Wood Block Residence is an apt name for this extensively remodeled house, originally designed by Seattle modernist Fred Bassetti. “We give our clients homework,” explains architect Daren Doss, AIA. “We ask them to pick some analogies, terms to characterize their house.” Doss and partner Lisa Chadbourne applied these owners’ image of a child’s stacking blocks as an organizational device throughout the house. The effect is especially striking in the kitchen that, along with a master suite, occupies the entire main floor.

A red cedar ceiling, punctuated by black-painted beams, extends beyond the indoor living space and wraps down the end walls, creating the sense of the building envelope as a simple, open container. Into this volume, the architects inserted two stark, white, blocklike forms that make up the kitchen. The first, a “wet wall,” envelops the sink counter and a bank of lacquered wood cabinets in a surround surfaced with waterproof cement plaster. The second, an island that combines work and casual seating, echoes the wet wall’s upturned U-shape in a stone-composite counter that wraps to the stained oak floor.

Bracketing the kitchen are a sitting area with a plaster-finished fireplace wall and a dining space. A third “block,” clad in blackened steel-plate panels, contains a pantry and an office and separates the dining area from the master suite. Applied with adhesive rather than exposed fasteners, the metal skin “kind of dematerializes that volume,” Doss says. Like the painted structural beams and black sliding-door frames and mullions, the pantry yields right-of-way to the room’s brighter elements. “The clients wanted the kitchen to be the focus of the main living space,” Chadbourne says. With the wet wall as a backdrop and the island as a stage, “it becomes kind of a theater of cooking.”

project credits:

project: Wood Block Residence, Mercer Island, Wash.

architect: Chadbourne + Doss Architects, Seattle

general contractor: Constantly Building, Seattle

structural engineer: Swenson Say Fagét, Seattle


cabinets: Boloni; countertops: Caesarstone; garbage disposer: InSinkErator; lighting fixtures: Translite; oven: Gaggenau; paints/stains: Sherwin Williams, Cabot; patio doors: Fleetwood; plumbing fittings: New Form; plumbing fixtures: Blanco; refrigerator: Sub-Zero.