MICHAEL SPIZ was living in Everett and working in downtown Seattle. He brake-pedaled his way to work along Interstate 5 for about five years before the commute wore him down. Got him to thinking.
“I wanted to find some kind of modern-looking house; something edgy but not a cube, not a box” the software engineer says of his hunt for a place to buy in Seattle. “I wanted a nice kitchen, good entertaining space, finishes with natural materials with minimal maintenance.
“But it’s hard to find that kind of thing in less than 3,000 or 4,000 square feet, and I couldn’t afford that.”
In the course of Spiz’s yearlong adventures through the city’s real estate offerings he passed through a few homes by Stephenson Design Collective. He found them to be creative and not excessively large. Spiz gave them a call.
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“I asked if they had anything else for sale. They said, ‘What’s your budget?’ ”
Oh sure, Spiz is all smiles now. Sitting in his glass-walled living room with over-the-treetop views west from Madrona over Madison Valley (culminating in the dome of St. Joseph on Capitol Hill). “I think my favorite thing is this space right here,” he says. “It’s nice to have something that’s so bright and light.” (Relive his journey with Spiz’s homebuilding blog at viretta.blogspot.com
Spiz’s house, built by Quality Remodeling & Restoration, meets all of his requirements and then some. It is not a box at all, sitting up tall and spreading its three bedrooms and 3½ baths over three floors and 2,150 square feet. Kitchen, dining and living rooms flow one to another and then out to a large deck, these spaces sharing a concrete floor. There is another 300-square-foot covered patio off the lower level of the home, and another, on the rooftop, awaits the budget go-ahead.
And edgy? The Spiz home is all over edgy, literally. The look of it is not something you see every day, or any day, really. It is cloaked in designed-to-rust Corten steel and charred cedar (charred on site). The address has been cut prominently into the steel. Access is across a steel bridge and via a passcard reader. The Corten continues inside, supporting the bamboo stairs, as the living-room ceiling (12 feet overhead) and out the back as the patio roof.
Spiz, 31, and his girlfriend, Alyssa Hays, use their creative home with flair and often. They, along with friend Nich Anderson, host jazz concerts there, charging patrons about $30 for dinner (prepared by Spiz) and a show. (Find the schedule at Jazzvox.com.) Spiz himself sings with Seattle Jazz Singers, and is, well, jazzed about sharing his home with like-minded enthusiasts.
“I’m still trying to figure out how much food to make. And it’s definitely break even or at a slight loss,” he says. “But I get a professional performance out of it, and other people get to come hear it, too. That’s the best.”
Spiz is properly equipped to prepare, say, chicken satay and lamb meatballs for a crowd. “I got a supercool range, a 23,000 btu Capital with six open burners,” he says, also proudly pointing out the exterior-exhaust Viking range hood, designed to serve a cook who uses a wok and barbecues indoors. Counters are Caesarstone, and cabinets, in plentiful supply, are configured for organization by Abodian.
The Spiz home was designed for the future: to grow with humans, technology and the budget. For solar panels, a green roof, car-charging hookup, home-automation system and a mother-in-law suite.
Says Spiz, “I feel like that’s something I get to look forward to even more.”
Rebecca Teagarden writes about architecture and design for Pacific NW magazine. Benjamin Benschneider is a magazine staff photographer.