This home right on the lake is truly built for lakeside entertaining.
YOU CAN SEE why Stuart McLeod didn’t give up on this prime slice of Kirkland real estate: On the water side, skinny sailboat masts bob like dancing exclamation points all along glittery Lake Washington. On the street side, it’s a leisurely mere-minutes commute — on foot — to the two downtown restaurants McLeod owns, Hector’s and Milagro Cantina.
“I was trying to buy this property 10 years ago and actually thought I had it bought,” McLeod says. “As it turned out, I didn’t buy it. It ended up there was some other buyer before me.”
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McLeod bided his time, four buildings away, forging an acquaintance with the buyer.
“I said, ‘If you ever want to sell …, ’ ” McLeod says. “And then, seven or eight years ago, he said, ‘Meet me at Hector’s for breakfast,’ and I bought it.” (Nice touch, that Hector’s suggestion.)
McLeod subdivided the property, sold half back to the original buyer, lived in his lot’s little house for a spell — and then teamed with Rick Chesmore, of Chesmore/Buck Architecture (who also designed Milagro Cantina), to create a shiny new residential tribute to paid-off persistence.
McLeod envisioned a heaping helping of “edgy” with a side of warm Northwest materials, Chesmore says, so the sculptural blackened steel staircase, exposed steel structural beams, Montana dry-stacked stone, COR-TEN steel accents and smooth concrete floors are all softened by stained rift oak cabinets, built-ins and doors.
And then there’s that one glorious extra edge: the lakefront on which this sturdy home sits. It is right there.
“We had a tight site from the bulkhead to the street,” Chesmore says. “And we had a window to build with a 15-foot setback from the bulkhead; even 5 feet more would have been a challenge. It’s just incredible how close you are to the water. Fifteen feet is pretty close.”
Add in the 17-foot view corridor required between homes, McLeod says, and you can see how the streetside driveway helped steer the home’s design. “We wanted it wider with a turnaround. Once that was established, it was clearly defined. Because we wanted the main living/kitchen/breakfast nook/dining area right at street level, it drove the bedrooms up, and the recreation room down, right on the lake.”
Only makes sense, then, to flow from the driveway to the entry — geographically, and aesthetically.
“It all kind of started with the (front) door, something you touch every day,” Chesmore says of the huge pivot door accented with inlaid blackened steel.
“I never paid a whole lot of attention to an entry door,” says McLeod, who lives here with his girlfriend, Summer Grigsby. “But the size and the way it functions, you’re entering into a space knowing it’s substantial. It sets the tone for the rest of the house.”
That tone, while striking a peaceful harmony of function, texture and creativity, also sounds a little like a distant car horn.
Before he was a restaurateur, McLeod was a producer for collector car shows.
“I retired from that 22 years ago, but I’ve got a lot of collectible things over 30 years,” McLeod says. “I’ll go look and think something’s a fit.”
Lots of things, lots of perfect fits: the crankshaft mirror in the entry, light fixtures that look like pistons, the Buffalo gasoline pump in the recreation room, the toy-size cars filling the built-in shelves in his office, the antique pedal cars at the foot of a hearth or two.
And, there’s also great potential parking for a piece of McLeod’s race-car art — or 10.
A catwalk along the second floor, inspired by a proscenium but with steel beams and tie rods under a 42-foot-long skylight, “is not just a hallway,” Chesmore says. The wall behind it, now completely empty, is in fact a gallery in the making: “Eventually, it will all be art.”
McLeod waited 10 years for this place. That art wall will happen.
“The house is becoming more of a place to quietly come and relax,” he says. “We’re getting to a point where the house is fully utilized.”