When a young family with two kids bought a home in poor shape on Seattle’s Queen Anne Hill, one of the ﬁrst steps in the design process was to consider what elements of the original house could be salvaged, reused, or saved, in an effort to link the new project to the past. Considerations included reusing parts of the foundation, reclaiming old structural beams, or even transplanting big shrubs. But given the condition of the existing structure and the desire to regrade the existing slope to increase the accessibility of the yard, it was determined that not much could be repurposed in a substantial way. This gave the clients and design team the freedom to reimagine the whole site.
The client loved modern detailing, but also wanted the house to ﬁt formally with the traditionally residential neighborhood. In early design iterations, Allied8 considered a ﬂat roof with a roof deck in order to maximize outdoor spaces and views, but the clients opted to prioritize their connection to the backyard, not wanting two outdoor spaces competing for their attention. The gable roof is contextual and also supported the installation of a big array of solar panels.
Maximizing the grade changes afforded by the sloped site, the three-level house has an open ﬂoor plan at the main level including kitchen, dining, and living, a bedroom level upstairs including primary bedroom and bathroom, and two bedrooms that share a second bathroom. The downstairs area includes a guest room with bathroom, a laundry room, and a media room with wet bar, wine storage and pinball machines. A stacked straight-run stair functions as the spine of all circulation. Given that the house is three stories, being able to move easily from ﬂoor to ﬂoor (especially with small kids) was paramount. The open stair provides both a separation of spaces and a connection across.
Outside, the team added a detached garage accessed from the adjacent alley. The slope was a big challenge, as the grade of the alley is much lower than the front street. In addition, the slope changes dramatically across the short leg of the narrow property, complicating the creation of a single-level backyard.
Due to the grade and location of the garage, the family primarily arrives at and leaves the house from the lowest ﬂoor, crossing the yard. Accordingly, the team worked to design a hardscape that works with the change in grade to provide a nice ﬂow from the main level to the back yard. The team worked in section to understand the changes in grades across the site, and carefully considered how retaining walls can impact a budget. The result is a set of terracing retaining walls, both in the back and in the front–the house design starts at the edge of the sidewalk. Allied8 split the site design so that there are two primary levels: a turf playﬁeld area where the kids can play, and a patio area where the grown ups gather.
Another site consideration was the collection of stormwater across the site. The team opted for it to be collected at the lowest corner of the yard and pumped into a big biocell at the south side of the house. This biocell doesn’t make a visual statement, but it is a sophisticated system. The exterior backyard pavers are permeable, as is the turf assembly, and the team installed solar panels along the south side of the gable roof.