THERE’S ALWAYS an angle.
And this new home in Beaux Arts Village has them all figured out.
“Probably the nicest comment we get is ‘The house really works on the lot,’ ” says homeowner Eugenia Lin. “People walk by and take pictures. We see them while we’re having dinner.”
That’s quite the compliment for a home of contemporary design freshly inserted into this petite (land area .1 square mile) and historically funky town on the eastern shore of Lake Washington. Beaux Arts began life in 1908 as an artists’ colony, incorporated in 1954. But it retains its small-burg charms even while being flanked by Seattle (across the water) and Bellevue (to the north). The forest here is one of those well-groomed affairs found only in the best evergreen neighborhoods. The streets (some single lane) remain safe for play.
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“In Beaux Arts your house takes on an identity,” Eugenia says. “When we bought it we always thought we’d be living in ‘Mary’s house.’ ”
Mary, who was 95, lived in a little cottage on this spot for 60 years. A little cottage that sat on an angle. The house was all used up, but the foundation and its placement there definitely had a future.
“My husband was a big fan of the blog ‘A House by The Park,’ Eugenia says of Bennet Yen, who works for Microsoft. “We were living in Shanghai when he started following it.” The blog tracked the day-by-day progress of one Seattle homeowner’s project with local design-build team Build Llc.
The couple, also admitted Redfin real-estate stalkers, had been considering a move back to the States. Their boys were growing older, and the entire family is crazy for baseball. (“It’s what brings a lot of expats back; kids in middle school.”)
A friend tipped them off to the Beaux Arts property. Eugenia called Build Llc. for guidance.
“We were overseas for most of it,” Eugenia says of design and construction, finished in April 2013. “But we loved the transparency of Kevin and Andrew. (Structural engineer Kevin Eckert and architect Andrew Van Leeuwen.) “We could be as involved as we wanted to be. I had no interest in picking out door handles, but that didn’t keep them from giving me the spec sheets.”
Lin and Yen desired a modern home, open to their woodsy surroundings. A place filled with glass to lure light. But also, “we didn’t want to be so out there, because this neighborhood is so established.”
And this brings us back to the angle. “This is the only hint that there’s an upstairs,” Eugenia says. She refers to the stairs themselves, angling off from the kitchen. “The upstairs is orthogonal to the lot.” Orthogonal? She shrugs. “I learned that from Kevin and Andrew.”
In layman’s terms, the downstairs common areas, kitchen-dining-living rooms, sit askew to the property lines. Two intersecting grids form the home’s overall footprint. Because the forest provides privacy, the living room has floor-to-ceiling Marlin windows. Also, 22-foot-wide La Cantina accordion doors open the living room to the wide ipe deck (low enough to not require guardrails, an interruption to the forest connection.
The overall effect is that the house seems almost to shy away from the street even though it sits not far from it. The result is harmony of design and nature.
Eugenia loves her home for many reasons, but it all boils down to this: “I love Build’s definition of modernism: Distill it down to just what you need.”
Rebecca Teagarden writes about architecture and design for Pacific NW magazine. Benjamin Benschneider is a magazine staff photographer.