PORTRAIT MAGAZINE V.35
PORTRAIT MAGAZINE V.35
Vol. 35, 2016
TEXT BY PUBLICATION
Under the renowned talents of Stuart Silk Architects and Garret Cord Werner Architects and Interior Designers, a 1909 Seattle landmark residence – originally owned by Samuel R. Hill, and known as the Duchess Mansion – undergoes an extensive makeover that pays homage to its history, industrial structural elements, and dramatic vistas.
Nearly 100 years after entrepreneur, lawyer, and railroad executive Samuel (Sam) R. Hill hired architects Hornblower and Marshall of Washington, D.C. to design his Harvard-Belmont District Seattle mansion, David and Rosangela Capobianco began a five phase reconstruction of the historic home with the help of Stuart Silk Architects (SSA), interior designer Garret Cord Werner (GCW), of Garret Cord Werner Architects and Interior Designers, and Charter Construction. Drawn first to Hill’s mansion architecture, reminiscent of Belgian châteaux he had visited during his travels in Northern Europe, Capobianco later became fascinated by its history.
In 1899, Hill, a Quaker, was considering a move from Minneapolis to Seattle with his wife Mary and daughter, both Catholics. During that same period, cast-in-place concrete became a sought after building material. Ten years later, Hill built not only his Seattle mansion in cast-in-place concrete, but also used it to build another residence overlooking the Columbia River on a parcel of land he named Maryhill after his wife and daughter. First envisioned as a Quaker Community of Farmers, it later became the Maryhill Museum, in 1940, nine years after Hill’s death. Work on a replica of Stonehenge also built with poured concrete began in 1918, but was not completed until 1930. Hill also built the Peace Arch on the border between the U.S. and Canada in honor of their lengthy peaceful relations in 1921.
The Capobiancos chose Stuart Silk to reconstruct the mansion because his vision was consistent with their desire to retain the historic elements of the home, while creating a cleaner, more open floor plan that made better use of the sweeping vistas seen from its windows and terraces.
Garret Werner of Garret Cord Werner Architects and Interior Designers was chosen to create a fresh approach to the interior design that would reflect both David’s contemporary modern style and Rosangela’s Brazilian flare for color and fun. “We knew the materials we wanted,” says Capobianco. “Italian marble, steel, wood, and natural concrete walls and floors.”
“This was a large undertaking that consisted of five different phases be-ginning in 2005, and lasting over a period of eight years,” says Silk. “We were hired because of our extensive experience and deep appreciation for historic architecture and our love for modern design. David and Rosangela wanted an architect who understood both and could reconcile them together into one seamless expression.”
“While the home’s exterior was historic,” continues Silk, “the interiors were not, because of earlier remodels. The house needed a wholly new vision, which SSA provided. In doing so, we developed plans that called for demolishing every interior wall on all five floors. Each floor was re-envisioned to meet their goals. On the main living floor, for instance, we opened up a rabbit warren of rooms to create a more open, interconnected plan that flows seamlessly. By cutting two large windows into the 12” thick concrete walls on the north side, we greatly improved the views and brought light into all corners of the floor.”
During Phase 2, Silk and fellow SSA designers Mike Troyer, Andrew Patterson, and Michael McFadden found remnants of the turn-of-the-century way of life as they deconstructed the five story, 11,100 sq. ft. home – once known as the Duchess Mansion after a European duchess who lived there. The carriage house was located on the basement floor. Horses were brought up a steep ramp, which they removed in order to dig out enough room for a workout room and bedroom.
“We took out 40 tons of concrete,” recalls Capobianco, “and made a phenomenal set of living areas, while keeping with critical elements of the historical architecture, which included vaulted fir ceilings. In addition, we added a new blackened steel hallway, and turned a walk-in Diebold safe belonging to Hill into a wine cellar.”
Soon after Werner met the Capobiancos through a mutual Brazilian friend, he was hired to add his talents to the elaborate transformation of the historic home that Stuart Silk Architects was so artfully undertaking.“
Garret was terrific,” says Capobianco, “a unique guy with stunning aesthetics that blew us away. We saw them in the glass lighting, blackened steel, elements of old with elements that were new – all amazingly perfectly consistent with the overall aesthetic objective.”
“We used a lot of three dimension, hi-tech design with videos, flythroughs and photo realistic images for the clients throughout the process,” says Werner, “so they would know exactly what they were getting.”
He called upon his own architectural background, having grown up in a family of architects, designers and builders, to break down each room for its custom lighting, furnishings, carpet and finishes.
