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Lighter than air.

That’s how it is now, this home in the woods tethered to a steep hillside. Half cabin, half contemporary, cedar and HardiePlank stating the case even before visitors have a chance to ring the bell.

The couple who live here use words such as “awe” and “love” and “retreat” to describe their newly remade home. They cannot take their eyes off the trees all around them as they say the words. The old magnolia off the dining room, for example, looks like it spent some time in a popcorn popper it is so heavy with pink blossoms.

Terri turns finally and says, “Some people have a house they get away to on the weekend. Why would we want to do that?”


Not that Terri and Russ could if they wanted, busy professionals who work all hours. But with 2,990 square feet of peace and quiet and comfort, she makes a good case.

Russ has owned the North Seattle home since 1986. The surroundings haven’t changed much over the years — trees larger, underbrush more dense — but the house had grown old. “The stairwell was in the dead center of the house,” Terri says. “The kitchen was triangular, and there were two large bedrooms and four tiny bedrooms.” And, worse, the living spaces were sited away from the ravine.

There was also this: “It had forced-air heat. The downstairs was uninhabitable in the winter. You would have to run down there, throw in the laundry and run back up.”

The couple told their troubles to architect Erich Remash. And he knew just what to do.

Remash put the living room squarely into the woods, dropped the ceiling there for a sense of intimacy. Six bedrooms became two, both downstairs on newly toasty radiant-heated concrete floors. The work done by Randy Grillo of Grillo Construction Services.

There are offices for each, and the kitchen is now open to the dining and living rooms. Floors and cabinetry are bamboo. And all major spaces have at least one wall of glass.

To marry that national park-lodge feel to contemporary, cedar beams carry across the dining room. Below, horizontal cedar siding has run straight into the home and kept going, wrapping the dining room. The fireplace is flush into the floating white wall just off the kitchen. Around the corner, visible in the kitchen, are built-in blackened-steel firewood cubbies. Remash also designed the blackened-steel rangehood, forged and heavy, sleek and modern.

The best of all, however, is downstairs at the end of the hall. The master bathroom.

“We wanted it to have a Japanese soaking-tub type of feel,” Terri says.

It certainly has that. What is not concrete here in this “wet room” is Carrara marble tile (a two-person shower).

The tub is long, with a bench seat for clubhouse views out full-height windows looking straight into the treetops. Terri and Russ use this room in the traditional Japanese bathhouse way. They shower first, then bathe, keeping the tub filled (the water is heated and filtered) for a few days at a time.

A few steps away in the master bedroom, Terri turns again to the forest.

“I like the simplicity,” she says. “We wake up here and there are all these windows. What more do we need?”

Rebecca Teagarden writes about architecture and design for Pacific NW magazine. Benjamin Benschneider is a magazine staff photographer.