In Seattle's Millennium Tower, plenty of glass and a lot less stuff leave room to enjoy the view of skyscape outside, art inside. Simple lines and "invisible" walls help make the condo seem larger than it is.
THE NAME architect Jim Olson has given this condo high in Seattle’s downtown sky says it all: Transparent Loft.
Exterior glazing floor to ceiling makes skyline wallpaper.
Inside, even the kitchen and master bathroom are enclosed in walls of glass.
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And the sheer drama of it all makes it crystal clear to Kathy Ferguson why she and her husband, Gordon, left their 4,200-square-foot Bellevue home for a 2,500-square-foot downtown Seattle Millennium Tower condo in 2007.
“We were at the point where stuff is stress,” she says, glancing around her see-through, stuff-free home. “We raised our son on the Eastside, and he went off to college. We were sitting in our big, old house there, and we both work downtown here.
“We sold everything we had; from the attic, the crawl spaces. Everything. It was cleansing.
“There we used a couple of the rooms. Here we use every space.”
The Fergusons were committing to a life free of clutter — physically, emotionally, mentally. Kathy, who worked for Nordstrom 30 years, started the Urban Yoga Spa downtown, bringing stress-reducing, muscle-relaxing hot yoga to the high-heeled crowd. Their request to their architect and interior designer was similar: a spalike environment; modern, timeless; fewer rooms and more space for their yet-to-be-collected art.
Olson, of Olson Kundig Architects, has spent his career being fascinated by architecture’s relationship to art, proportion and the interplay of light, space and mood, mixing materials both natural and highly refined. The results, including this condo, are featured in Olson’s new book, “Jim Olson Houses.”
The daring use of all that glass in the Ferguson household exposes his mastery of it. Many of his homes serve as neutral backdrops for art collections, but in this condo neutral crosses into invisible. One might think Olson was almost showing off here: The outdoor recessed terrace, glass-enclosed, appears almost like an optical illusion. Except that the whole effect is so right for the space.
The goal was to shed a spec condo of its boxy proportions, giving it a lofty openness. A wall, sliding screen and rolling blinds make private spaces private when needed.
Interior designer Ted Tuttle, formerly head of interior planning for Nordstrom, added high-fashion warmth, countering glass, white walls and polished black concrete floors with rich wenge and oak tables, paneling, casework and upholstered seating in a crisp white leather. He was also in charge of choosing art for the Fergusons, most of it commissioned, a collection of life-size sculptural figures and minimalist paintings. Grey Lundberg built vision into concrete reality as the contractor.
“We just gave them the framework and let them go,” Kathy says. “If you hire Jim Olson and Ted Tuttle and you don’t do that, you’re not getting your money’s worth.”
Rebecca Teagarden is assistant editor of Pacific Northwest magazine. Benjamin Benschneider is a magazine staff photographer.