For years, this Seattle family had enjoyed vacations spent on Lake Washington, dreaming of a time when they could live on its shores full time. The chance discovery of a little 1929 cabin that purportedly had been built on Lake Union and floated to Lake Washington changed all that. Wanting to move before their children started high school, they decided to buy it. “Although it was updated in 1983 with a garage and other additions, it was in rough shape. After living in it for six months,” says the homeowner, “I looked back at some photos and ideas I’d found on Houzz and decided to look for an architect.”

Her search led the family to Regan McClellan of McClellan Architects of Seattle. “He came to our property and gave us some ideas about indoor and outdoor flow. We also liked the way he married different woods that had a Northwest look in a more modern way.”

McClellan recommended two contractors. Thom Schultz, owner of Mercer Builders, LLC of Mercer Island, impressed the couple with his pertinent questions about what they wanted to achieve and why. “Rather than just saying, yes, yes,” she says, “he would ask why we wanted something and if we were willing to spend the money to do it.” Schultz says, “We always ask our clients how they live. Our job is to build our client’s dream home and to figure out what that dream is.”

Demolishing the old cabin, says McClellan, was no problem. “The lot, which gets very steep as it comes down to the water presented some challenges.” With every foot of the waterfront being precious, he maximized the width of the footprint as much as possible. “Because the site is steep, the entry level is a half-level above the living area. Scissor stairs enter at mid-landing, allowing you to look down to see the interior layout and more views of the water when you first walk in.”

The crown jewel of the project, continues McClellan, is the 45' wide sliding door, which slides to either side so that you can modulate whichever part of the home you want to open, which also enables them to create entertaining spaces for 20-30 people. Schultz adds that creating the nine-panel door and its multi-functions was also the most difficult aspect of the building project.

Laura Taheny, an interior designer at McClellan Architects, assisted the homeowner, who admits to having strong opinions about design. “She never tried to rein me in, but would help me with my ideas by mapping them out. She was wonderful to work with.”

A desire for a nautical look without being “kitschy,” led the homeowner to choose the Lacanche stove’s custom color with a blue tint to reflect the water. “I found the pendants to coordinate with the stove.” Schultz also helped her with some of the design pieces, suggesting colors he had used previously, including the concrete floor stained lightly blue to play off the island’s grayish blue shade. “He sent me to Mutual Materials of Bend, Oregon, and told me about the porcelain pavers to match the concrete floors.”

The top floor hosts the main suite, replete with heated outdoor room, fireplace, and spectacular view of Mt. Rainier, or as the native indigenous people call it, “Tahoma.” “We can be out there all year round. The girls joined us to watch the Christmas ships with blankets and the heater on.”

Taheny created the stunning master bath design, crowned by the homeowner’s choices of tub, tile, and light fixtures. The second floor features the daughters’ bedrooms, bath, den, and centered deck. “My daughter has wanted to be an architect since the fourth grade and has been a major part of the transformation,” says the homeowner.

Having lived in an HOA previously, which would not allow black houses, the homeowner calls this “My black house!” McClellan, in turn, prides himself on detailing and coordinating the structural steel, window and door systems and sun control. He calls Schultz and his team experts at making them unobtrusive when they’re up or at floor level. “It’s a lot of work to make it look simple, when, in fact, it is very complex,” he says.

To pull the entryway away from the adjacent garage doors, McClellan adds glass, giving the motor court a larger feel. The large swinging offset hinge entry door opens immediately to another window, bathing the entry in light. On the water’s edge, the 45' wide sliding glass doors are the crown jewel.

“We’ve had a great, decades-long working relationship with Thom Schultz and Mercer Builders,” says McClellan. “Together with the homeowners, it was a great team!”


Mercer Builders

McClellan Architects

Mutual Materials

Cherry Creek Windows & Doors