“OUR STORY WITH this house is kind of a long one,” says Megan, standing in the warm, wide-open kitchen of the modern new home she shares with her husband, Will; their two young daughters; and their 80-pound Labrador doggy, Steve.
The fact that Megan is standing, smiling, in this warm, wide-open kitchen pretty clearly telegraphs the (spoiler alert!) hugely-happy-at-home ending. But … there’s a cozy, comfy window seat just off the kitchen, and Megan, Will and BUILD LLC project designer Cale Wilber spin an excellent, inspiring tale — of dreams and designs, of stops and starts, of tests and triumphs (and one creative role reversal) — so maybe let’s just settle in and start at the beginning.
Long ago but not very far away at all, Will lived in West Seattle and coveted this nearby, northeast-facing, bluff-top lot. You can see why, in 270-degree splendor: From this extraordinary perch, there’s an intense collection of endless views of pretty much every scenic sight for miles, neighbor-free.
Will delivered a sincere, handwritten “If you ever want to sell … ” letter to the couple who lived there in a rundown “little shoebox” house built in 1918. And then, when Will didn’t hear from them after a year, he did it again — and he didn’t hear from them, again.
“Six months later, I got a call,” Will says. “They said, ‘We are selling this house. Would you like to buy it?’ And I said, ‘YES!’ And immediately after, I got another call.” While the wife had reached out to Will, the husband had been dealing with another potential buyer, for longer. “I thought I’d lost it, and then about three months later, they said, ‘It didn’t work out; do you still want it?’ And I said, ‘Yes, please.’ ”
And so it was his. Then Will and Megan met. Will and Megan got engaged. Will and Megan “started the architectural design process with a different architect [not BUILD],” Megan says. “We designed the house, permitted it and then the economy crashed, and it made us a little bit nervous to take the leap and build something.”
The rundown little shoebox was awfully rundown, so they rented nearby and renewed the permits each year, for years, until, “We did the math on it and decided to do a very inexpensive, Home Depot/Ikea-level remodel on the house and make it livable,” says Will. “And so we did that, and we lived in it for five years.”
By the time they re-engaged their original architect with a hearty “We’re ready to go!” Megan says, “The economy had boomed, and building costs were up 40 to 60%, and we no longer could afford what we designed. So that’s when we reached out to BUILD, and they completely redesigned the house.”
“We had the opportunity to reimagine the whole project,” says Wilber, who worked with lead architect Andrew van Leeuwen to also reconceptualize, reprioritize (now that Will and Megan had a family) — and capitalize on those up-to-date permits. “The previous design was beautiful. It had a lot of drama. We also noticed that it wasn’t utilizing the space as well as it could have. Ultimately, we decided to see what would be possible if we reused the previously permitted envelope. We found that gave us an opportunity to maximize the program and the use of space.”
Central to that maximally spacious program is a concept — and a space — that itself is central to how, and where, Will and Megan live: a reverse floor plan that elevates the kitchen, dining and living areas to the top floor to boost views and light, and to reflect their love of entertaining; sites the bedrooms (Will and Megan’s to one side, the girls’ to the other) on the entry level; and creates a fabulous ground-floor multipurpose room with an indoor climbing wall and a built-in craft nook for Megan, and a grassy outdoor play area right outside.
“At first, I had a really hard time wrapping my head around how that works,” Megan says. “You enter on a bedroom level, and that seemed kind of intimate. I didn’t understand how it would flow. But you make a focal point that draws you to where you’re supposed to go. The bedrooms are down hallways, out of sight, and they created this beautiful window wall and open-riser stairs that really draw you up. You want to see what’s up there. And it works really well.”
Adds Will: “It was the single best decision of many great design decisions — far and away.”
All the decisions, time and gut-wrenching soul-searching that went into Will and Megan’s new modern home might make for a longish story, but there is a meaningful moral here, and a happy ending that’s really more “a happy result,” because Will and Megan are home, and this is just the beginning.
“Our road to be where we’re standing today has been full of obstacles that seemed really kind of heartbreaking at the time,” Megan says. “There were points where we were like, ‘Should we just walk away from this project? Should we decide to do something else?’ But we kept coming back to the story of how Will got it. It just felt like it was meant to happen for us, and we needed to push through these challenging moments. And it feels so good when you’re here. We just felt like we had to find a way to make this work.”
“It really is a story of perseverance,” Will says. “It turned out better. Through all that perseverance, we somehow came out ahead with everything.”