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Originally published Sunday, April 5, 2009 at 12:00 AM

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Northwest Living

His and Hers: One family, two houses, and everybody's happy

HIS HOUSE is bright and open, a gymnasium of a great room. Skis stacked inside the front door; trout-fishing waders dangling in the closet...

Family fun first

Outdoors, everybody gathers at His courtyard (20 feet by 26 feet) of outdoor fun: gas and charcoal grills, two dining tables and an industrial black-steel fireplace. It is all sheltered by an arched eyebrow of a roof that cantilevers from the great room. Out back it's a trampoline, and bikes and surfboards all lined in a row, ready for blended-family adventure.

HIS HOUSE is bright and open, a gymnasium of a great room. Skis stacked inside the front door; trout-fishing waders dangling in the closet.

Her house is buttery warm and cozy, a single level that wraps itself. Piano next to the dining table; gardens outside every door.

They are husband and wife — and next-door neighbors.

And their five kids get the best of both worlds.

"Divorce is a pretty hard thing to go through, and then being told, 'OK, now you have to live with these people?' " His says. "Being married before, we both had things; like she can handle more clutter than I can. Like that."

And that's why today we're looking at one family, two houses.

"It's a Brady Bunch thing," says His, drinking coffee from a yellow "I LOVE DAD" mug. "It's common for us to have eight for dinner. My kids' mother will come over after work to see the kids and stay to eat."

Originally, they were going to build a new house for Her. He would live in a remodeled house next door. But dual new houses was the better solution. And the kids, all girls collectively known by Dad as "the estrogen festival," got to hurtle rocks through the windows of the demolition-ready old house before heading out for the first day of school in 2004.

"My daughter said it was better than Disneyland," Her says.

Now, everybody, no matter who sleeps where, lives in casual, contemporary style in a pair of Bellevue homes designed by Tom Lenchek of Balance Associates Architects (www.balanceassociates.com).

His and Her say the houses speak the same language but portray two different personalities: His in 2,600 square feet, Hers 2,200. There are even prominent His and Hers stone sculptures by California artist Roger Hopkins outside. During construction His house was called PS (party shack) and Hers GH (garden house). Both, however, feature three bedrooms, heated concrete floors, Quantum custom windows and Milestone counters.

"We have a really great bunch of kids," His says. "The oldest is starting off her college career and her goal is to be a chef. She loves this kitchen for that."

That would be His kitchen in a house designed as the gathering place. It is big and open, 8-foot sliding-glass walls and an 18-foot-high arched-beam ceiling with a light well scored through its middle. It is mostly great room. Except for the rec room off the front door: It offers a theater screen, plasma TV, surround sound, guitars, a drum set, bikes and a big, sink-in, charcoal-gray sofa. The more-private mezzanine level above is reached by ramp, stairs being harsh and not at all good for skate boarding.

In Her house the concrete floors are stained a rich walnut, playing off creamy warm stucco walls. Overhead, from 8 to 14 feet, cotton acoustic paneling keeps teen-sister noise to a minimum. Outside the doors are gardens: a dry creek at the front door; an arbor off Her bedroom.

"Before this, I lived in a 5,500-square-foot house, and I could never find my keys or my shoes," she says.

Both houses feature sliding-glass walls at every opportunity. Set at angles to each other, these walls open to the uniting lush and massive private park of lawn and gardens. Along a path between the homes sits a bath house with sauna, hot tub, powder room and weight room.

"Our friends have taken to calling this the campground," His says.

Rebecca Teagarden is assistant editor of Pacific Northwest magazine. Benjamin Benschneider is a magazine staff photographer.

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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