Renowned Pacific Northwest architect Gene Zema, known for his mix of modernism and Japanese architecture, designed this house around 1974 towards the end of his career. It features a rich palette of woods and Japanese joinery visible throughout the home. Located outside Seattle on Bainbridge Island, the house had decayed over the years and suffered from constant roof leaks. The clients, a family, brought in SHED Architecture & Design for minor fixes but the project expanded to an overhaul and revitalization that included the rebuilding of the house’s central living space, the reorganization of the kitchen, and a new outdoor deck.
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Nestled in a grove of Douglas fir trees, the house stands on series of wooden pylons in a Japanese-inspired fashion. Residents ascend the stairs, center, to reach its single floor. The exterior wooden shingles were intact and are original to the design.
The building’s character is defined by the texture and color of its exposed wood. The clients wished to maintain this unique design feature and the architects worked extensively to repair and maintain the original ebony hues. The oak floors were refinished. The dark brown beams and columns are stained fir; they only required repairs on the exterior. The ceiling is cedar.
The kitchen was originally an awkward alcove facing the main living area. The architects expanded the room and installed a classic modernist ‘service core’ at the kitchen’s center; it features large appliances such as a Sub-Zero fridge and an Asko washer/dryer. This allows easy movement through the kitchen to the adjacent dining room and main hallways.
The light fixtures, a string of dangling lights seen above the dining table, emulate what SHED Architects principal Thomas Schaer calls Zema’s “builderly” style: straightforward and unpretentious. The wooden screens, seen top right, are all-new to the house but follow Zema’s Japanese-inspired style.