An American Place

Location Seattle, Washington
Design Principal Jim Olson
Principal Stephen Yamada-Heidner

This understated house on the east shore of Lake Washington defers both to its wooded site and to one of the nation’s premier collections of modern American Art. Conservation of the site’s natural elements and the presentation of art were the two primary challenges in designing this house. The resulting design weaves the two themes together—art into the home and the house into nature—into a comfortable place to live.

A lofty hall extends from the steel-and-wood entry canopy through the center of the lake and silhouettes a massive bronze nude by Gaston Lachaise. Cutting across this hall is a lengthy gallery leading from a study and master suite at the north through spacious reception areas to a glass bridge; the bridge connects to the upper level of a two story guest house, which sits in a gully to the south. The house was scaled to heighten the impact of the collection. Natural light is carefully balanced, and the paintings are unobtrusively protected from direct sun. Creature comforts are also present—notably in the glass-enclosed shower that juts into a walled Japanese garden.

In a dark forest, a light-colored flower stands out so bees and hummingbirds can find it. The same kind of contrast can be used to draw attention to works of art. It can create a sense of drama.

Jim Olson Design Principal

The linear structure steps delicately among the trees while giving every room a view of the water. Portuguese limestone and stained cedar soften the concrete-and-steel structure, and their subtle tones are an integral part of the landscape. Shallow-pitched eaves hover over the long, low façade like those of a traditional Japanese house. Interior design by Terry Hunziker.

In a Japanese house you might see a lovely painted screen of a landscape, a scene with cherry blossoms or whatever, and then have a door panel pulled back and see an equally beautiful scene revealed outdoors. There was something about the elegance and refinement of this collection, and the site for the house, that made me want to give them both their full due.

Jim Olson Design Principal

Information

Team

Design Principal

Jim Olson

Project Manager/Project Architect

Peter Brunner

Project Architect

Martha Rogers

Publications

2009

“Concentrated Landscape Installation Art.” RESIDENCE, Dec. 2009, 80-85. Print.

Wiecking, Steve. “The Collector.” Seattle Met, 16 Nov. 2009, 146-152. Print. Web.

2006

Farr, Sheila. “A rare tour of a home’s world-class art collection.” The Seattle Times, 6 Aug. 2006, J6. Print. Web.

Ngo, Dung. Art + Architecture: The Ebsworth Art Collection & Residence. San Francisco: William Stout Publishers, 1 June 2006. Book.

“Private Showing.”  Luxuryculture Inc., 23 Aug. 2006. Print.

Stojnic, Niki. “Ártful Enterprise.” Seattle Magazine, Sept.-Oct. 2006, 22. Print.

Webb, Michael. “Consummate Grace.” Town & Country Vol. 160, May 2006, 166-175. Print.

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