When Steve Mongillo, principal of mwworks, set out to design a home in the Magnolia neighborhood of Seattle, his client had a distinctive request to create indoor and outdoor spaces that were both private and social. After extended conversations with the homeowners, he ascertained that “by virtue of their outgoing ways, they wanted to interact with the neighbors, but also wanted a means to privacy.” The contradiction was interesting for Mongillo, who is always up for a design challenge.
The entranceway of the home sets the tone, with a warm wooden walkway offset by two poured concrete forms – one higher that extends into the house, one lower that creates a surrounded, private outdoor sitting area.
An ethereal stairway, a focal point connecting all areas of the house with an understated openness, sets off the area by the front door. “The main house spaces pivot toward this stairwell,” explains Mongillo, who wanted this to feel light, so that visitors could see through it. The stairwell, with its darkened Douglas Fir treads, is supported by a steel framework and a custom, lacy steel handrail – maximizing light and flow, becoming a central architectural element of the house. And to continue the theme of interior/exterior blending, there’s a landscaped zone under the inside stairway, separated only by glass to the outer garden.
Like the large board-poured concrete form leading the eye from the front of the house to the inside, the poured concrete fireplace extends from the inside into the backyard, out to the patio. The architects used the mass volumes of the poured concrete as architectural elements to define the rooms, rather than relying on walls and doors to define rooms. Much of the house has polished concrete floors, too.
“We like more natural, expressive materials,” maintains Mongillo. “Exposed concrete has an appeal that’s more real than other materials. These aren’t just false façades or coating.”
Outdoors, the glass main floor is set under a second-story cladded in vertical Richlite panels, an environmentally sensitive paper product coated in resin that was originally used for skateboard ramps and medical countertops. Mongillo has used this paper product many times; its small protruding bands break up the sleek façade and provide an opportunity to put in full-floor windows of varying widths – from 6 inches to 2 feet. Corner windows create a feeling of floating next to the trees.
Photography by Andrew Pogue.
If you enjoyed this project be sure to check out this hillside retreat on a private island off the coast of Washington.
Like what you see? Get it first with a subscription to ASPIRE DESIGN AND HOME Magazine.