“Everything is custom,” says Werner, “with the scale exactly right. I did all the cabinet and millwork design for the interiors and designed the coffee table in the family room off the kitchen, for example, as a carved solid block of basalt stone that Lambert Marble & Tile engineered and placed with a crane through the new bi-fold Nana glass doors on the new Juliet balcony. You couldn’t put that in a standard home!”
Werner’s chandeliers (part of GCW’s lighting line) run the gamut of über modern – polished nickel and fused glass multi-faceted kitchen fixture – to Art Moderne – his handblown teardrop glass fixture fabricated by Stephen Hirt, with nickel plated tubes of varying sizes hanging from a nickel plated canopy alongside the entry stairs to create visual flow between floors – to an elegant remaking of a traditional design for the dining room. “I started sketching a super elegant style with glass hand shapes made of bronze and a light bulb hidden behind it,” he says. “The larger boat-shaped glass pieces are sandwiched between those two.”
Hill, who convinced Oregon officials to create the Columbia River Highway, used steel girders to build his mansion into a cliff overlooking a ravine, then laid a dramatic concrete roadway up to the carriage house.“
Like Hill, David and Rosangela have highly evolved design sensibilities,” says Silk. “David was raised and educated on the East Coast. Rosangela is from Brazil. They have both traveled extensively in Europe and share a love for modern design and historic architecture. They wanted someone who could merge both, which is reflected in its design which is both uniquely contemporary and timeless.”
“During phase three of the remodel, I recall Capobianco bringing a group of us up to the living room, where the original steel girders were visible during the deconstruction. He was quite insistent that these very industrial columns remain exposed. I thought it was risky at first, but brilliant, and it was all David’s idea.”
“Those steel girders have a bronze patina and the Carnegie steel stamp on them, which gives a sense of history and fit with the aesthetic,” says Capobianco. “The fact that we lived in the house on two separate occasions drove a lot of function from the form. It was painful to move in and out, but really valuable in envisioning what would be optimal for so many unique spaces in the house.”
Werner tied those key structural elements of the exposed steel girders to the complex finishes found in his formal dining table.
“There is a direct connection between the exposed trestle columns and the dining table’s mahogany parquetry top with nickel edging and lacquered piano finish,” explains Werner. “The top’s fine layer of materials give it a more modern flare, contrasting with the rougher legs done in a satin finish, highly polished grain, and the super French polished edge, with wonderful old school luster.”
“It’s hard to mix geometry this way and make it come across as true art; otherwise, it’s kind of a disaster.”
Phase four of the reconstruction was the upper penthouse and outside terrace on which SSA, GCW and Richard Hartlage of Land Morphology all collaborated. Silk, who knew the socialite who owned the house previously, notes that the upper floor was added after Sam Hill’s occupancy. “There was a giant roof deck up there, with two feet of dirt, where they played croquet. At some point the dirt was removed and they built the ballroom. It was a stunningly desirable space. The terrace had a 180 degree view, overlooking Lake Union, the Olympic Mountains, Mt. Rainier and St. Mark’s Cathedral.”
“The top floor deck includes two fire pits, waterfalls, and a Jacuzzi, featuring a Brazilian emerald granite, with emerald and bright blue hues,” Capobianco says. “It’s like a piece of jewelry that glows when sunlight hits it or at night when it’s lit up from within, reminiscent of the emerald blues and greens you see in the Mediterranean.”
Phase five consisted of completing the wrought iron and concrete fence along the property. “Some of the old gates didn’t seal the property,” says Werner, “so we extended them to mark the land as belonging to the whole property.” Trees planted by a former owner were removed by Hartlage to open up the views and celebrate the house from the street. The fence was back planted with clipped Portuguese Laurels, for a very simple, restrained look.
“The neat thing about the house now,” says Capobianco, “are the indoor / out-door spaces on every floor. At every level of the house you can walk out onto a terrace with sweeping views of Lake Union, the Sound and the mountains on one side; and, a rain forest-like green belt on the other side with views of St. Mark’s Cathedral.”
Equally as noteworthy are the original concrete walls in the gym. “We washed away the dirt and grit,” says Silk, “and let the materials come through.” Capobianco calls them a history book. “You can see exactly where the work ended one day and started the next, because the manual process at the time took multiple days to complete a casting.”
All agree. The house has presence. “The work we did,” says Capobianco, “really emphasizes the best part of the original architecture, and it’s just stunning.”
CONTRACTOR: Charter Construction
ARCHITECT: Stuart Silk
INTERIOR DESIGN: Garret Cord Werner Architects & Interior Designers
FABRICATOR: Stephen Hirt
Vol. 33, 2015
TEXT BY PUBLICATION
From the journey across an ocean to summers spent in a serene glass house in a tropical indoor/outdoor setting, this family’s life is reflected in their new home’s wide-open spaces designed by architect Jim Olson of Olson Kundig in Seattle – who created the perfect mélange of art, architecture and nature.
