At Greg Bertch and Maria Leguizamo’s house in Kirkland, Washington, a cascade of concrete steps leads up from the driveway and sidewalk. Those steps are banked on either side by inset planters, where the leaves of Stewartia trees flutter in the breeze. The walkway then skirts alongside a screened outdoor room tucked over the garage down below. The entrance to that outdoor room is accessed by a custom sliding screen, signaled by a trickling water feature across the path. This way, visitors may enter directly into the outdoor space, depending on how Greg and Maria might be entertaining, or proceed to the front door.

It’s an entirely peaceful progression from outside to in, from busy city life to personal retreat, exactly in keeping with the couple’s hopes for a home that merges with the surrounding landscape. And yet, the site’s biggest strengths also presented a bit of challenge in the design process, navigated deftly by McClellan Architects and NB Design Group, with an assist from DLH inc in the construction.

Perched on a hillside above Lake Washington, the couple’s lot was at the end of a private road, with a nice, quiet feel, and an existing older house that could be torn down to make way for their dream home. The site’s biggest draw was its long axis facing the lake, with sightlines over neighbors down the slope, which meant any new build would have sweeping views. “That enabled us to stretch the house along the length of the property, so every room has a great view,” says architect Regan McClellan. “But the thing that makes the site really great for that, also makes it somewhat difficult.” At issue was where to place the front door. “Ideally you’re entering from the middle back,” says McClellan, rather than one end, which was what fronts the street here.

Thus, the architect devised the solution of the elegant entry sequence. Not only does the house have its fantastic water views at every turn, but the elevations that face away from the lake are equally integrated with the landscape. For instance, on the North façade, two glass walls wrap a secret shade garden. “There’s no view behind the house and it’s somewhat dark, but we we’re able to use that to our advantage,” says McClellan, noting how the glass brings light into typically dark circulation spaces. “It’s also a wonderful opportunity to provide different experiences. It’s more intimate and enclosed.”

For the interior, the couple worked with NB Design Group and interior designer James Fung, who also kept the sweeping view in mind while creating intimate moments throughout the tableau. “You want to make sure that the view is never obstructed, but also, create different experiences in different parts of the home,” says Fung. That starts at the entry, with its Shou Sugi Ban accent wall and steel pivot door, which opens to an artful vignette composed of a sculptural console table, suede poufs, and original art by Chris Gwaltney. “When the clients approached us, they had a very clear vision of what type of home they wanted, which was contemporary, with beautiful finishes, with a very textured and layered feel,” says Fung.

Those textures and layers are continued into the main living spaces, which flow together in an open plan. In the living room, a custom marble and blackened steel fireplace obscures the television, and creamy-colored sofas and mohair and leather swivel chairs are a cozy spot for movies. Fung placed Greg’s piano in a nook overlooking the shade garden, to embrace the alcove’s more “inner-facing” quality.

The couple loves to cook, taking cooking classes around the world, from Greece and Singapore to the Culinary Institute in New York for a lesson in French macarons, so the kitchen was set up with a high-level of refined detail. “All the outlets are hidden,” says Maria. “I didn’t want to see the clunkiness of the outlets everywhere, so we tried to minimize that and keep it nice and clean.” An expansive marble counter is an ideal place for prep, with the sink set up for taking in the lake. “It’s a perfect set-up because nobody likes washing dishes,” says Maria. “You look up and see the water.” To maintain the indoor-outdoor flow, one entire kitchen corner opens up to the four-season outdoor room, itself set up with a cooking station, fireplace, and comfortable seating.

Having toured many homes in Southern California and the Los Angeles area for their inspiration, Greg and Maria “wanted to have more of a California feel,” says Greg. “The winters here get to be pretty long, so we wanted an open feel with lots of natural light and high ceilings.” To that end, large windows are topped with a belt of transoms, adding extra height and bringing in even more light. The ceiling is lined with stained Hemlock and supported by sleek steel beams carried under the exterior eaves, adding to the feeling of continuity between inside and out. “It’s a really great mix of materials,” says Seth Holub of DLH inc. “Everyone did a really good job bringing all those together.”

Polished concrete floors balance the wood and steel of the structure, as does a through line of custom rift-cut white oak casework that was woven throughout the interior, from a storage nook in the piano alcove, to the kitchen cabinetry, to the vanity in the primary suite. “We wanted to make sure there was a consistent language, so all of the spaces really blended nicely from one to another,” says Fung. “The casework itself reads as art. It creates really interesting compositions in each of the rooms.”

Throughout the design process, the couple assembled their art collection, consulting with Fung about scale and the ideal placement for pieces. Thanks to that collaboration, that collection has been woven seamlessly throughout, from the Annie Morris sculpture by the piano, to the custom commissions by Julie Speidel beside the fireplace.

Upstairs, even the freestanding tub in the primary suite relishes the view in a unique way. “We wanted to continue that connection to the landscape, and not have it feel like you’re looking over a roof, so we made a green roof there,” says McClellan, which acts to guide the eye to the horizon without getting distracted by neighboring rooftops. “It’s just a great foreground for the view,” says McClellan.

Now, Greg and Maria are ensconced in the home that they always wanted, whether practicing at the piano, or spreading out the ingredients for the next meal across the kitchen island, made all the more enjoyable for their incredible experience with their design and build team. “It was really enjoyable working with everybody. We had a really good team and everyone really did a fantastic job,” says Greg. “It was like they read our minds and we can’t say enough great things about what they did for us.”


DLH inc

McClellan Architects

NB Design Group

Seattle Design Center