Drawing on the 2014 Case Study House, a new modern showpiece adapts for another partner’s family.
WHEN YOU BUILD a Case Study home, you pretty much are obligated to study it. (Otherwise, you know, you’d just call it “a home.”)
You’re not obligated to live there, of course, but the architectural partners of BUILD LLC have discovered that design is best studied from the inside. Kevin Eckert and his family lived in BUILD’s 2014 Case Study House, a light and bright living laboratory in Seattle’s Roosevelt neighborhood, and now it’s Andrew van Leeuwen’s turn.
His family’s 2016 Case Study House is, again, a deliberately, distinctly modern home in an established neighborhood (Tangletown this time).
Established neighbors might have noticed.
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“The house was a little polarizing,” van Leeuwen says. “But everybody’s been kind and honest. One couple walked by, and you could tell what was coming. They asked me first: ‘What do you think?’ I said, ‘It’s coming along. Dare I ask what you think?’ They said: ‘We hear you’re very nice people.’ I appreciate the honesty. As a modern architect, I’m fully aware it’s not for everybody.”
Along with serving as a showcase for clients, this particular modern home is designed to work for this particular modern family: van Leeuwen lives here with his wife, Angela Nelson; their 6-year-old son, Parker; daughter Kennedy, 4; and Nelson’s mother, Helen. She lives in a fully independent, but beautifully integrated, accessory dwelling unit (ADU) on the lower level.
“The primary motivations for the home were to bring three generations of family together and provide sensible density to the city,” van Leeuwen says. “Seattle is so expensive; solutions are more and more important. The fact that we put an apartment in this house for minimal additional construction costs is a huge deal. It’s been a paradigm shift for my little family, and it’s been pretty awesome to see daily interaction between grandchildren and grandparent.”
New element number one, then: sweet success from the get-go. Elsewhere, design decisions informed by the 2014 home continue to evolve:
• Please enjoy our stairs: While the open-tread staircase served as an interior focal point in the 2014 home, “We wanted to take this design element a step further and share it with the neighborhood,” van Leeuwen says. “A striking geometry is created when viewed in elevation, and the CSH2016 allows the passer-by to view the entire stair column illuminated at night via wall-mounted tread lights.”
• Speaking of lights: The 2014 home designated space in the common area for a desk, but van Leeuwen’s devotes an entire room to a fully enclosed office and art studio. “We took an honest look at our lifestyle and, for better or worse, concluded that we work most evenings,” he says (Nelson works for Microsoft). “It’s a space we enjoy — close enough to keep an eye on our kids, plus a connection with the neighborhood: The office is perched above the entry and acts as a beacon with its illuminated floor-to-ceiling glass walls. It’s a bit of an aquarium, a glowing corner at night.”
• Way more wood: Cedar was an element, but not a huge element, in 2014. Here, though, “We wanted to think of the cedar as a volume; it wraps the entry and office beacon above,” van Leeuwen says. “Because the cedar siding defines these volumes, it extends inside, flanking the stairway and enclosing the office. The glowing cedar becomes a design feature both inside and out.”
• Back to the drawing board: Eckert’s 2014 kitchen welcomed natural limestone countertops — lots of personality, van Leeuwen says, but also lots of weathering and staining. “Kevin’s kids are older,” he says. “They don’t have magic-marker parties anymore. We needed something bulletproof.” To the rescue: polished Cascade White PentalQuartz.
• Not a lot of lot: The 2014 site had room for a backyard artist studio, but van Leeuwen’s oddly shaped lot, at just 4,300 square feet, was considerably more challenging. “Fitting this house on this site was like squeezing a square peg into a rhombus hole,” he says. The footprint created slivers, so landscape architect Shaney Clemmons shaped one into an outdoor room of hardscapes and garden spaces, with a vertical green wall. “Specific plants and arrangements were chosen to encourage interaction between our children and their grandmother: picking strawberries on the vertical garden, harvesting blueberries at the retaining wall and growing food in the edible garden,” van Leeuwen says.
Sometimes, as with the inverted floor plan, the clearest lesson was: Let’s do that again. The 2014 and 2016 Case Study homes both have awesome hatch-accessed rooftop decks, slatted cabinetry in the living areas, interior glass sliding doors, grasscrete driveways, and plain- and quarter-sawn oak hardwood floors.
“It’s validating,” van Leeuwen says. “There is an answer to how we design. If you take all the considerations of both houses, we’re getting very close to the solution.”
The experiment continues in Ballard with BUILD’s newest living laboratory, Case Study House 2017: It will have a detached ADU with its own garage.