Cantilever House

Robert Hutchison Architecture completed this home on a limited budget with a clear simple plan to utilize the beauty of the view, maintain functionality, and create enough room for a mother-in-law unit on this Seattle, Washington property.

The clients, both working professionals, lived in a small Seattle bungalow for fifteen years on a small site that overlooks Portage Bay and the University of Washington campus to the northeast. They loved the convenient location to the University and downtown Seattle, and the dynamic water views filled with rowing shells and sailboats. But the inefficient bungalow was cold in the winter and hot in the summer, had poor natural light, and suffered from significant water intrusion problems. The couple decided to construct a new house on the same property, one that would distill their urban lifestyle on an equally small footprint, yet that was specifically tailored to the qualities of the site. To assist in financing the project, they chose to devote a third of the available living area to a rentable mother-in-law apartment.

Early design discussions focused on a simple modern structure with a restrained material palette constructed on a very modest budget. The Owners desired a home that was open, light-filled and private but also transparent and oriented towards the water and city views. Above all, they desired a design which allowed for both the residence and mother-in-law apartment to capitalize on the sweeping views, while allowing for distinct privacy between both programs.

The resulting design places the primary residential living spaces on the upper floor of the structure, and the mother-in-law unit on the lower floor at the back of the site. The building turns its back to the street while opening up to the views to the northeast through a large glazed corner window system. The primary architectural strategy was to connect the exterior entry, primary interior living spaces, and exterior patio as a continuous spatial experience.

A series of stepped concrete site walls leads you gradually up to a covered exterior entry, which opens onto a compressed entry foyer, which in turn leads to a double height space that welcomes you up a generous stair to the second floor living spaces. An exterior stair then connects you back down to a small patio at grade. The entire house is clad in Western red cedar siding stained black. Serving as a graphic complement to the cantilever theme of the house, the siding is oriented both vertically as well as horizontally.

The limited construction budget was focused on key spaces and experiences. The outcome is a project that is economical and site specific, while rich in spatial experience.

ArchitectureRobert Hutchison Architecture
Interior Design: Carla Allbee
Landscape Architect: Jonathan Morley, The Berger Partnership
Contractor: Dolan Built LLC
Photography: Mark Woods