City House

Location Seattle, Washington
Design Principal Jim Olson
Design Principal Tom Kundig

This urban villa is shaped by the owners’ passions: civic life and art collecting. Tightly fit onto a small lot in the historic Washington Park district of Seattle, the 8,000 square-foot, three-story building is both private residence and place for social gathering. At the owners’ request, its monumental scale and form are contemporary, but also influenced by Italian Renaissance villas.

Art is knit directly into the architectural fabric of the house, perhaps best illustrated by a skylight designed by glass artist Ed Carpenter situated over the stairs leading to the second-level bedrooms. Its location helps to draw the eye from the monumental lower level to the ephemeral level above.

Paintings of light appear and disappear. New and old, matter and light—the contrasts in art complement each other.

Jim Olson Design Principal

More important than the historical influence to planning the interior design is the presence of the owners’ extensive collection of modern art, primarily art by Northwest artists. Appropriate display of this art was an extremely important consideration. To create spaces large enough for art, the civic or main-level windows were moved to the corners, and large volumes were created with fourteen-foot-high ceilings.

The materials used for the house are simple: concrete, steel, plaster, tile and wood veneer. The house aims to be both grand and personal at the same time. The grandeur is expressed by scale and materials. The personal lies in the arrangement of the volumes, the honest presentation of materials and the eclectic collection of art.

The house is tripartite in its organization: the lower level is landscape, basement, and service space; the middle is the “civic” level, containing the open kitchen and living rooms, both of which are gallery-like spaces specifically created to comfortably accommodate entertaining. The house is a frequent setting for social gatherings so the spaces on the civic/social level are purposely overscaled yet informal. The upper level contains the owners’ private quarters.



Design Principals

Jim Olson Tom Kundig

Project Manager

Kirsten R. Murray



Ojeda, Oscar Riera. The Best of American Houses. Buenos Aires: Kliczkowski Publisher, 2000, 128-143. Book.


“Create Double-Duty Storage.” House Beautiful, Spring 1997, 50-53. Print.


“Design Bookshelf.” The Seattle Times: Pacific NW Magazine, 22 Sept. 1996, 28-29. Print.

King, Carol Soucek. Designing with Glass: The Creative Touch. Glen Cove: PBC International Inc., 1996,  88-93, 150-154. Book.


Henderson, Justin. “Hauberg House.”  Interiors, April 1995, 66-71. Print.


Viladas, Pilar. “Sleekness in Seattle.” Architectural Digest, Aug. 1994, 130-136. Print.


Albert, Fred. “House of Glass.” Seattle Magazine, April 1993, 40-43. Print.

Louie, Elaine. “People Who Live In A Glass House Love All the Light.” The New York Times, 18 March 1993, B1, B4. Print.

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