This modern home, designed by Castanes Architects, digs in for a challenge on its super-skinny lot.
THERE WERE A LOT of potential pitfalls on the narrow path to Adam and Ari Atkins’ brand-new modern home.
Starting with the narrow lot itself: a seriously, severely, almost-prohibitively skinny 25-by-100-foot rectangle in Hillman City.
Builder Donald Baptiste, of LDB Homes, though, had a vision — and quite a bit of trouble finding an architect to execute it.
“I knew, with the height restrictions and the narrow lot, it’d be difficult to get square footage and light,” he says. “I knew I really needed architects who could innovate and think outside the box.”
Enter Castanes Architects, not big fans of any box at all.
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“Donald said, ‘We’ve got this lot. Nobody wants to do it,’ ” says founding architect Jim Castanes. “It’s got to be fun. In order for it to be fun, it’s got to be challenging. [Project designer/manager] Jordan [Cowhig] and I put our heads together and thought, ‘Let’s drop the house into the dirt.’ In Seattle, as space gets tight, you’re going to see that.”
“We do like a challenge,” says Cowhig. “The lot is only 25 feet wide. We started designing floor plans with the 18-foot height limitation. We’d push underground to create two stories.”
(The partially buried project originally was called “The Upside-Down House” but, Baptiste says, “That quickly changed because Jordan embraced the house. It’s now ‘The Jordan.’ ”)
“They came up with this great design,” Baptiste says. “It was a challenge, and a lot of fun. They were truly the only ones; all the other ones told me I was crazy.”
Meanwhile, the Atkinses were feeling a little loopy themselves. They’d been looking for the perfect house for a while.
“We didn’t want a town house,” says Ari. “Adam wanted to just turn the key and move. I wanted a lot of character. With a lot of spec homes, they’re cookie-cutter and sterile. We were at our wits’ end and taking a break, and this house popped up. It really met both of what we loved: We could completely move right in, and it didn’t look like a box.”
Instead, the Atkinses’ new 2,100-square-foot, three-bedroom home looks like a creatively geometric, brilliantly light-filled, extremely spacious challenge met — or, better, exceeded.
“The house is very deceiving from the outside; it looks small,” Cowhig says. “It’s interesting from the street. The roof, dictated by code, makes the upstairs light and bright. It ended up as an odd zigzag thing, trying to find every piece to take advantage of, and the popouts on the sides add volume.”
Inside, extra-special elements add a functional, beautiful, custom touch that’s not necessarily customary in a spec home: bookmatched walnut cabinets, 9-foot ceilings, a chef’s kitchen, a Herman Miller Nelson Saucer Bubble Pendant over the dining area, windows designed by Cowhig flooding the airy staircase with natural light.
“When we did this house, it was really important to pay attention to the details — things like architecture walls,” says Baptiste. “Most people wouldn’t do that, but it’s important to the aesthetic. Like the cedar fence — most would go with a regular pine. You can see if you’ve got an ugly fence. And the aluminum shelves: We could’ve stuck wood up there. We wanted to do a technologically automated smart house, as maintenance-free as possible. The siding, they don’t ever have to paint.”
And that, especially now, is met with great appreciation by its young — and likely very sleepy, lately — homeowners.
“We were spending so much money, with a baby on the way,” says Ari. “It’s so livable and low-maintenance and easy.”
The Atkinses’ baby is home now, tucked from time to time in a sweet, peaked-ceiling nursery just for him. “It’s the only room with customization,” says Adam — they added shelves, a nanny cam and storage over the closet.
Homebuilding, home-designing and homebuying challenges behind them, a newly expanded family settles into its new and expressive family home. It is a happy resolution all-around.
“This is my favorite house,” Baptiste says.
Ari responds: “Mine, too.”