Floisand Studio's New Tree-Rich, Budget-Wise House on Mercer Island
“I’ve never heard anyone say this before,” says Jeremy Knievel in a tone mixed with awe and pride: “I started a house project and finished within the budget that we’d planned for.”
This rare feat was pulled off thanks to a concerted collaboration that keenly balanced penny-pinching and design aspirations between the young homeowners, Jeremy and Danica, and their architects, Allison Hogue and Richard Floisand of Seattle’s Floisand Studio architects.
The couple’s first smart move was selecting architects with a knack for inventive, budget-friendly design. (Theirs was one of the few Websites, says Danica, that even discussed budgets.) The resultant design is all the more impressive when you consider that some hefty charges were involved simply to build bigger on the site in question. The new house’s location on a steeply sloping, relatively narrow, tree-laden section of east Mercer Island, on the same high knoll as the original rambler it replaced, meant installing a $36,000 stormwater-detention system. “[On Mercer Island] if you add more than 500 square feet of impervious surface [for example, a bigger roof] then you are required to provide for storm-water detention if you don’t have any access to a public storm-water system, which they didn’t,” explains Allison Hogue. Other must-dos included installing an interior sprinkler system (due to some tricky driveway access for fire engines) and pin-piles to anchor the two-story home firmly into its slope. “We had a lot of cost that had to go into just site work,” says Hogue, “so we took the approach of keeping the house’s design as clean and simple as possible.”
The architects’ elegant, economical solution to what Richard Floisand called the site’s “puzzle of trees and light” was to create two narrow parallel volumes, minimizing framing costs, that met briefly at the waist and reached high up into the tree canopy. (Amazingly, for such a tree-thick property, very few trees ultimately had to be removed.) While one volume is dedicated to the upstairs and its private sleeping and bathing quarters, the other holds the main living areas downstairs, including the central open kitchen complete with a long-and-lean kitchen bar.
Both volumes benefit from the home’s light-and-arboreal-rich vertical climb, resulting in generous ceiling heights that include a stunning double-height ceiling in the dining room. “It’s essentially two offset rectangular bars,” explains Floisand of the design concept. “At the ends that are not connected, you get private and open spaces,” such as the fireplace-graced living room (the homeowners’ favorite spot), which Floisand describes as a beautiful kind of island with glass all around. Conversely, where the volumes do meet, such as at the kitchen and stairwell, there is a practical interconnectedness.
“We wanted open but defined rooms,” says Danica, “and we fell in love with the downstairs floor plan, its openness and how you can stand in just about any room and see across the way to what your kids are doing.” Adds Jeremy, “It’s fascinating having parties now and watching how people use the space. Where they congregate and how they float is exactly how we discussed. Everyone likes to float around the kitchen bar for sure.”
The couple kept costs within bounds by employing their own DIY skills, including taking on much of the finish work, such as installing all of the cabinetry and hiring many of the subcontractors, and by using less expensive materials, such as Ikea cabinetry. They also proved to be a masterful example of how to creatively maximize personal connections. As well as getting a custom shower door and enclosure at cost from a cousin’s company, they enlisted a friend, who happened to be a civil environmental engineer, to volunteer his technical services for that spendy storm-water system. “He agreed to do it for free for beer for life,” says Jeremy with a laugh. (Although their architects armed them with a fail-safe plan for their general contractor, one cost-saving measure that the couple would advise against is skipping on an architect’s expertise during the construction phase.) They even inherited their color scheme from a friend. Says Jeremy, “He had worked with an interior designer and we said, ‘We love about five of your eight colors, can we use them?’ We literally took his paint cans.” The way the colors and warm woods work with the architects’ lighting design is another favored feature. “We’ll just dim the lights and it physically calms the kids down and we all go into hibernation mode,” says Jeremy. “If you drive by our house at night it just has a glow about it, and if you drive by on a sunny day, you can kind of see right through it.”
The house is so compelling, some folks are doing more than just drive-bys. “Many people have driven up and asked about the house, who the architect was…if it’s for sale and what the price is,” says Jeremy. He adds with a smile, “It’s not for sale.”
