Home of the Month: Architect Matt Hutchins Builds a Backyard Cottage
“We’ve been the chief entertainment in the neighborhood,” says Marilyn Widner with a smile as she and her husband, Ken, sit at the patio table situated in what quickly is taking shape as their new sidewalk-fronting garden.
The object of the neighbors’ fascination is the couple’s brand-new backyard cottage.
After 30 years in their 3,000-square-foot 1926 Phinney Ridge bungalow, in which they had raised two kids, the couple had begun to mull over retirement options. “We wanted to stay in the neighborhood, and were toying with the idea of putting a mother-in-law apartment in the basement [for ourselves],” recalls Ken. “But then we were thinking, ‘Well, we don’t really want to live our basement…’ ”
Enter the City of Seattle’s newly amended Detached Accessory Dwelling Unit ordinance in 2009, which for the first time permitted the raising of backyard cottages in all of the city’s single-home zones. “All of a sudden, we we’re reading about the city’s passing this ordinance, and we just sort of jumped on it,” recalls Ken. Not only did a cottage ideally suit their downsizing ambitions (“I don’t need to clean 3,000 square feet of house anymore,” says Marilyn with a laugh), but the couple decided that by renting out their big house they could subsidize their new cottage and their retirement, which included plenty of travel plans. Matt Hutchins of Fremont’s CAST architecture, as it happened, a lobbying force behind the cottage ordinance, soon arrived on the couple’s corner lot ready to kick-start the trio’s cottage industry.
Per his clients’ desire, the architect delivered a diminutive dwelling, but one that didn’t skimp on functionality, light or green space. Because his clients are die-hard gardeners, Hutchins’ design incorporated a trellis on the cottage’s exterior and a rainwater cistern which, for some nine months of the year, is expected to supply water for thirsty plants, as well as for washing laundry and flushing toilets.
Hutchins was very mindful that the cottage fit seamlessly into the neighborhood. Explains Marilyn, “One of the first things we said is, ‘Our house has been here since 1926, so Matt, we want this [new] one to look like it’s been here almost as long.’ ” Fortunately, to make room for the two-story cottage, all Hutchins had to do was to tear down a large dilapidated deck attached to the back of the main house (the new cottage’s living room windows are set where that deck once ended), and it was a perfect fit. “The other houses [on the street] are on narrow lots too and so this one just kind of pops right in,” says a pleased Hutchins.
The cottage’s interior layout is necessarily simple, with the first floor featuring a bright, invitingly open main living space that includes a charmingly compact kitchen, pretty powder room and French doors leading out to the garden patio. Upstairs are the two bedrooms and a master bath, and plenty of light, thanks to a sky-light studded vaulted ceiling. “We had all of the constraints of size and budget, but what we didn’t have,” says Hutchins, “was a constrained program. These guys were as ambitious as with a giant custom house project. So we had to get all that sort of special-ness into this tiny footprint. I think that the finite aspect of the size caused us to focus on what’s really important.” One of the cottage’s most important focal points is the signature shelving system that Hutchins built into the staircase to house Ken’s impressive album collection. “What would be just a staircase in another house,” explains Hutchins, “is an opportunity to make up the furniture that you’re not bringing over from the old house, and it has to do double and triple duty.”
The Widners say that the hardest part of downsizing has been sifting through a lifetime’s worth of belongings, and deciding which items (from furniture to their kids’ school projects) should be cottage-bound and which they simply should let go.
Happily, they are in no doubt that their cottage built for two is a keeper.
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 Matt Hutchins of CAST architecture, located in Phinney Ridge at 558 N 70th St., on Sunday, July 17, between noon and 3 p.m. For more information on the tour and the Open House program, visit aiaseattle.org; 206.448.4938.
OPEN HOUSE STATS:
Edition 7 :: Number 38
Architectural Firm :: CAST architecture
Cost :: Approximately $300 per square
foot for an 800-square-foot house
(total project cost might include additional fees for other services that are not reflected).
FIND IT: Home of the Month: Architect: Matt Hutchins, CAST architecture, 115-C N 36th St., Seattle, 206.256.9886; castarchitecture.com. General contractor: Zoltan Farkas, Zoltan Farkas Construction; 206.769.7373; zoltanfarkasconstruction.com. Plumbing, cistern plumbing, radiant heat systems: Good Services Plumbing & Heating, Seattle; 206.322.3000; goodservices.com. Electrical: Lazlo Farkas, Laz Electric, Seattle; 206.417.3465; lazelectric.com. Drywall: Darrell Konkler, American Wall, Marysville; 425.766.3372; manta.com/c/mm3n06f/american-wall. Bamboo flooring: Advanced Floor Designs, 7023 NE 175th St., No. F, Kenmore; 425.481.5195. Interior/exterior painting: Gustavo Garcia, Citivel Painting, Inc, Seattle; 206.949.1036. Powder room sink/faucet: Seattle Interiors, 3822 Stone Way N, Seattle; 206.633.2900; seattleinteriors.com. Bath tiles: Seattle Tile Company, 7716 15th Ave. NW, Seattle; 206.782.1985; seattletile.com. Kitchen backsplash: Seattle Tile Company. Master bath (farm sink, toilets, towel racks, hardware): Morgans Electrical & Plumbing, 3627 Stoneway Ave. N, Seattle; 206.547.1617; morgansonline.com. Counters: slate kitchen counter, marble bath counter, Jimmy Mai, Allied Marble, 5219 Fourth Ave. S., Seattle; 206.763.1250; alliedmarbleinc.com. Cabinetry (kitchen/dining room): Wally Meyer, Pioneer Woodworks, 12337 Lake City Way NE, Seattle; 206.362.5637. Appliances: Mark Ferrier, Albert Lee, 1476 Elliott Ave. W, Seattle; 206.282.2110; albertleeappliance.com. Built-in staircase entertainment center: Design by Matt Hutchins, bamboo plywood from Bamboo Hardwoods, 6405 Roosevelt Way NE, Seattle; 206.529.0978; bamboohardwoods.com. Rainwater cistern: Mike Broili, Living Systems Design, 211 NW 201 St., Shoreline; 206.546.3119; harvestrain.net. Light fixtures: David Chin, Harold’s Lighting, 1912 N 45th St., Seattle; 206.219.4341; haroldslighting.com. Powder room mirror, dining room table, chairs: Antika, 8421 Greenwood Ave. N, Seattle; 206.789.6393; antikaantiques.com. Farm doors: Frank Lumber, The Door Store, 17727 15th Ave. NE, Shoreline; 206.362.2311; franklumberthedoorstore.com. Door hardware: Builders’ Hardware & Supply Company, 1516 15th Ave. W, Seattle; 206.281.3700; builders-hardware.com. French doors, windows: Marvin Windows and Doors; marvin.com. Metal garden fences: Home and Garden Art, 1111 NW 85th St., Seattle; 206.784.1080; homeandgardenart.com. Landscape plantings: Swansons, 9701 15th Ave. NW, Seattle; 206.782.2543; swansonsnursery.com.