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In West Seattle, an Art-Filled Cabin in the Trees

A world-traveling Seattle couple, enthusiasts of art and design, wanted to downsize their home and learn to live with less. They found a small forested property at water’s edge in West Seattle with an 18-by-80-foot open lot—and engaged local architects Suyama Peterson Deguchi to design a house strictly within those confines so as not to fell a single tree.

The firm, with principal George Suyama at the helm, designed a house of just over 2,000 square feet, containing everything his clients needed—and nothing they didn’t: The house has one bedroom, one bathroom, and a deck at each end, plus a lofted, multipurpose office that can accommodate overnight guests.

Photography by Charlie Schuck, courtesy of Suyama Peterson Deguchi.

To keep the project within a relatively modest budget, the kitchen is only partly custom; the white cabinet wall is from Ikea.
Above: To keep the project within a relatively modest budget, the kitchen is only partly custom; the white cabinet wall is from Ikea.
The kitchen island was a custom firm design; one side sports a bank of drawers with stainless steel facings.
Above: The kitchen island was a custom firm design; one side sports a bank of drawers with stainless steel facings.

The art objects along the back wall were collected by the homeowners; the red hutch is a Japanese mizuya tansu chest dating from the mid 19th century.

With the exception of the bedroom and bathroom, the interior walls are stained plywood. The floors are oak and the framing wood is Douglas fir.
Above: With the exception of the bedroom and bathroom, the interior walls are stained plywood. The floors are oak and the framing wood is Douglas fir.

To capitalize on Seattle’s temperate climate, the architects designed a deep covered porch at each end of the house; one for morning sun, and one for sunset. At the western, water-facing end of the house, the architects intentionally did not design a path to the beach, in order “to maximize a sense of refuge,” according to George Suyama.

On the wall at right is a hanging sculpture called “Dark Light: Wall” by Lead Pencil Studio.

The pendant light above the dining table is fitted with a Drum Lampshade from the firm’s shop 3×10.
Above: The pendant light above the dining table is fitted with a Drum Lampshade from the firm’s shop 3×10.
Tall banks of windows maximize natural light and views of the surrounding forest. “Instead of the typical design solutions with unobstructed views to the water,” the architects say, “the central tree becomes dominant, and accentuates views and vistas by blocking some while slowly unveiling others.”

The living room is populated with 15-inch split-wood stools from Northwest Woods in Clinton, Washington.
Above: The living room is populated with 15-inch split-wood stools from Northwest Woods in Clinton, Washington.

A bent-steel surface runs along the house’s northern wall. It has multiple uses: In the living room, it’s a bench. At right, on the other side of the Japanese hutch, it becomes open kitchen shelving.

The living room armchairs are William Chairs from Janus et Cie, in mahogany wicker with black leather cushions. The Stanchion Floor Lamp is a firm design available at 3×10.
Above: The living room armchairs are William Chairs from Janus et Cie, in mahogany wicker with black leather cushions. The Stanchion Floor Lamp is a firm design available at 3×10.
The Swedish art prints above the bed are family heirlooms. The black headboard is made of 24-inch-square rubber tiles.
Above: The Swedish art prints above the bed are family heirlooms. The black headboard is made of 24-inch-square rubber tiles.
Further along the northern wall, the folded steel surface becomes the bathroom countertop. The towel rack is a vintage kimono stand found in Seattle.
Above: Further along the northern wall, the folded steel surface becomes the bathroom countertop. The towel rack is a vintage kimono stand found in Seattle.

The interior of the house is entirely open: There’s only one door—to the bathroom.

The final piece of folded steel becomes a desk in a small corner of the bedroom.
Above: The final piece of folded steel becomes a desk in a small corner of the bedroom.
The multipurpose, lofted upper floor contains a covered porch for taking in morning sun.
Above: The multipurpose, lofted upper floor contains a covered porch for taking in morning sun.
The lofted white volume is open to the rest of the space.
Above: The lofted white volume is open to the rest of the space.
The couple takes a keen interest in art and architecture, as evidenced by the books and journals in their study.
Above: The couple takes a keen interest in art and architecture, as evidenced by the books and journals in their study.
They’re also world travelers and longtime collectors of vintage wares.
Above: They’re also world travelers and longtime collectors of vintage wares.
The white volume at the house’s entrance contains the east-facing deck on its top level and the bedroom beneath.
Above: The white volume at the house’s entrance contains the east-facing deck on its top level and the bedroom beneath.

The house rests on columns to minimize its impact on the sloping forest floor and the root systems of nearby cedar trees.

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