Architect Tim Hossner Builds a House on the Hill in West Seattle
Ryan Powell and Conor O’Sullivan had been house hunting for a couple months when they did a drive-by of the house on Pigeon Point, an old working-class neighborhood in West Seattle. The Chicago transplants, both interactive entertainment designers recruited here in 2009 by Microsoft, were living in a corporate apartment on Capitol Hill at the time, and they were eager to upgrade to their first full-sized home.
“It was a nice Sunday, last spring. We had checked out Alki beach,” recalls Powell, “and we drove out here and I said, ‘Well, there is a house that I’ve spotted online.’”
“As soon as we pulled up,” interjects O’Sullivan, “I was like, ‘Why were you keeping this a secret?’”
The house does have its secretive side. Its curbside presence is downright demure. A low wall bearing only its house number leads to a nondescript drive, which, only after making a sharp left turn, reveals its prize: a modern cedar-and-glass-wrapped box splendidly set atop a wooded slope facing a dreamy green valley. While the valley view is courtesy of the lush links of the West Seattle Golf Course, the house is the brainchild of developers John Nuler and Steve Dillow of Bear’s Head and architect Tim Hossner of Replinger Hossner Architects. The 2,100-square-foot house actually is the first of an elegant iteration planned for the hill. After purchasing three side-by-side slope lots, Nuler says, “We started thinking about developing a prototype of a hillside house that would be somewhat environmentally friendly and effectively utilize the three lots….I’m a lover of modernism and really clean, restrained lines, so Steve and I approached Tim [Hossner] and said, ‘Let’s try to do a triptych here, a little narrative that will be a nice addition to the hillside.’” (The last two pieces of the puzzle will feature unique configurations—think of the twisting of a Rubik’s Cube, describes Hossner—but share the same modern boxy style and slope-sensitive siting of the Powell-O’Sullivan house.) “What we are trying to do is to come up with a really logical way to develop these types of [challenging] sites, because they’re all over the city,” says Hossner, “and anybody who wants a new house and who wants to live in Seattle will be tackling these kinds of challenges.”
Both developer and architect were determined that design would not impose itself onto the landscape. Instead of conventionally locating the house’s entryway at the bottom of the slope (as the lot’s previous owner had planned), requiring the razing of much of the hill, Hossner set it at the slope’s apex. The dwelling solidly rests on two giant concrete piers, which, in turn, sit on steel pin piles driven deep into the slope, but gives the breath-taking impression of being perilously poised on the hillside. “The cantilevered design,” says Hossner, “was the classic idiom of form-follows-function….We wanted to make the smallest impact we possibly could on the hill, but still get the house up in the air and utilize the hillside for the drama of the views.”
The interior continues the architect’s signature design ethic of simplicity: the first floor is devoted to an appealing, functional interplay of kitchen (boasting two sinks, an O’Sullivan favorite feature, and a mud room secreted behind a panel), dining room and living room; all benefiting from the west-facing window wall that ushers in natural light and landscape. On the second floor the master bedroom is host to its own stunning floor-to-ceiling picture window. The overall material palette is purposely, and effectively, spare. “There are not a lot of different elements,” admits Hossner, “but I think they are really nicely dispersed…and it’s just a great backdrop for art and objects.”
One object of special import was O’Sullivan’s piano, a 1924 Starck baby grand, shipped from Chicago, that now enjoys a place of pride in the living room. (The verdant views from there are particularly meaningful for O’Sullivan, as they conjure up his native Ireland.) “We talked about what our ideal place to live in might be,” he says, “and one of my main criteria was always the piano: to be able to play the piano and look out on something beautiful.”
Open House Stats
Edition 6 :: Number 33
Architectural Firm :: Replinger Hossner Architects
Cost :: Approximately $213 per square foot for a
2,100-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 Tim Hossner of Replinger Hossner Architects, located in West Seattle at 4135 21st Ave. SW, on Sunday, September 19, between noon and 3 p.m. For more information on the tour and the Open House program, please visit nwhomemag.com or aiaseattle.org; 206.448.4938.
FIND IT RESOURCES
Architect: Tim Hossner, Replinger Hossner Architects, 7203 36th Ave. SW, Seattle; 206.933.8223; rhoarchitects.com. Developer/general contractor: John Nuler, Steve Dillow, Bear’s Head; 206.369.6098. Structural engineer: Jim Harris, PCS Structural Solutions, Seattle; 206.292.5076; pcs-structural.com. Geotechnical engineer: PanGeo, Seattle; 206.262.0370; pangeoinc.com. Framing contractor: CDK Construction Service, Seattle; 206.282.0358. Steel fabrication (structural, interior elements): D&J Custom Metal Fabrication, Seattle; 206.242.3238. Plumbing: Randall’s Plumbing, Puyallup; 253.845.6039. Appliances: Bertazzoni, Jenn-Air, Bosch. Bath fixtures: hansgrohe-usa.com. Bath tile: EuroTile, Federal Way; 253.334.0333. Bath, kitchen countertops: “Slate” Paperstone, Green Depot, 4121 First Ave. S, Seattle; 206.315.1974; greendepot.com. Kitchen pendants: Drop 1 & 2, Design Within Reach, 1918 First Ave., Seattle; 206.443.9900; dwr.com. Pivoting bedroom door: VG fir-and-glass, designed by Tim Hossner. Floors: White oak stained with Glitsa “Sable Black Gold,” Seattle; 206.763.2855. Bar stools: Giulietta stool, Design Within Reach. Dining table: Cross pedestal table, Design Within Reach. Dining chairs: Kartell Papyrus chair, Velocity Art and Design, 251 Yale Ave. N, Seattle; 206.749.9575; velocityartanddesign.com. Sofa: Klein, Room & Board; 800.301.9720; roomandboard.com. Living room rug: Flor tiles, Koap Home, 120 Central Way, Kirkland; 425.822.2003; koaphome.com. Dining room rug: Rangoli Rug, Design Within Reach. Living room bench: Blu Dot Son of a Bench, Seva Home, 900 Lenora St., Seattle; 206.323.9920; sevahome.com. Bedside tables: Blu Dot Modu-licious table, Seva Home. Bedroom lamps: Antique soldier lamps, Pacific Galleries, 241 S Lander St., Seattle; 206.292.3999; pacgal.com. Art: Cypress Row print (bedroom) by Brian Everett; CB2.com; Lake Effect (living room) by Gwendolyn Marks; etsy.com/shop/theoremandcorollary; light sculpture (living room) by Ryan Powell; 206.651.4057. Windows: Marlin Aluminum Windows, Goldfinch Bros., Everett; 425.258.4662. Outdoor planters: Design Within Reach.