OPEN HOUSE STATS
Edition 7 :: Number 37
Architectural Firm :: Floisand Studio
Cost :: Approximately $195 per square
foot for a 3,000-square-foot house
(total project cost might include
additional fees for other services that
are not reflected)
Open House Tour
Our ongoing partnership with the American Institute of Architects Seattle Chapter (AIA Seattle) continues our commitment to bring the experience of Puget Sound–area residential design to our readers. Each issue, we showcase an architect-designed home, selected by AIA Seattle and Northwest Home, which will be open to the public for a Sunday-afternoon viewing. We invite you to tour this issue’s featured home, designed by Allison Hogue and Richard Floisand of Floisand Studio, located on Mercer Island at 5045 E Mercer Way, on Sunday, May 15, between noon and 3 p.m. For more information on the tour and the Open House program, please visit nwhome.com or aiaseattle.org; 206.448.4938.
FIND IT RESOURCES
Architects: Allison Hogue and Richard Floisand, Floisand Studio; 1941 First Ave. S, Studio 2E, Seattle; 206.634.0136; floisandstudio.com. General contractor: Scott Davis and Geoff Cahoon, Kinesis Construction, Seattle; 206.930.1659; kinesisconstruction.com. Structural engineer: Gary MacKenzie, Swenson Say Faget, Seattle; 206.443.6212; swensonsayfaget.com. Civil engineer: Michael Johnson, Olympia; 360.481.3717. Geotechnical engineer: James Brisbine, Terracon, Bellevue; 425.746.1889; terracon.com. Wood floors: Brazilian Cherry Jatoba, Home Depot, Bellevue; homedepot.com. Kitchen bar/countertops: CaesarStone, CaesarStone Northwest; 7036 S 190th St., Kent; 425.251.8668; caesarstoneus.com. Floor tiles: Tau Porcelain Tiles, Pental Granite and Marble; 713 S Fidalgo St., Seattle; 206.768.3200; pentalonline.com. Tile/countertop install: Neric Pro Build, 8401 134th Ave. NE, Redmond; 206.427.1081; nericprobuild.com. Kitchen cabinets: Akurum; Ikea, 601 SW 41st St., Renton; 425.656.2980; ikea.com. Kitchen pendant lights: Ikea. Bar stools: Toco Bar Stool, BoConcept; 901 Western Ave., Seattle; 206.464.9999; boconcept.us. Kitchen/bath fixtures/accessories: Parma, Danze; danze.com; purchased from Amazon.com. Kitchen appliances: Jenn-Air, Dacor, Viking, Zephyr, Albert Lee, 1476 Elliott Ave. W, Seattle; 206.282.2110; albertleeappliance.com. Shower enclosure (homeowner installed): Eurolite, Holcam, 13536 Beacon Coal Mine Road S, Seattle; 206.772.7800; holcam.com. Interior architectural metal: Metalworks and Design Studio, 3600 E Marginal Way S, Shop 1, Seattle; 206.381.8421; metalworksanddesign.com. Dining room pendant lights: Ikea. Dining room table/chairs: Basque table and Miles side chair, Crate and Barrel, 555 Bellevue Square NE, Bellevue; 425.646.8900; crateandbarrel.com. Living room chairs (white): Tirup swival chair, Ikea. Living room chairs (black): Dania, 12230 NE 116th St., Kirkland; 425.823.9160; daniafurniture.com. Living room coffee table: Vejmon, Ikea. VG Fir windows/sliding doors/interior trim: Lindal Windows and Doors, 4300 S 104th Place, Seattle; 206.892.1345; lindal.com. Exterior siding: Hardiplank, James Hardi Building Products; jameshardie.com; WallShield, VaproShield; vaproshield.com. Painter: Mirza Mujdza, Seattle; 206.384.3857. Exterior paint (upper bevel siding): Sherwin Williams’ “Refuge,” No. 6228, satin finish; lower siding: “Syberspace,” No. 7076, satin finish, super paint; Sherwin Williams, 14603 NE 20th St., Suite 1, Bellevue; 425.373.0255; sherwin-williams.com. Interior paint: Sherwin Williams’ eggshell No. 1400 “Gold Strand,” No. 2125 “Wall Street,” No. 1398 “Mojave Gold,” No. 2092 “Mountain Road.” Outdoor dining set: overstock.com.