a big feel.
The art show begins immediately at the glass front door with a large, mixed-media mural in three dimensions done right on the wall by artist and friend Chris Buening. Aerial photographs of Puget Sound are enhanced with doodles in pen, ink, Sharpies and Wite-Out. In beet purple. The couple threw it a party when the piece was completed last spring.
Robinet has a fondness for his home not unlike his feelings for the family cat, Chopper. “This is a house of simple materials. There was no ego involved,” he says.
Cabinets are Ikea interiors with birch plywood fronts rubbed with graphite powder. Floors are reclaimed walnut. The built-in wine rack formerly was used to hold nuts and bolts. The desk in the front-window office is a door.
The architects knew their clients well. Not so much their mothers.
Peering out of the shower room’s large picture window high over the neighborhood, Robinet notes a small adjustment for modesty’s sake. “If we didn’t frost the glass up to here,” he says, marking a spot armpit high, “my mom threatened never to visit.”
Rebecca Teagarden writes about architecture and design for Pacific Northwest magazine. Benjamin Benschneider is a magazine staff photographer.