Going smaller leaves plenty of room for great things
"Our whole goal was to build a house that was smaller to have a master suite on the main floor, and enough room to have our kids and grandchildren gather," says Steve. "I remember going to my grandmother's house, and there were always great things to do there. I wanted to have great things for our grandchildren to do at our house."
Back from vacation, they sold their 3,500-square-foot home on West Seattle's Beach Drive to help finance the two-year project. Through the construction, they lived in a small townhouse. The Beach Drive house had simply been too big for them, says Steve. "It was just the two of us living there, and we didn't have that much (overnight) company. And, I'd always had a desire since I was a kid to have waterfront property."
"Call it an obsession," adds Steve's brother, architect Rick Sundberg, principal at Olson Sundberg Kundig Allen Architects, whom they hired to design their new home. Yes, hired. Working with family is not an unusual concept for Steve and Joan, who run International Parking Management Inc., a family business that oversees the parking for Seahawks Stadium, Union Station and many other properties in the Seattle area.
So, the two brothers who had spent their childhood summers on the waters of Whidbey Island building "funky kid boats" set out to design a house that would gracefully embrace the comings and goings of family and friends on the beaches of West Seattle.
The design and planning of their new place turned out to be a family gathering that included not only Steve, Joan and Rick but Rick's wife, Sharon. "We had breakfast every Sunday morning for four months. We fell right into the design. It was such a perfect site," says Rick.
There were many discussions about how to create the lifestyle they envisioned. "While other houses have specific rooms for every function, we really needed to condense it down. When you downsize, you have to think of your rooms as having a lot of different uses," notes Rick.
The original house design started at 3,000 square feet, but eventually was scaled back to 2,340. Studying the plans Rick had created, Joan and Steve sat down with a pair of scissors and began to literally cut out features in order to meet their budget. "We needed to diminish the size so we could do the nice finishes and the landscaping that we wanted," Steve says.
For Joan, the most important space to preserve was the kitchen/dining area because she wanted to be able to comfortably entertain their extended family and ever-increasing circle of friends. "The garage and the third bedroom were gone, and the entry became smaller," she says. "Then, Rick took the design back and finessed it."
Joan admits "we didn't understand all the nuances. It looked very simple to us."
During the design process, they began demolishing the existing building on the property. Once the knock-down was completed they began to build, contracting the project themselves. Architect John Mrozek, from Rick's firm, followed through with them while the project was being built. To help, they hired Marci Bryant, Bryant & Co., a freelance project manager.
"One of the commitments we made was we weren't going to screw up the design," Steve says. "And, it helped that Marci had a good relationship with Rick and his office."
It all worked out, he adds. "And when you see the angles and lines that Rick has designed, it's more than just a house. It's art. It's beauty. It's tranquil. It feels good, it feels comfortable."
The waterfront dock greets the many visitors who arrive for sunset viewing, and there's plenty of lawn for the children of their two grown children to romp. A camp-size fire pit sits on the shore, and the kitchen island is big enough to seat six and easily accommodate booster chairs.
It's just as Steve and Joan had hoped. "We have everything you can think of for children, plus the beach," Steve says.
"And, for the bigger kids, we have kayaks and boats!"
Robin Fogel Avni is a free-lance writer specializing in lifestyle issues and trends affected by technology. Her e-mail is email@example.com. Benjamin Benschneider is a Pacific Northwest magazine staff photographer.
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