The Alsept-Ellis family see their move from big home to 2,400-square-foot town house in a Capitol Hill seven-home green complex, complete with its own P-Patch, as a major step in a decadelong "family progression toward living a more ecologically responsible lifestyle."
The family: Reneé Alsept, a public defender, her husband Jeff Ellis, a death-penalty attorney, and their daughters Olivia 16, and Emma, 8.
Ellis says they see their recent move to a 2,400-square-foot town home on Capitol Hill as a major step in a decadelong “family progression toward living a more ecologically responsible lifestyle.”
Their lifestyle shift started with becoming vegetarians and has led to a goal of eating locally, taking public transportation when possible, purging much of the stuff that filled their former 108-year-old home in Leschi, and now, living in a very green home within walking distance of many of their day-to-day needs.
“Instead of constantly feeling like we’re part of the problem, we’re so excited to be doing something about it — being on a bus line, selling one of our cars, having less stuff, living here,” Alsept says. “Not everyone has a choice to do these things and we feel very fortunate that we can.”
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The seven-home community: Builder Graham Black and architect Brad Khouri, who each live within blocks of the Urban Canyon development themselves, strove to foster a sense of community with a shared P-Patch and solar-powered bike/garden shed, green roof-decks that are at differing angles from neighbors but are within talking distance, colorful clustered mailboxes and a charming brick pedestrian path connecting the homes.
“We wanted to create something intriguing that would appeal to people while also making the city a more interesting place to live,” Black said. “Creating higher density was also a priority.”
The transition: Moving from a big house with a two-car garage and a spacious lawn to a more compact town home within earshot of neighbors has been a big change, but one the family welcomes. Alsept says not having to do upkeep on an old home and big yard will create more family time. And she looks forward to being part of a small, intimate community.
“We both have pretty tough jobs and with two kids and animals and a 108-year-old house and a big yard, it was too much — I had to figure out what had to stay and go,” she says.
After looking at more than 30 town homes she instantly fell in love with the Urban Canyon site because of the quality design and construction and the fact that Black, the builder, could talk in-depth about the green features and materials.
The feel of the house: With long open spaces, huge windows and high walls perfect for the couple’s whimsical art collection, this three-bedroom, 2 ½ bath, 3-decked town home is airy, bright, even playful.
The oversized custom Jil Smith lamps that mimic Matisse flirt with the couple’s vivid artwork; the open living and kitchen space on the main floor invites communal cooking and conversation. The green roofs offer lovely views of Lake Washington, Bellevue and Mount Rainier.
Beautiful details such as Ann Sacks of Portland’s exposed strata-tile aggregate on the master bathtub add a fun, sophisticated, custom quality to the home.
A few favorite things: Alsept loves working in the communal P-Patch (“Don’t tell the neighbors but we’ve already been picking lettuce for dinner,” she laughs). Ellis, a passionate cook, loves his big, open kitchen and planning that night’s dinner by what’s ripe in the P-Patch. Olivia loves being close to her school, friends and the Barack Obama campaign headquarters where she volunteers. And Emma loves the little hidey-hole in her room that was initially designed as a closet.
Architect: Brad Khouri of b9 architects in Seattle. www.b9architects.com
Builder: Graham Black of gProjects in Seattle. www.gprojects.net