THERE ARE SO MANY THINGS TO LOVE ABOUT THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST. The way the light reflects off the silvery surface of the water. The natural sculpture of native madrone trees. Summer’s endless daylight hours. But those delights come with a price: a long, grey, dreary winter that can feel endless.

After purchasing an old home overlooking Puget Sound, these light-loving homeowners knew they wanted to do everything they could to take maximum advantage of the wondrous Northwest summer while maximally offsetting the drabness of winter. So they partnered with Bainbridge-based firm Johnson Squared Architecture to help them design a new, sustainability-minded, approximately 3,500 square foot home with a contemporary style, an open layout, tons of windows, and seamless integration with the great outdoors.

“The owners were a young family relocating from Tacoma, and they wanted to design their forever house,” explains architect Michael Rausch. “They were moving from a Victorian craftsman, and they were kind of done with that traditional look with a lot of cut up, cramped spaces. They wanted a really open floor plan, with lots of visual connections within the space and to the outdoors.”

The first order of business was to remove the existing home on the property, a 1940s structure that had been expanded multiple times over the decades. While the old home wasn’t in great shape, it did offer a valuable piece of design inspiration in the form of an old water tower that had been incorporated into the structure. This unusual feature not only gave the design team a great place for planning meetings—it offered 365-degree views of the property, after all—but it inspired the addition of a tower-like component in the new design housing the home office and a rooftop deck. Salvaged materials from the old home also make an appearance in the new structure, like the old fir beam from the water tank that now serves as a sculptural mantle above the fireplace.

The new home was placed in virtually the same location as the old house, which allowed the team to preserve the undeveloped portions of the property. A splayed-open L-shape creates multiple perspectives on the uninterrupted blufftop view, which includes Puget Sound, downtown Seattle, Mount Baker, and Mount Rainier. To take full advantage of that stunning vista, Michael designed floor-to-ceiling windows in the great room and kitchen, including clerestory windows above the main windows. A nine-foot pivot door to the front deck virtually eliminates the indoor-outdoor barrier. “During the summer, we just keep that open, and the deck becomes an extension of our dining and living room,” says the homeowner. The railing is made from glass and stainless steel, allowing it to disappear into the landscape and let the view take center stage.

Inside, custom cabinetry finished in high-gloss saturated blue varnish serves as the focal point of the open kitchen. The glossy finish was chosen not only for its aesthetic qualities, but also its washability, especially important with three young boys in the house. Deep orange accents throughout the home pop against the sapphire backdrop. The orange was chosen as a nod to ruddy tones of the Golden Gate Bridge, one of the homeowners’ favorite landmarks. Clean white pental quartz countertops and a subdued bamboo floor keep the focus on the cabinetry and give the eye a place to rest amongst all that color.

Both homeowners love to cook, so the kitchen features a number of chef-driven elements. A multiplug strip at the juncture of the countertop and wall an electric outlet every 12 inches, making it possible to plug appliances in anywhere, without grouping or clumping. Miele appliances, including two stacked ovens and a counter-depth refrigerator with a glossy blue panel were chosen for style as well as function. And a built-in espresso maker to the right of the fridge was a critical addition for these young parents. “We basically designed the kitchen around that,” jokes Rausch. “That was one of their first must-haves”

In the living room, recessed lighting preserves the clean, contemporary feel. To the right of the fireplace, built-in cabinetry camouflages the television and entertainment system. Speakers in the ceiling eliminate the need for the clutter of a stereo. The large bottom windows are equipped with blinds for privacy, but the clerestory windows are left uncovered to bring natural light into the space at all times.

Throughout the project, environmental sustainability was an important consideration. A high-efficiency geothermal heating and cooling system links to an adjacent pond, taking advantage of onsite resources. Heated floors are also an energy efficient choice. Triple-glazed panes mitigate heat loss through the windows and help maintain a low electric bill, even with so many windows.

This home was finished in 2013. Five years later, the homeowners say it still surprises them with its ability to grow alongside their family. “One thing we didn’t plan for, but Rausch probably did, was the number of paths through the home,” says the homeowner. “With multiple points of entry from various positions around the yard, the kids can literally run in circles through the house in various ways.”

And those Northwest winters? They’ve lost a bit of their sting. “We have so much light that winter brings a coziness, as opposed to a darkness,” says the homeowner. “I love how the colors within reflect the colors of our surrounding environment. The light coming off the water and sky changes every day, and the house reflects that.”


Smallwood Design & Construction, Inc

Johnson Squared Architecture

Marlin Windows, Inc