Green Design 2009: The Perfect Fit

A remodeled Sand Point dwelling is a green hit and a great lifestyle fit
A beguilingly contemporary Northwest-Asian effect.

Category: NW Home Articles


Eric and Judith Knowles knew that they were going to remodel their two-bedroom, 1948 Sand Point home some day. Besides being natural light- and space-deprived, its old-fashioned, compartmentalized design didn’t suit the young family’s out-going, interactive nature. 

A brief change of scenery jump-started their remodeling time line. 

“We came home from vacation and we were just tired of our house,” explains Eric. “So we said, ‘Let’s just do it.’” (Fortuitous timing: the couple shortly learned that their family was growing by another child, Josh; joining daughter, Taylor, and son, Aiden.) 

A self-confessed research junkie, Eric hit the Web hard and found a cache of architect prospects on the AIA Seattle site ( The Knowles ultimately selected Coates Design Architects on Bainbridge Island. Strong selling points included the firm’s reputation for contemporary sustainable design and Matthew Coates’ considerable people skills. “He’s got heart and passion for what he does,” says Judith. “He really asked a lot of questions about our lifestyle. ‘Do you entertain? What do you do during the day with your kids? What rooms are most important?’ ” (The firm has all clients fill out a lengthy lifestyle worksheet.) The deal sealer was Coates inviting the whole family to visit the ultimate portfolio piece, his own island home. “None of the other architects did that,” says Eric. 

The architect’s tour of the Knowles’ existing home was equally enlightening. “It was narrow, low and dark; all these things that were just the antithesis of them. Judith’s got this beautiful, wonderful big personality, and Eric’s physically a big man. Even when he was giving me the tour, he bumped his head on some of the ductwork in the basement two or three times,” Coates recalls with a laugh. The key issue, he says, was that “the house lacked what I would call a heart. It lacked a central energy focus... . My immediate response was we need to make a heart, a center, for your home, and that’s essentially what gave rise to the ‘lantern’ at the center of the home.” 

The soaring glass-wrapped center section, a.k.a. the lantern, was designed to slide in between the “saddlebags” of the existing house. (Although the plan was to work within the house’s original framework, surprise structural flaws—including walls that weren’t plumb with each other—necessitated gutting it to the sub-floor.) The resulting signature light-filled great room, boasting a ceiling section 13 feet high, now ties together the living room, dining room and kitchen, and the family. “We really made the central room a jewel box,” says Coates. Eric requested lots of warm woods, and the architect delivered, from buttery FSC-certified birch ply used for the custom cabinetry wall and ceiling, continuing out to the soffits, to the rich, renewable eucalyptus floors. The crowning touch is the Louis Poulsen globe pendants that were a house-warming gift from the firm. Says Coates, “I thought they were perfect because they look like droplets of light sort of hanging in the space.” 

In the kitchen, the streamlined, sustainable style is maintained thanks to a high-efficiency induction cooktop that melds perfectly with the absolute black honed granite countertops, and has a telescoping down draft that eliminates the need for a clunky ventilation hood. Says Coates of the cooktop, “It’s definitely the wave of the future… . They boil water faster and use half of the electric load and half of the electricity compared to an electric range, and significantly less energy than gas.” Above the cookto