This state-of-the-art home in Bellevue, both formal and informal, succeeds grandly on many levels.

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The grand entry stairway “started from a picture of a staircase in the Fairmont Olympic Hotel,” says architect Tom Kuniholm. “Nathie (Katzoff, of NK Woodworking) did the sketches, fabricated and tooled it. He had to make each piece differently, the curve is so tight.”  (Steve Ringman/The Seattle Times)
The grand entry stairway “started from a picture of a staircase in the Fairmont Olympic Hotel,” says architect Tom Kuniholm. “Nathie (Katzoff, of NK Woodworking) did the sketches, fabricated and tooled it. He had to make each piece differently, the curve is so tight.” (Steve Ringman/The Seattle Times)

THERE’S SOMETHING RATHER magical about Dan and Cari’s peacefully meandering driveway. For one thing, it’s tucked into its Bellevue neighborhood as stealthily as an endless scarf up Siegfried’s sleeve.

For another, once you eventually descend to the end of it, you’re in Old World Europe.

Well. It looks like Old World Europe. And that’s magically deliberate.

Dan, Cari and their college-age daughters Alyssa and McKenna live in a luxuriously romantic stone home on Lake Washington that gives the classic French château a run for its euros: 6,500 square feet of intricate craftsmanship; natural, durable materials; impeccable details — and 21st-century livability.

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“From the beginning, the owners wanted to give the house a feeling of Old World quality with European roots,” says architect Tom Kuniholm. “The tall stone gables, chimneys and terraces recall grand residential architecture of the British Isles or Lake Lucerne.”

Inside, a broad balcony overlook, sky-high ceilings, shallow arches and an impressively baronial hall/dining area express the requested aesthetic. But at the same time, Kuniholm says, “The house was built to provide for informal family life and relaxed entertaining.”

The baronial grand hall, under a 26-foot ceiling, “has formal elements, but the open, informal lifestyle of the 21st century,” such as the stone-walled bar, to the right, which “evolved and evolved,” says architect Tom Kuniholm. Likewise the dcor, says homeowner Cari: “I tried to do it all myself, but the interior designer (Anne Steward, of Anne Steward Design) came in just to make sure things weren’t crazy. I never could have done this without her.”  (Steve Ringman/The Seattle Times)
The baronial grand hall, under a 26-foot ceiling, “has formal elements, but the open, informal lifestyle of the 21st century,” such as the stone-walled bar, to the right, which “evolved and evolved,” says architect Tom Kuniholm. Likewise the dcor, says homeowner Cari: “I tried to do it all myself, but the interior designer (Anne Steward, of Anne Steward Design) came in just to make sure things weren’t crazy. I never could have done this without her.” (Steve Ringman/The Seattle Times)

So, cozy pockets of comfort, practicality and fun snuggle all along the wide-open, highly vaulted great room: an intimate bay-windowed sitting area; a cutout, compact mirrored bar with actual pennies covering the actual bar; and a darkish nook that “started it all,” Cari says. “I ripped out a magazine picture and said, ‘Tom, make this happen.’ The whole house evolved from there.”

Informal and formal, Old World and state-of-the-art, this highly evolved home succeeds grandly on many levels — literally, many, many levels.

Its low-bank, acre-or-so waterfront site, at the end of that winding, hilly drive, posed quite a challenge, Kuniholm says. “None of us wanted a daylight basement. We went to great pains to terrace down to the water, and the floor plan is strategically stepped down to follow the contour of the hillside. There is a fair amount of level changes to nestle into the waterfront: three floors with half-levels in between, to get the hillside to work with the house.”

Monday, Feb. 13, 2017.  NW Living.   Wall residence in Bellevue.   View looking out over Lake Washington from the master bedroom.
Monday, Feb. 13, 2017. NW Living. Wall residence in Bellevue. View looking out over Lake Washington from the master bedroom.

All those levels require a lot of stairs, as you might imagine, from the welcoming sunken auto court to the exquisitely tiered backyard terrace — with one almost-unimaginably OMG entry stairway in-between: locally milled walnut treads, risers and stringers bracketed by meticulously hand-wrought iron.

“It’s the tour de force,” says Kuniholm.

Cari says she “researched and researched the kitchen on Pinterest and Houzz and sent Tom pictures.” The furniture-style cabinetry, by Emerald City Cabinet Company, is alder, painted off-white with a glaze, Kuniholm says: “This room is part of the living space. It’s not hidden away, by any means.” (Steve Ringman/The Seattle Times)
Cari says she “researched and researched the kitchen on Pinterest and Houzz and sent Tom pictures.” The furniture-style cabinetry, by Emerald City Cabinet Company, is alder, painted off-white with a glaze, Kuniholm says: “This room is part of the living space. It’s not hidden away, by any means.” (Steve Ringman/The Seattle Times)

That could be an understatement.

“All the steelwork is hand-forged, with a hand-shaped, carved railing,” says artisan fabricator Nathie Katzoff, of NK Woodworking & Design. “Each piece is unique in geometry and 100 percent custom.”

The giant walk-in shower echoes the curve of the vaulted ceiling in the master bathroom, with Calacatta marble, glass tile mosaics and custom faux finishes by Kay Perret.  (Steve Ringman/The Seattle Times)
The giant walk-in shower echoes the curve of the vaulted ceiling in the master bathroom, with Calacatta marble, glass tile mosaics and custom faux finishes by Kay Perret. (Steve Ringman/The Seattle Times)

The elaborate handrail is held together by just two or three fasteners, he says; otherwise it’s all wood joinery. “It’s really traditional, 2,000-year-old techniques. It was a fair amount of work.”

That could be another understatement.

Katzoff crafted the staircase in the shop and installed it in pieces. All told, he says, it required 3,000 hours of labor.

While we’re talking numbers … there’s that stone: 38 tons on the exterior, says Hamish Anderson, of Hamish Anderson Custom Homes, all from a quarry near Bozeman, Mont.

“It was really great when Cari and Dan gave the green light to go all stone,” Kuniholm says. “It gave the ability to have a traditional-house level of authenticity, not just like sprinkling around stone.”

Authenticity counts. And here, in this hidden Old World slice of high-tech Bellevue, it works. Magically.

“I’m from the East Coast and live in an old farmhouse here,” says Kuniholm. “I appreciate well-done traditional work and when someone wants traditional materials and a high level of craftsmanship. (Dan and Cari) knew exactly what they wanted, and they got it. I can see the house suits them.”

Huge glass doors open to the southwest-facing outdoor patio, with a firepit, heaters and an infinity pool. “My husband says he doesn’t know why we built the rest of the house; we were out here all summer,” says homeowner Cari. (Steve Ringman/The Seattle Times)
Huge glass doors open to the southwest-facing outdoor patio, with a firepit, heaters and an infinity pool. “My husband says he doesn’t know why we built the rest of the house; we were out here all summer,” says homeowner Cari. (Steve Ringman/The Seattle Times)