EVERYONE EVER INVOLVED in the design of this fabulous family home on Medina’s Fairweather Bay — even tangentially, between centuries, and even by proxy, between species — had a say in it: the family itself (Ellen and John Tobin, with kids Greta, Riva and Ryan, plus supersweet doggy Blue and brand-new pup B); their go-to principal/lead designer, Tom Rochon of Designs Northwest Architects; and renowned Northwest architect Ralph Anderson, who created the house that was here before.
Everything about the Tobins’ lakefront home is shiny and new — three artfully angled levels of warmth and luminosity, glowing through bountiful windows and glass doors — but its unique perspective on this special site traces straight back to Anderson, and to 1962.
“The original house was oriented with the window facing [Mount] Baker,” says Rochon. “When I first came in, I had a view of the wide expanse of the lake, but I came back to, ‘The original architect really had it right.’ He sited it correctly. The placement was perfect.”
The beleaguered daylight rambler, however, was not: It was worn out and rundown, with “graffiti on the walls,” says Ellen Tobin. “The dock was the nicest part of the house.”
It is a fine dock. It is now maybe the 1,000th-nicest part of the house. There are so many better-than-nice parts.
This is the third home Rochon has worked on with the Tobins. Previously, he remodeled their place on Camano Island (“very modern,” Tobin says), and then the one on Clyde Hill (“supertraditional,” she says).
Rochon calls this one Northwest contemporary. Tobin calls it “rustic-modern.”
Either way (or both), it was time for something new. And, with so much input, there was a bit of that.
“It’s been sort of a changing project,” Tobin says.
Change is a good thing. So is informed input:
• The Tobins wanted “very low-maintenance” exterior finishes, Rochon says, so a prefinished standing-seam metal roof shelters stone, steel, metal and Resysta siding (“60% rice-husk resin, not a wood product,” he says. “They rough it up, and it takes a stain.”), and window after window. “For the entry, it was really important that it was kind of seamless. I love all the glass.”
• Just inside the entry, Tobin requested a special display niche. “Steel was a very important element,” says Rochon, outside and in, so the horizontal inset is a steel-framed, shadowboxed shelf, and the glassybaby inside it sparkle so brilliantly, “I sent pictures to the Bellevue store,” Tobin says.
• The truly great great room evolved into a cozy hub of family life, thanks to a few asked-for additions. “One time, it was all drywall when I came in, and it was too sterile,” Tobin says. “We added the tongue-and-groove wood ceiling and the mantel. There was so much drywall.”
• Overlooking the great room, a glassy alcove juts into the upper airspace. It is an unexpected extension of the top-floor master bedroom, providing a see-through view through to the lake, and a sentimental reference to Ellen and John’s first place, in Chicago. “I wanted to do a box within a box,” says Rochon. “The master is my homage to the loft.”
• Outside the master bedroom, a little deck facing yet another view was “added last-minute,” Tobin says. “We get pink skies. I can see the sky from here.”
• Daughters Greta, 21, and Riva, 19, got to pick the colors in their bedrooms (connected by a Jack and Jill bathroom). As for son Ryan, who is 17, “His room is the biggest because he’s going to be here the longest,” Tobin says — plus, there’s a whole separate bunkroom, “where they have sleepovers and play video games”; each bed has a cubby with its own light; and, “The blackout shades are always closed,” she says.
• Plus plus, there’s the entire lower level, a bright, light space with two TVs (one on a custom, adjustable steel stand, and one over the fireplace), a pool table, a piano, a full kitchen, a wine cellar, an outdoor hot tub — and, Rochon says, “an oversized sliding door, for noise.” “This is for the kids,” Tobin says. “It’s not unusual for my son to have five kids over and spend the night. It’s kind of fun to have this other space.” (Also downstairs: an impressively high-tech mechanical room that controls the home’s geothermal heating and cooling, radiant heat and air-conditioning.)
• And then there’s Blue, responsible in his adorable doggyness for at least two important adaptations (new puppy B joined the Tobin family after the home was finished): the engineered hardwood floors (originally envisioned as tile but, says Tobin, “I know my dogs. My other [previous] dog would Scooby-Doo around the door. We tried this; it’s really durable.”) and a doggy shower, with shiny subway tile and a doggy-sized Dutch door. “I came up with this,” Tobin says. “This is so good.”
So much is so good — especially the way everyone contributed to and collaborated on one amazing new family home.
“This is our third project with them,” says Rochon. “This one is extra-special.”