Take a meeting with architect Jim Olson of Olson Kundig in Seattle to discuss his designing your dream home, and you can expect to have a spirited conversation that will address everything from art to architecture, nature and culture – the very roots from which his successful career has spring – all woven together into a tapestry that will grant, improve and embellish upon your wants and needs.
“I work like a renaissance architect,” explains Olson, who opened up shop in 1966, at 25 years old. “Just as Michelangelo worked as an artist, sculpture, painted and architect, I believe that everything – art, architecture, landscaping and interior design must flow seamlessly as one.”
The Pavilion House, located in Bellevue, Washington, grew out of a similar aesthetic. The family knew Olson’s work, and had met through their mutual affiliation as aboard members of the Seattle Art Museum. The couple had built a traditional L-shaped, post modern house on Lake Washington in 1990, and raised their children there. Once the children were grown, they considered moving to a new location, but discovered they didn’t really want to leave the gorgeous setting, and wonderful neighbors. Once they were able to purchase the adjoining waterfront property, they approached Olson with a plan to build a second home dedicated to entertaining family and friends. By giving the Pavilion House the same L-shaped layout as its older counterpart, Olson created an intimate “C” shape that looks out across the water over an enormous lawn dotted with Northwest artists’ work – in what Olson calls a “sculpture park.”
Although the homeowner’s ancestors come from India, both husband and wife grew up in Africa, which they left during political unrest. Their journey, says Olson, became a very big element in their design of the entire home.
“I asked them lots and lots of questions in the beginning,” recalls Olson, who prefers to incorporate his client’s visions with his, rather than repeat the same design over and over again. After showing them various homes he had designed, the couple was drawn to a Hawaiian home he dubbed “Ocean House.”
“They loved the tropical setting, the rich reddish color of the teak that contrasted with the dark metal – all of which harkened back to their time spent in Africa. Most people think of Northwest as light driftwood/gray tones, but they wanted something different,” says Olson.
Olson, who compares his work to conducting an orchestra filled with talented craftsmen, artists, landscape architects and interior designers, worked with Garret Cord Werner of Garret Cord Werner Architects/Interiors on this project, who was brought in after the house was designed. “We knew we would have this long table, but Werner designed it as a beautiful piece of art, which was fabricated by Michael Danielson Studio,” says Olson. Werner’s custom designed rugs are found throughout the home along with another coffee table in the south facing seating area, replete with a custom version of a Holly Hunt sectional and accompanying chairs. Audio-visual cabinet with pop-up projector divides the seating area from the large pavilion. Concrete walls enclose the area – making it perfect for chilly, rainy days.
The architectural drafting stage for this project, which includes working with the homeowners to determine their vision, wants and needs, lasted about one year. Construction took two. “Toth Construction executed the project perfectly down to the finest details,” says Olson. “We were delighted.” During that time, Olson learned a great deal about his clients, not simply from the initial questioning, but also from the day-to-day interactions, and the intimate collaborative process.
“When I’m finished with a home, it’s like a portrait of the people in it,” says Olson, who created a very large, welcoming entry door fashioned from patinated bronze and brass to reflect the family’s openness. “The Pavilion House fits this family perfectly – they are extremely generous people, much more than one typically finds in the West. I enjoy popping over there to help them with hanging a painting or moving a sculpture, like the Deborah Butterfield horse a couple months ago, because they are like family, and I want it all to be just right.”
Landscape architect Charles Anderson was brought on board later in the process. His artistic vision was in sync with Olson’s. “We had already created the large “C” shaped space between the two houses with the lawn open to the lake, but the reinforced the whole idea,” say’s Olson. The two houses are connected by a raised wooden walkway over a reflecting pool. “We added some trellises and new terraces on the previous house to make it feel like they are all one.”
By painting the formerly blue and white 1990’s house a dark brownish color, a choice they originally thought would make it “disappear,” the earthy tones actually improve the relationship between the two residences, causing them to create a more unique whole.
One of the integral steps in the process of creating this whole was introducing the family, who were already well acquainted with art via the women’s position on the board of the Seattle Art Museum, with local gallery owners such as Greg Kucera, Winston Wachter, John Braseth, of Woodside/Braseth, who represent contemporary artists. “By getting clients acquainted with gallery owners, it helps to expand their knowledge and relationships with artists and everyone else,” says Olson, who thought that he would become an artists while attending Lakeside High School as a teen, where he spend all his time ensconced in the art department, which encompassed the whole top floor of the attic. Eventually he decided he liked architecture as well.
