House of Light

Location Bellevue, Washington
Design Principal Jim Olson

A couple commissioned this wood, steel, and glass house on the shore of Lake Washington as a place to display their collection of contemporary art and to entertain fellow enthusiasts. On the landward side, the site is anchored by a 130-foot-long sculpture by Richard Serra. On the lake side, reflecting pools step down from the facade, mediating between the house and the water. A slatted metal canopy shades the interior from direct sun, while allowing glimpses of the sky through large spans of glass. Buffalo grass on the flat roof and trellises with hanging vines integrate the house and garden.

The twenty foot-tall ceiling creates a monumental scale while the twelve-foot-high ledges on each side relate more to human scale. To experience this room is to feel uplifted and comfortable all at once.

Jim Olson Design Principal

Major artworks are installed in a two-story, top-lighted gallery—the luminous spine of the house—and in the airy rooms to either side. Natural illumination from a linear sky-light and clerestories is filtered through a transparent fabric scrim at ceiling level. At the east end of the gallery is a site-specific installation by James Turrell, a skyspace illuminated by LEDs. Throughout the house, a strong sense of axiality and order prevails. Public rooms for entertaining lead into each other at the center of the plan, while informal and intimate rooms are located to either end of the gallery, with bedrooms on the second level.

Interior design by Terry Hunziker.

The horizontal lines of the patio culminate in long trellises on the house; the trellises also serve to protect the artwork inside from direct sunlight. The house is reflected in the highly polished surface of a sculpture by Anish Kapoor.

Jim Olson Design Principal



Design Principal

Jim Olson

Landscape Architect

Charles Anderson Landscape Architecture, Michelle Arab



Chicago Athenaeum American Architecture Awards, American Architecture Award



Decker, Julie. Wandering Ecologies: The Landscape Architecture of Charles Anderson. Shanghai: Design Media Publishing Ltd., 1 Nov. 2013, 94-103. Book.


Beaver, Robyn. 21st Century Houses: 150 of the World’s Best. Victoria: Images Publishing, April 2010, 202-205. Book.


Sheets, Hilarie M. “Decking the Halls.” BLOUIN ARTINFO: Art + Auction, Sept 2007, 111. Print.


Seely, Kimberly Brown. “Successful In Seattle.” Town&Country, June 2000, 148. Print.

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