Jim Olson Houses

Seattle-based architect Jim Olson, the founding partner of Olson Kundig, is particularly known for his subtly elegant residences, from a glass farmhouse in eastern Oregon to a Balinese-inspired retreat in Hawaii, from a diminutive waterfront cabin for his own family to two grand art-filled residences on the shores of Lake Washington in Seattle. Modern in spirit, the luxurious houses are characterized by intangible qualities of light and space. Olson balances a deep knowledge of architectural history, from the temples of Egypt to the great buildings of the modern era, with a sensitivity to art and nature. Each work is carefully calibrated to site and client.

Olson is fascinated by the relationship between art and architecture, and many of his houses and apartments have been designed for major art collectors. The sixteen residences in this volume—in Washington, Oregon, California, Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, and Hong Kong—explore that interplay as well as the correspondences between light, space, and mood. The finely proportioned interior spaces are distinguished by a striking use of both natural and highly refined materials, masterful modulation of light, sophisticated details, sleek furnishings, and a careful balance between monumentality and intimacy. In natural settings, his buildings often weave into their surroundings as if they had always been there; in urban environments, his designs create and enhance a sense of community. The introduction, by noted design writer Michael Webb, emphasizes context and process, vital factors in Jim Olson’s work.

When architect Jim Olson designs a home, his distinctive aesthetic, elegant and understated, comes into play. Sensitive to his clients, many of whom are sophisticated art collectors, he creates living spaces that are comfortable and expressive, enabling the room’s art to speak. Jim has an innate talent for combining art and architecture and for working with artists to incorporate their installations seamlessly into his work. I dream of the intimate room of changing light that artist James Turrell created in a Jim Olson house as it was being designed and built. Jim Olson, gracious and self-effacing, has a magic touch.


—Mimi Gates, Former Director, Seattle Art Museum

Introduction by Michael Webb
Published by The Monacelli Press
Purchase on Amazon




Naumovich, Dan. “Doing it by the book.” The Zweig Letter, May 2011, 5. Print.


“Jim Olson Houses.” Hinge, July-Aug. 2010. Print.

“Review: The Latest Architecture + Design Books.” Luxe Interiors + Design, Winter 2010, 36. Print.


“Alumni News.” University of Washington: College of Built Environments Alumni News, Dec. 2009. Web. 

Cava, J.M. “Pliny’s Villa and The American Country House.” ARCADE, Winter 2009, 40-41. Print.

“In ‘Jim Olson Houses,’ more fine homes, fine art.” The Seattle Times: Pacific NW Magazine, 6 Dec. 2009, 15. Print.

Mendelsohn, Meredith. “We’ve Got You Covered.” BLOUIN ARTINFO, 2 Dec. 2009, 30-31. Print. Web.

Olson Sundberg Kundig Allen Architects. Jim Olson Houses. New York: The Monacelli Press, Nov. 2009. Book.

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