Dovetail in the News: Artist in Residence


We recently finished building a unique home in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, designed by Heliotrope Architects. Several design blogs, including Contemporist, Design Milk, and Dezeen, wrote about the residence. Read on to learn more about this project.

When young couple approached Heliotrope and asked them to design a home they had a surprising directive: incorporate an art studio into the residence. The couple, an artist and an engineer, then listed several additional criteria for their new home: a contemporary style, but not out of place with the rest of the neighborhood; privacy balanced with a visual connection to the street; flow between inside and outside; lots of natural light; and wall space for their art collection.

The design solution is reminiscent of a checker-board pattern, alternating between interior and exterior spaces. The main living and dining areas extend from the front entry courtyard to the rear patio courtyard. Because the main floor of the home is elevated above grade, it allows for occupants to observe the street but remain private.

The art studio, which occupies a double height space with a cathedral ceiling, is adjacent to the main living area, but sunk a half level to establish a separation. “The goal here,” says architect Mike Mora, “is to keep the two occupants connected as they go about their daily routines.” This became a theme for the entire house, creating a visual connection between two points, often through a framed view of the landscape. From the master suite, for example, one can look through windows to a Japanese garden and into the kitchen beyond.

The new 3,500 square foot residence that we built includes custom windows, a custom kitchen with walnut countertops, and custom bookshelves, one running the length of the living room. The custom bathroom cabinets are made of Western Red cedar, as is the ofuro, the Japanese soaking tub, built with traditional joinery methods. The flooring is a combination of polished concrete, tile, and myrtle wood. The façade is clad in stained cedar.

Sustainable features include an eco-friendly fluid-applied waterproofing barrier, radiant floor heating, low-VOCs in the interior, a green roof of succulents, and a backyard rain garden that absorbs a large portion of the rainwater runoff from the roof.

The clients often find themselves working side-by-side in the art studio, one making art and one working on the computer. The residence itself defers to the interesting lives of its occupants with a simple, elegant design – a house as a frame, not a subject.