Architect Ryan Stephenson of Elemental Design/Architecture used honest materials and lots of windows to create a playful place.
THE KIDS are playing on the floor. With their recycling truck.
This is a modern family.
“As you can see, we really like concrete and concrete colors,” Yoav Gortzak says of their contemporary-as-can-be, concrete-and-glass box of a house on a Ravenna street otherwise lined with traditional and tidy family homes.
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The boys roll the truck across the heated concrete floor. Walls are glass. The counter where Mom pours bowls of cereal O’s is gray Pental Chroma.
The exterior consists of panels in Minerit fiber-cement and aluminum, shades of gray from the street; a flash of orange in HardiePanel, placed more discreetly, defining the upper floor, and also at the front door, greeting visitors in a bright cheerful slice. Outside, accent pieces are two boys’ bikes, a basketball, football and soccer ball.
Inside, on a morning timidly sunny, there is light from all sides. Shot through skylights over the kitchen counter, caught in clerestories around the room, filtered through glass walls wrapping the south-facing private courtyard.
“We were very excited about the space. Ryan has a real feel for them,” Gortzak says of their architect, Ryan Stephenson of Elemental Design/Architecture.
“What you see here is that first drawing with minor tweaks. It had even more glass.”
“We told Ryan we needed some walls to hang stuff,” says his wife, Maya Rodrig.
“And to get dressed,” Gortzak adds.
Rodrig and Gortzak are an analytical couple (she works for Microsoft; he’s a professor) who were completely in sync about the design of their home. Spaces for little boys to be close, but as teenagers to be as far away as possible. Shower, no tub, in the master bath. They wanted a low-maintenance home of honest materials (not much painting, restaining; floors strong and resilient; easy to heat), no wasted spaces, flow had to be smart, rooms filled with light.
“We didn’t want a very big house,” Gortzak says of their place, 2,600 square feet, where rooms are expected to serve double duty: the family room at the end of the hall also is used for guests. “There’s room for everything.”
Theirs was an uncommon cooperation that surprised their architect, who solved the kids-nearby-but-not request by creating a Z shape upstairs, breaking the singular floor plane in two directions and separating the master suite and large deck from the rest of the house. The raising of the Z also gave the kitchen and living room 12-foot ceilings. They call it, of course, Z House.
“By then we had two kids. We knew our needs,” Rodrig says. “And we did think long term. Yoav did a lot of research. He’d get samples and we’d sit on the carpet at midnight with the samples all over the floor.”
The biggest hurdle on everybody’s part was a tight budget, says Gortzak, who studied architecture for a year and calls himself a frustrated architect. “There’s plenty of Ikea in the house. Bookcases, beds and the floating cabinets, Ikea.”
The couple found the lot on Craigslist in March 2010 and their architect through a friend. Construction began July 2010 and was finished in June 2011.
The only surprises? A great big mountain view in a great neighborhood.
“We rented a crane when we bought the lot to see the views,” Gortzak says. “But it was a cloudy day, and we couldn’t see anything. Then when we were framing we found out we had this full view of Mount Rainier. That, and there are a lot of kids to play with here.”
Rebecca Teagarden writes about architecture and design for Pacific NW magazine. Benjamin Benschneider is a magazine staff photographer.