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Cover Story Plant Life On Fitness Taste Northwest Living Now & Then Sunday Punch

Northwest Living
WRITTEN BY DEAN STAHL
PHOTOGRAPHED BY BENJAMIN BENSCHNEIDER
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Lodged in the Trees
With new-century smarts, the grace of a bygone era is evoked
 
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The living room, especially, evokes the lodge-like atmosphere sought by the homeowner, who displays part of her art collection amid wood and stone — including the large granite fireplace with a massive mantle shaped from a recycled fir beam.
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AN EXPANSIVE ATMOSPHERE. An open floor plan. Timber-and-stone features and Arts and Crafts-style finish work. This was a Cougar Mountain woman's vision when she asked architect Johan Luchsinger to design a house for her.

Natural light was especially important, since the house would be on a forested, north-facing lot. Also on the wish list were space for visiting grandchildren and other guests, as well as display niches for Northwest native artwork.

Luchsinger, who is with Baylis Architects in Bellevue, began to draft a ruggedly elegant design for the acre-and-a-half property in 1997. Construction started in summer 1999, and by October 2000 the home was ready. Baylis personnel also handled the interior design, aiming for a cohesive style throughout.

Outside, wood and stone reign. Split-faced granite columns support the porch roof and decks. Siding is board-and-batten, with cedar shingles on the top level. The roof is galvanized metal for easy upkeep. Animal motifs, including bear sculptures and cast-brass bear tracks set in granite walkways, honor the household's totem animal.

Luchsinger thinks the house expresses itself best in the way the stone entry walk melds with the front porch and continues into the house.

Inside, vaulted ceilings and exposed timbers create expansiveness. Adding warmth are inglenooks, a large fireplace and Douglas-fir paneling (fir-faced plywood). Luchsinger particularly likes how that wood relates to the beams.

The two-bedroom house is about 3,500 square feet, not including the basement, and embodies the atmosphere of a bungalow fitted out for the new century. The whole feels like a scaled-down, WPA-era national park lodge, which was the intention. Luchsinger managed the mass of 40 tons of granite used in the fireplaces and elsewhere by incorporating steel support beams in his design, and by keeping a sharp eye on overall scale and proportion to keep stone from becoming an overwhelming statement.
 
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The homeowner finds herself spending a good deal of time in the study, where a view over treetops is just part of the appeal.
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A hallway bridges a dry streambed to link the garage to the house. The front porch and main entry are to the right. The rocky stream sometimes comes to life after storms, sending rainwater down a carefully channeled watercourse.
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The ground-floor entry has cut-stone tiles underfoot. Near the door, a granite-faced "water wall" brings the meditative sound of moving water into the house and hydrates dry winter air. Stone shelves hold masks from the owner's collection.

The entryway opens directly onto the living room, the centerpiece of the house. Vaulted ceilings, exposed-wood trusses high overhead and a large split-granite fireplace are among the highlights. The house is conventionally framed using 2-by-6-inch lumber, but the trusses suggest one ancestor, at least, was a timber-framed lodge.

Douglas-fir wainscoting appears throughout. Careful use of lighting, warm-toned American cherry floors, straw-colored wall paint and wood-framed windows tie it all together. A window seat invites a reader to stretch out and enjoy the view. A piano holds a special place between living room and dining room.

French doors in the living room open to a deck on the north side, which is covered partway so someone seated at a table can seek either sunlight or shelter from rain.

The dining room has been fitted out with contemporary Stickley furniture to complement the overall theme. In the adjacent kitchen, cabinets are of cherrywood, countertops are inch-thick granite with rough-edge granite and slate backsplashes.

There's access off the dining room to a pantry, laundry room and sewing room. A windowed passageway links this service area to an otherwise detached garage. Windows here overlook a dry stream bed that springs to life during heavy rains. It was the homeowner's idea to connect the house and garage with a glassed-in bridge; Luchsinger found a gracious way to accomplish that.

East of the living room are self-contained quarters that include a guest bedroom, full bath and powder room. The guest room has French doors and a small, private deck.

The master bedroom is upstairs. An adjoining alcove contains built-in bunks for the grandchildren. A pocket door leads into the master bath, a place of refuge and relaxation, with in-floor heat, open shower, stone tiles, a small Jacuzzi tub and stone-topped wood vanity.

At the top of the stairs, a catwalk spans the entry/living room division and links the master bedroom to the study. With its built-in bookcases, granite-faced fireplace and view out to treetops, it is the homeowner's favorite retreat.

The basement has a large, heated space to house a classic-car collection, as well as a near-finished apartment with its own entrance.

This 21st-century lodge honors many early 20th-century Craftsman-era sentiments, to be sure, though hot-water heat under the driveway, it could be argued, is a practical addition because the driveway is long and steep, snow on Cougar Mountain is not uncommon in winter and, once installed, the technology is cost-effective.

The broad-shouldered design of the house is a good fit for the site. The structure becomes one element in a large-scale landscape of tall firs, native maples, hemlocks and understory plants. Douglas Johnson and Co. handled construction, and Scott Woodcock of The Berger Partnership created the landscape master plan. Ecological concerns and the owner's wish to keep the setting as natural-appearing as possible guided the entire process, as did Roy Wellman, project supervisor.

Her first new home is "a very livable house. I love it," says the homeowner, a Rainier Valley native and longtime businesswoman. "It flows well. I've come to appreciate all the nice touches."

Especially the wide-open spaces and the many windows, with their outlook on native trees and the turning seasons.

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This Cougar Mountain lodge-like home is designed to gracefully weather the elements. The garage, left, is linked by an enclosed walkway. Upper-floor windows reveal the beams above the living room.
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The bright downstairs guest bedroom has a Western motif, complete with rustic bedstead, and functions as a self-contained unit for visitors.


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The built-in bunks and wainscoting, foreground, are in the grandchildren's guest bedroom, though they make a comfortable place for anyone to settle in with a book. The burst of color in the master bedroom adds pizazz.
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The kitchen continues the Arts and Crafts theme, with cherrywood floors, stone countertops, distinctive cupboards and a cooktop island. The table in the foreground overlooks a view of surrounding woods.


Photo Space The centerpiece for the study is a zero-clearance, gas-fueled fireplace. The catwalk links the study to the master bedroom and is a powerful sculptural element in its own right.

Dean Stahl is a Seattle writer and editor. Benjamin Benschneider is a Pacific Northwest magazine staff photographer.


Cover Story Plant Life On Fitness Taste Northwest Living Now & Then Sunday Punch

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