Architect Nils Finne showcases crafted modernism in a house with spectacular water and mountain views.

Share story

ON ONE HAND, architect Nils Finne embraces state-of-the-art design machinery like super-sophisticated CNC routers and extra-large industrial water-jet cutters.

On the other hand … well, the other hand is kinda busy sketching those designs, thank you very much, with a good old inkbrush, on good old paper.

In one giant design high-five, it all comes together: “The human hand drives the machine,” says the namesake of FINNE Architects — and crafted modernism results.

“Technology allows us to bring a level of craft to the design of the home that is unheard of,” Finne says.

“Everyone loves the idea of the crafted touch; that’s why we love old homes: Someone 100 years ago really cared. Now we bring crafted materials in a reasonable way, particularly to modern homes.”

| Towering trees are worked into the design of Beaux Arts Village home |

“The Elliott Bay House,” built by SBI Construction, “reaches out to grab that view,” says architect Nils Finne. The exterior of the 3,500-square-foot, three-bedroom, highly energy-efficient home is all custom-stained red cedar, but two different patterns and colors: lighter stained tongue-and-groove siding on top, and more substantial channel siding at the base. “You cannot beat wood when you put it on the exterior,” Finne says. “It has consumed only the energy it took to cut it. If you install a piece of wood with a layer behind it, it should last, at minimum, 50 years.” (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)

Just inside the water-jet-cut Cor-Ten steel fence and front gate, in the intimate courtyard’s sparkling reflecting pool, custom stainless-steel stands elevate two basalt boulders so they hover half an inch above the water’s surface. The architectural massing of “The Elliott Bay House” is wrapped around this soothing sanctuary, Finne says, which offers both “eternal views” (the sky, horizon and the “great expanse of the Sound”) and intimate ones (“the little pool you can touch and feel”). The pool gathers all roof drainage from the house, with the downspout from the living-room roof creating a 10-foot waterfall. Landscaping is by Leuner Landscape Design.  (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)

It’s a lovely concept.

In the brilliantly luminous kitchen, beech cabinets showcase a custom CNC-milled pattern freehand-sketched by Finne; he calls it “imaginary landscape:” river valleys with mountain topography between them.  (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)

In Finne’s skilled hands, it’s an awesome reality.

Inside the custom pivot-hinged front door, striking steel and wood stairs have water-jet-cut steel railings with a pattern based on Finne’s hand-drawn inkbrush strokes — the same pattern as the front gate, as a matter of fact … negative on the gate, positive on the stairs.  (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)

Take “The Elliott Bay House,” for example: 3,500 square feet of light, air and sanctuary in the sweeping, almost floating, form of sustainable design that showcases jaw-dropping water and mountain views; dramatically adapted natural Northwest materials; and wow-worthy, touchable, true craftsmanship at every turn.

“Crafted modernism brings back the idea you can use natural materials and machine them to suggest natural patterns,” Finne says.

Truly, it’s a concept better experienced than explained. Just look. You will want to touch. But, for now … just look.

“There’s a lot of floating going on” in “The Elliott Bay House,” Finne says; “you see shapes somewhat freed of gravity.” Cases in point: the dining credenza to the left (“It wouldn’t be nearly as interesting on the wall,” he says) and the cast low-iron glass breakfast counter (crafted by Glassworks Inc.) flush with the main quartz one. The kitchen itself is “relatively compact,” so hidden behind the translucent glass door on the left is a “back-of-the-house” pantry that runs the length of the kitchen. “Everyone likes the concept of a clutter-free kitchen, but you have to have a place for the pantry,” Finne says. (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)