Lagerquist & Morris AIA
5135 Ballard Ave NW Seattle, WA 98107Phone: (206)789-7611Fax: (206)
Karlov Residence
Exterior | Interior | Details | Construction


The owners said that they had grown up in California and had admired the Greene & Greene bungalows for their connection to the site and their use of natural materials. They wanted their home to use natural materials of wood stone and metal. They wanted the house to fit into the site and to take advantage of certain strong vistas into the Cascade Mountains to the east. And, as much as possible, they wanted the wood elements to be from alternate sources and the systems such as windows and mechanical to be energy efficient.

The Site:

The site is located at 1000’ above the town of North Bend, Washington and the Snoqualmie River and faces the Cascade Mountains to the east. The 3 acre site is the smallest in a development of mostly 4 – 10 acre sites. It has roads above and below the gently sloping site. Most of the native trees were removed during recent logging but younger trees of Douglas fir, hemlock and alpine fir are coming back strong.

The owners initially discussed their project with a contractor who specialized in “custom” homes where plans were selected from the contractor’s portfolio of stock plans. Once a plan was selected the site would be graded (flat) so the house could be placed on a level site. “We usually just grade the site flat to save time and money for the owner”, said the contractor. Leveling the site and rotating the house to the optimum orientation would handle topography and vistas. Thank goodness this approach to the design was not followed.

It is always amazing (still) when a client commits their energy and resources to the architectural process of designing a home when the “off the shelf” design is so tempting. We counsel all of our new clients that this process takes hard work on the part of the architect and the client and that the resulting architecture will only as good as the client. (We assume that the architect knows what he/she is doing.) What that means to us is that we expect the client to be a partner in the design process. We think that the partnership model works best is achieving the most thoughtful design. It also means that the client has ownership in the design throughout the process.

When we first stood on the site and marveled at the different vistas the site offered it became obvious why the contractor’s scenario would fail. Because the site was relatively small and narrow from the upper road to the lower road and that some portions of the house required no natural light (home theater, garages, shop and mech/ storage) it seemed logical to consider a basement for these functions. We felt we could excavate into the hillside, and leave garages and entries open at the north end and daylight a “pool table” room at the south end and bury the rest in the middle. The excavated material would then be placed in front of the house on the downhill side and sculpted into a natural terrace facing the Cascade Mountains. Not only would we not have to build an expensive deck (facing the view) but we could also utilize all the excavated materials in the terrace and thereby avoid the high cost of export and dump fees.

We worked with the owners on what ideas went into the “bungalow” style form 100 years ago. They were characterized by one and two story elements where the second story was usually smaller than the ground floor. The roofs were low sloped with large overhangs. The connection with the ground was achieved by using brick or stone as veneers and terraces extending away from the house.

Our solution was achieved by making the main level over the basement two intersecting forms; one running roughly north-south (great hall, hallways, and playroom) and one on an east-west axis. Because of the Cascade vistas we wanted to view from inside the house this cross plan was adjusted from 90 degrees to 75 degrees. This response to the natural vistas creates a beneficial tension to the form of the house. The third element of the house is the smaller upper floor on the north-south axis of the house where the children’s bedrooms and bath are located. We believe that these forms reflect the functions of the house within and help us in fulfilling the bungalow theme.

The exterior theme of the house consists of three basic elements. The house “sits” on a granite veneer pedestal that wraps around the main level and exposed basement elements of the house. We sketched each façade of the stone veneer showing the size and character of the stone, larger blocks and the bottom and smaller towards the top. Above the stone we placed three courses of hand-split 42” long cedar barn shakes, doublecoursed with a sawn under course at a 38” exposure. The cedar shakes were split with a flat grain face by a “wood artist” from San Juan Island (Washington). The roof is a clip system “standing seam” design. The overhangs are typically six feet and are constructed with an Alaska yellow cedar framework of knee braces, beams and purlins. The unpainted natural zinc roofing is placed directly on the framework exposing the underside of the metal roofing as the visible soffitt. The interior of the house features exposed mostly clear Douglas fir ceilings consisting of trusses, beams, purlins and sawn boards. The main level floor is constructed of jatoba (Brazilian Cherry) and the lower level is exposed colored concrete. The windows are a low maintenance metal/wood center-pivoting design. The heating system is a radiant (floor), geothermal system throughout the house. There are 3000 feet of piping buried in the upper yard which functions as the heat source for the system.