Tour the Entire House
This home is comfortable, but it has a true sense of depth and sophistication,” says architect Eric Cobb about the urban residence he designed for a couple who relocated to Seattle from the East Coast. Originally acquiring two units, the couple tasked Cobb, along with designer Elizabeth Stretch and builder Richard Manderbach, to combine them in a way that best maximized the sightlines to downtown and Elliott Bay. “The existing layout was overbuilt, had a challenging flow, and didn’t take full advantage of the view,” recalls Stretch. “We quickly realized that we had to gut the whole thing.”
For their new home, the owners wanted a modern aesthetic. Cobb, along with firm members Jacek Mrugala and Luke Pulliam, accommodated their request by eliminating walls and stripping away the drywall and moldings. “The space looked like it had been coated, caked, and finished with frosting,” Cobb says. “Enabling that rugged and raw concrete to actually be a space-defining element changed everything.”
To create a more open floor plan, the design team had to address the pipes and drainage systems that ran through the newly combined units. Impossible to eliminate, and rather than be concealed with walls, they were ultimately accepted as authentic features in the space and elevated to a more sophisticated appearance with a blackened metal finish or wrap. “We have selectively allowed these elements to be experiential features throughout,” Cobb explains, noting that the material acts as a bridge tying together the units’ varied surfaces. “At one end of the spectrum you have rough concrete, and at the other end of the spectrum, you have that velvety smooth walnut cabinetry. In the middle, you have steel doing a lot of different things.”
The metal approach was also used to craft a bench overlooking the water and a fireplace hearth that wraps around a corner, allowing it to be enjoyed from both the dining area and the wide gallery hallway. “We ended up with a very generous entry, so we created a gallery for the owners’ art collection,” Stretch says, pointing to the couple’s groupings of Georg Jensen silver, which are housed in internally lit custom display cases made of the same blackened steel. “The view is drawing you through the space, but along the way, you’re passing these amazing, unexpected exhibitions of silver.”
The mix of influences continues in the kitchen, which Cobb and Stretch designed as a serious working space with warm walnut lower cabinetry balancing the stainless-steel cabinets and built-in hood. “The owners are dedicated chefs, so the kitchen is beautiful and elegant, but it’s also unapologetically industrial,” Stretch explains.
The residence’s open concept allows for two living areas to be enjoyed during different times of the day and under varying light conditions. Opposite the kitchen lies a media space with a bold green Womb chair that complements the island stools and adds a dose of color among the neutral furnishings. On the other side of the dining area, Stretch incorporated a more formal setting punctuated by contemporary orange chairs. “There are moments of color and accessorizing, but the palette is very restrained,” says Stretch, who didn’t want the furniture to detract from the impact of the space or the view.
These deliberate moves—the controlled palette, the industrial concrete, and the exposed pipes—were cleanly executed with careful thought and exacting detail. Even the subtleties carry significance, such as the 1-inch continuous slot in the ceiling soffit that runs the full north-south length of the condo and provides air supply to the great room. “This project was a unique collaboration between the architect, designer and contractor that was confidently supported by the owners,” says Manderbach, who was accompanied by project manager Steve Hobbs and superintendent Monte Koch. “We worked together to discover and survey the existing structure and utilities that had to be incorporated into the new design.”
Cobb couldn’t agree more. “I was pleased that everybody was flexible enough to roll with what might have been seen as difficulties or obstacles,” he says. “It required that the entire team be on board, and the clients were incredibly willing to go on that journey with us.”