A move across Mercer Island leads to a west-side story with plenty of positive points of view.
TRUE TO THE ADAGE, there are indeed two sides to this story — east Mercer Island, and west Mercer Island — along with one common protagonist who creates connections as essential as a free-flowing floating bridge: architect Allison Hogue, of Floisand Studio Architects.
On the east side, Jeremy; Danica; and their kids, Nolan, 13, and 10-year-old Reese, lived on a woodsy, secluded, landlocked site. Hogue designed that home in 2008 “for a modest budget,” she says.
As the kids grew, though, the family’s aspirations evolved. “We wanted a nice, big view and a basement for the kids to have friends over,” Jeremy says. “The house on East Mercer was very private, and we wanted a neighborhood with kids — something a little bigger, with sunlight.”
In 2014, they bought a 1970s-era, L-shaped, split-level home that had been remodeled once in the 1980s, and again in the ’90s. The layout was compartmentalized; the kitchen was closed off. Folks had trouble finding the front door. “It had classic 7-foot ceilings inside,” says Jeremy, who, at 6 feet 3, had to duck and cover under encroachingly low eaves and doors.
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But that setting! Elevated just enough over new neighborly neighbors, it faces several scenic wonders of the west: Lake Washington, Seward Park, downtown Seattle. Sunshine.
And now, once upon these times, after Hogue and Granite Mountain Builders heroically gutted and remodeled every room (except the garage and master bathroom), the family’s beautiful home looks and feels a lot like happily ever after.
This is the west side. This is the bright side. And this is the upside: a whole new world of connections — to the outdoors, to sunlight, to water, to a community.
“All four lead incredibly active, busy lives (Danica works at Amazon, Jeremy at Expedia),” says Hogue. “They are a family of marathoners, triathletes, bikers, swimmers and paddleboarders. Moving to the west side of the island gave the family better access to the water and the sports they love to do.”
Adds Jeremy: “Work can overwhelm your life. We’re pretty explicit about activity; it’s a daily, integral part of our life. We try not to be obsessive, but we keep the kids moving year-round. There’s a little access to the water, so for Seafair, we took the paddleboards and kayaks out and launched. It was one of those moments: This is why we live here. It was a five-minute walk down the hill.”
Even better, getting to the outdoors in the first place is so much easier now.
“The original house didn’t have any ground relationship to the backyard, just a heavy wood deck,” Hogue says. “The only means of access to the backyard was either through a bedroom or via a circuitous route from one of the side doors — not ideal for a family that really enjoys being outside.”
This is, though: a glistening new, easy-access, steel-and-ipe deck off the main-level, wide-open kitchen, with a custom-designed glass-and-steel guardrail that frames the view instead of blocking it.
“The deck is obviously a focal point,” says Jeremy. “Danica calls it The Beast. It’s superstrong, framed in steel and ready for an earthquake. If the Blue Angels are flying, and we have 50 people over, as a homeowner, you want to feel good about that.”
Carrying through the connection, an ultracool, highly engineered, U-shaped steel-and-concrete stairway leads directly to the new kid-zone patio (with a full-size pingpong table and a retired, hanging lift chair from Crystal Mountain).
Of course, even an active, outdoorsy family has to come inside sometime. Thankfully, the outdoors comes with them, in a sense, through a 21-foot-long wall of 10-foot-tall windows and La Cantina doors stretching across the cozy living area, brilliantly bright kitchen and dining room (itself painted a waterish Nantucket Gray, which “catches the gray/blue seaside feel,” Jeremy says).
Out front, the originally baffling double-door entry clarified itself with a single bright-orange door between two frosted-glass windows, all under a defining steel-and-wood canopy. (There’s another fun burst of orange on the street side: a piece of painted flashing amid the weathered-gray cedar siding.) The main-level office opened up, with a big new window and trimwork. Claustrophobic ceilings elevated to 11 feet (12 in some places), thanks to a roofline redesign. And the lower floor was reconfigured “to create bigger rooms for the kids with more light and better views (and a new guest bedroom), to modernize the bathroom and to create a new family Xbox/board-game hangout space that leads to the patio through sliding doors,” Hogue says.
The overarching plot of this inspiring west-side story: enlightened access to everything that matters.
“The light and warmth make a big difference,” Jeremy says. “We joke that people are happier on the west side. We all live on the west-facing side of the house in the summer. Even on a gray, gloomy day, it’s bright. We joke that we wear sunglasses on bright days. It’s a pretty good problem to have.”