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Originally published January 24, 2014 at 12:13 PM | Page modified February 1, 2014 at 10:09 AM

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Mercer Island home has room for two families and a future

This new home, designed by architect Chris Luthi and built by Ainslie-Davis Construction, offers space for three generations, all of it accessible and adaptable, also local and sustainable wherever possible.


Pacific NW associate editor

“THE ANSWERS to your three questions are ‘Yes,’ ‘No’ and ‘eBay.’ ”

Jane Reynolds wasn’t even looking when she said it, and I hadn’t asked. Yet.

But you’ve got to admit, not many (if any) Northwest contemporaries have a pay phone hooked onto their blackened-steel walls. Rotary dial, coin return, the whole deal.

“It was kind of a joke,” says Craig, Jane’s husband. “The batteries were dead on our phones all the time. So I said, ‘When we build we’re getting an old-school phone.’ ”

Jane puts on tea and leans across the kitchen island (beer-and-wine-bottle aggregate) that is practically big enough to be a real island.

“This lot is where Jane grew up,” says Craig of their spot on Mercer Island. “The house was in bad, bad shape.”

“My dad put no money into the house,” Jane adds. “He said, ‘I paid for this house three times. Once for me, once to the bank and once to your mother.’ ” (They divorced.)

So the couple, newly married and now a family of five, had nowhere to go but up (from the site of an old and smallish rambler).

The Reynolds’ attitude about kin is the more the better. And they wanted their new home to include an apartment for Jane’s mom and stepdad. (A space that, perhaps, Jane and Craig will use later.)

“That’s the longterm plan,” Jane says, four words that could stand as the motto for the entire 4,400-square-foot project (Jane: “Remember, it’s for two families!”).

Architect Chris Luthi of Centerline Design and contractors Ainslie-Davis Construction worked to ensure that everywhere everything was accessible and adaptable — from the roof (butterfly shaped for maximum solar access) to the downstairs accessory dwelling unit.

The roof also channels water into a 5,000-gallon containment tank that funnels all runoff into rain gardens. Pivot windows provide cross ventilation. The solar hot-water system provides all hot water in warmer months. In cooler seasons, hot water is supplemented with excess heat from the geothermal heat pump. There are concrete countertops, bamboo flooring and cabinets, rainscreen siding and interior steel wall panels (beautiful and sustainable). Recycled glass, too. Sourcing was local when possible. The garage includes electrical connections for cars that do not take even a sip of gasoline.

Doorways are wide, floors easy to navigate. When stairs become obstacles, the Reynolds’ three-story climbing wall will become an elevator.

“Maybe as we age, the kids will bounce back in,” Craig says.

“Or we’ll get a caregiver,” Jane says.

“But right now,” says Craig, “Jane’s parents (Judith and Dave Hullin) are taking care of us. They’re shuttling kids around, getting John (the youngest) to and from school and crew practice.”

Landscaping is divided into “different funky spaces,” Jane says. Landscape designer Lisa Port of Banyon Tree Landscape Design + Architecture carved out gardens for enjoying, strolling and eating. There’s a large terrace for outdoor entertaining and behind a serious Corten wall in the front yard what Jane calls a “poolette,” larger than a hot tub, smaller than the usual swimming pool.

Craig is an actuary, and Jane is on the faculty at the University of Washington Foster School of Business.

“I really dug into the house because I really wanted to do it right,” says Jane, who took two spring terms off work to make the time.

“You really can move back home.”

And now for the questions to her answers: Does the pay phone work? Do you have to put money in it? Where’d you find it? (eBay, $100)

Rebecca Teagarden writes about architecture and design for Pacific NW magazine. Benjamin Benschneider is a magazine staff photographer.



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