One architect designs two houses for siblings on their family’s waterfront property.

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BOB MANLOWE’S HOME is bigger than his sister’s.

Is not.

Is too.

Well, it is. And that’s OK. We do not have to pull this car over right now. For one thing, it’s only a 200-square-foot difference. For another, the whole point of two similar-but-individual sibling homes on the same stretch of Bainbridge Island — beachfront for Bob, hillside for Laury Bryant — is to foster an agreeable feeling of family.

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This spectacular setting has been doing that for decades. In 1945, Bob and Laury’s grandparents bought the property and its 1920s-era cabin. In 1963, they added a Swiss chalet-style home, which Bob and Laury’s parents moved in to in the 1990s. Summers always meant Bainbridge for Bob; Laury; one of their sisters; and, eventually, their families. But time passed, the cabin grew a little too old and parcels changed hands.

“When it was time to say, ‘What are we going to do with this property?’ there was never a time we thought, ‘Let’s put it on the open market,’ ” Laury says. “There’s so much history on this island. Our DNA is spread all over this place.”

Manlowe’s 2,800-square-foot Northwest contemporary home has two bedrooms and a den, and a soaring living and dining area whose open-corner bifold door system opens directly to the outdoor patio. (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)
Manlowe’s 2,800-square-foot Northwest contemporary home has two bedrooms and a den, and a soaring living and dining area whose open-corner bifold door system opens directly to the outdoor patio. (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)

And now — what a spread.

“This is the first time we’ve done a project for a brother and sister,” says Matthew Coates, of Coates Design Architects. “There were some unique challenges designing and constructing two projects at the same time. We fit both houses with common interests and particular needs. We worked with each of them to find aesthetic preferences, and cohesive and harmonious materials and scales.”

Bob and Laury found common ground — in addition to the common ground on which they were building — all over the place: Each home’s basic geometry begins with a “solid, crunchy foundation and grows up from there,” Coates says, with prominent chimneys and similar stair railings, windows and exposed Glulam structures. A stone mass wall in each home separates its private and public spaces, and a common palette of stone, concrete, wood and metal echoes through both homes while defining their subtle differences.

Bryant’s kitchen (with an attached outdoor kitchen) reflects her “industrial eclectic” aesthetic, with pops of blue, industrial lights and a marble island.  (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)
Bryant’s kitchen (with an attached outdoor kitchen) reflects her “industrial eclectic” aesthetic, with pops of blue, industrial lights and a marble island. (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)
The stone mass wall at right separates the public and private spaces in Manlowe’s home; clearly, nothing separates the home from that view, and 1,000 square feet of outdoor living space. “You don’t need to be a brain surgeon to know to use as much glass as possible,” Manlowe says. “We wanted people to not know the inside from outside.”  (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)
The stone mass wall at right separates the public and private spaces in Manlowe’s home; clearly, nothing separates the home from that view, and 1,000 square feet of outdoor living space. “You don’t need to be a brain surgeon to know to use as much glass as possible,” Manlowe says. “We wanted people to not know the inside from outside.” (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)

Pacific Northwest Magazine: 2016 Fall Home Design Edition

Laury says she and Bob knew they wanted their “companion” homes to look alike, and decidedly not like her home on Queen Anne, where she lives with her husband, Bill, and their four kids, or like Bob’s on Mercer Island.

“We had to come together on Northwest contemporary, clean lines, reflecting the earlier homes here, open to the outside,” she says.

Bob and his wife, Jayne, who have three girls, took “open” to lovely extremes in their living area, where a corner bifold door system opens completely to the patio (“literally no barrier,” Coates says). “They wanted a ‘wow’ feeling. We spent a lot of time letting that space set the tone.”

Overall, the tone of Bob’s home is “very specific structure” and beautifully coastal, with wood-grained tiles and shell-ish kitchen pendants. Laury’s hits “industrial eclectic” and “maritime rustic” right on the rusted-steel head, with textures everywhere, beach glass and striking COR-TEN panels.

To make the homes work for everyone together, but still apart, Coates anchored Bob’s home into the hillside and kindly kept it out of the way of Laury’s. “The peak of Bob’s roof falls right under the horizon of Seattle,” Coates says. “It doesn’t block her view of the city, and all of his lower roofs are vegetated to blend in more.”

By anchoring Manlowe’s lower home into the hillside and installing a green roof system, the roof form blends into the landscape, Coates says, and does not compromise the view from Bryant’s home.  (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)
By anchoring Manlowe’s lower home into the hillside and installing a green roof system, the roof form blends into the landscape, Coates says, and does not compromise the view from Bryant’s home. (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)

Reached by a communal drive, after a particularly winding island route, the homes share “come one, come all” outdoor living spaces (a BBQ, hot tub, showers), years and years of history, and one very important purpose.

The stone mass wall at right separates the public and private spaces in Manlowe’s home; clearly, nothing separates the home from that view, and 1,000 square feet of outdoor living space. “You don’t need to be a brain surgeon to know to use as much glass as possible,” Manlowe says. “We wanted people to not know the inside from outside.”  (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)
The stone mass wall at right separates the public and private spaces in Manlowe’s home; clearly, nothing separates the home from that view, and 1,000 square feet of outdoor living space. “You don’t need to be a brain surgeon to know to use as much glass as possible,” Manlowe says. “We wanted people to not know the inside from outside.” (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)

“This home’s not for me,” Bob says. “My grandfather found the property and built it for three generations. In paying it forward, we build for five.”