Several artists worked on the master bath. Northwest sculptor Julie Speidel created the sculptures on the edge of the sunken bathtub, as well as the glass sculptor outside the master bath window.
CONTRACTOR: Toth Construction
ARCHITECT: Olson Kundig
INTERIOR DESIGN: Garret Cord Werner Architects/Interiors
LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT: Charles Anderson Landscape Architecture
CUSTOM ENTRY DOOR FABRICATION: Metal Solutions
The exterior of the main house was stained a weathered gray to blend with surrounding cedar and Douglas fir trees. They look as though they’ve stood forever in this lush Northwest forest. Half a dozen structures, as discreet and dignified as graying sheds, peek from evergreen boughs on a 25-acre compound overlooking the waters of Puget Sound. Instead of designing a single home for his client on this remote island off the Pacific Northwest coast, architect Steve Hoedemaker of Bosworth Hoedemaker, a Seattle firm know for refined understatement, created a hillside grouping of small buildings- a central house for meals, and outlying buildings for sleeping, reading, and cookouts. The property contains six modest wooden cottages ranging in size from a small writer’s hut to a renovated barn, half hidden among the alders and firs. “We didn’t want an overgrown, bloated house,” says the homeowner, who planned the property as a place where he and his wife could gather with their friends, four grown children and a first grandchild while maintaining the ability to have quiet downtime. Interior designer Garret Cord Werner designed and custom-made the sofa and club chairs in the living area of the main house. Natural light washes down from a double row of clerestory windows to the dining area below. The rattan chairs with backrests and laced rawhide seats are from McGuire; the table and chandelier are Garret’s custom designs. As with all good home design, the buildings are a response to a specific place, “We live in a part of the country that’s blessed with temperate weather,” Steve says. “The thing that makes this vacation property unique is interacting with the outdoors on a regular basis. If you want to go back to your bedroom, you encounter nature along the way. It’s like camp.” To be sure, the family compound has all the rustic charm of old-fashioned cabins, complete with a timber-framed pavilion, Adirondack chairs, and outdoor fireplace, but without the usual dark rooms or the rough-hewn clutter. “We did not want cabin cliché,” says the homeowner. “We wanted clean lines and brightness.” Seattle-based interior designer Garret Cord Werner made the rooms faithful to their rough-edged setting without resorting to predictable kitsch. In the main house, where the kitchen and the dining and living spaces line up in the manner of a shotgun house, he painted the wood-paneled walls a basic white to amplify wan Pacific Northwest sunlight streaming in from clerestory windows that are positioned high up in the loft ceilings. The picnic pavilion, constructed with lumber salvaged from the site, features a stone hearth. A local carpenter built the cabinetry and kitchen island. The countertops are gray soapstone. The compound includes a mix of places for quiet seclusion, such as the 10- by 10-foot writer’s cabin and family gathering, like the cozy inglenook. The mood shifts abruptly from the bright dining area to the tidy fireplace alcove with its built-in seating. It’s an old British convention known as an inglenook, with walls that are composed of a rough assemblage of rubble and ledgestone. This warm sanctum, furnished with pillows and blankets, becomes a gathering spot on cooler weekends. “The inglenook makes a bigger statement as a rustic insert into an otherwise airy interior,” says Garret. Most of the home’s furniture, with the exception of a vintage coffee table, was custom-made by Garret’s office. The master bedroom resides in its own cabin. A bath in the guest cabin contains a rolltop clawfoot tub from Sunrise Specialty. For the linen upholstery, he chose light neutral tones complemented by pale blue stripes. The interior echoes the simple lines of the architecture, with no skirting, no drapery, no flourishes. “Everything is very linear and symmetrical,” Garret says. “We wanted the look to be serene and sophisticated, but not so sophisticated that the house would seem out of place.” The furnishings are all the more pleasing given the remoteness of the setting, as though the compound were an outpost of comfort and taste on a watery frontier. A private water taxi makes several trips a day to the island, but the family also enjoys the flexibility of their own 25-foot catamaran. They reside well out of sight of their neighbors, but they can still see boats passing in the distance. The view, composed by landscape architect Kenneth Philp, extends from a meadow framed by the forest to the expanse of water beyond. Days are spent kayaking, gardening, or just relaxing. At mealtime, the family gathers on the main house porch. When dinner winds down and the dishes are done, the group adjourns down grass paths to the two separate sleeping cabins tucked among the stands of trees. They are alone in the hush of the forest edge, but they are always one meal away from a happy reunion.