A supposedly impossible site was the perfect plot for Hale (pictured) and Edmonds, who were searching for some sort of break that would afford them the chance to build their own home. Stilting the house over the steep hill gives them direct access to nature while still being located just a ten-minute drive from downtown Seattle.
The parcel was practically inaccessible. It was situated 20 feet beyond where the road dead-ended at a curb and lay another 20 feet below street grade. The plot lacked municipal hookups and plummeted down the hill at a 50-percent slope. But the neighboring property had caught Edmonds’s eye: Just beyond the steep pitch was the P-Patch community garden in which she and Hale had been growing salad greens for years. “We’d carry a trowel and bike over from our old apartment,” Edmonds remembers fondly. “It was our escape.”
In the living room, an Akari lamp by Isamu Noguchi sits atop a coffee table Hale made and next to a collage of Maisie and Pippa’s paintings. Like most of the furniture in the house, the couch, coffee table, and side table were made by Hale or his close colleagues, often in his favorite material: plywood.
In the dining room, a painting by Victoria Haven hangs over a maple side table that Hale designed and built while in architecture school at the University of Washington. The dining table was a banquet table that Hale repurposed, and the Mies van der Rohe chairs were vintage store finds given to Hale and Edmonds as a housewarming gift.
Pippa (left) and Maisie (right) play in the kitchen. Though Hale and Edmonds would have preferred Bosch appliances, a deal at Ikea was too good to pass up. They purchased all of the cabinets and appliances (a combination that earned them 20-percent off the total) for a mere $4,700.
On the east-facing porch off of the kitchen, Edmonds rests for a minute with the twins. There's sometimes a swing hanging from the overhead beams but more often than not "it's a place for morning coffee," Hale says.
The upstairs loft is an office-cum-craft room. Evidence of the family’s DIY nature is omnipresent. Hale built a planter box and art-supply cubbies with leftover plywood. The space is equipped with plumbing hookups in case—or more likely, when—the family chooses to convert the area into a third bedroom and bathroom.
The most difficult part of designing his own home was learning when to put the breaks on. "I made so many models and went through so many ideas," Hale says. When he finally accepted the budgetary and physical realities of the project, then the shape of the structure appeared naturally.
The bottom level features two equal-size bedrooms (shown here is Hale and Edmond's bedroom), a bathroom, and storage space. The family is always close to nature. One spring, Maisie and Pippa woke up each morning to a family of squirrels living in their nest outside the twin's bedroom window.
The bathroom features a Duravit sink that was incorrectly ordered for a job by the contractor and then donated to Hale. The stools are from Ikea, the tub was salvaged, and the tiles were surplus from another project.
The size of the house was determined by the radius of the crane needed to drill the foundations for the 11 piles that stabilize the building. From its position parked in a gracious neighbor's driveway, the crane could reach 70 feet into the property.
A porch at the bottom floor level serves as a rest space, play area, and work spot when Hale pulls out his tools. The horizontal window above connects the first floor to the deck so Hale and Edmonds can keep a watchful eye on the girls when they play outside.
Back in the living room, the girls busy themselves with books. Hale designed and made the plywood couch with built-in book storage as well as the plywood-and-red-plastic-laminate side table. Hale's partner at Shed Architecture and Design, Thomas Schaer, created the Richlite-topped, steel-base coffee table.
Though Hale spends plenty of time with Edmonds and the twins, he longs for more hours. "The main frustration with the house is all the little projects I still want to complete," he says. "I wish I didn't have to work so I could tinker all day."
The exterior is a mix of asphalt roll roofing, SnapLock metal panels, and Hardipanel. "The cladding was something I had fantasized about for a long time," Hale says. "Most clients wouldn't be psyched about it—who knows if I'll be psyched about it in five years." But for now, the house is home to a very happy family.