An Outdoor Oasis on Lake Washington

A Seward Park courtyard conjures up the Mediterranean
Shannon O'Leary  |   July 2014   |  FROM THE PRINT EDITION
The main interior rooms, including the kitchen, spill out into the garden courtyard and its dolce water views. Light is maximized via six sets of glass double doors, plus a central door with a glass canopy; the cable lighting ensures that this multiseasonal microclimate can be enjoyed long after the sun sets. (The architect designed the steel porch lights.)

If it were on a postcard, you might mistake this new Seward Park house for an old Italian estate overlooking warm Mediterranean waters.

And that’s just what Seattle architect Tim Hossner and his clients had in mind when creating this house on the southern reaches of Lake Washington. The idea, Hossner says, was to create a modern interpretation of a classic Mediterranean villa. And what’s a villa without an elegantly enticing courtyard? In fact, for these active young homeowners (he owns a software company, she works in health care), and their two teenage sons, the courtyard was designed to serve as a livable extension of the house itself.

The house makes a modern Mediterranean architectural splash (note the solar garage roof), which is enhanced by the landscaped courtyard

Hossner explains that they wanted a large outdoor room with its own “microclimate” that could snare as much heat from the Northwest sun as possible, thereby making relaxing and entertaining outdoors feasible nearly year-round. So, instead of opting for a street-facing, western orientation, like that of most of its neighbors, this house turns its broad face fully to its sunny south and onto its perfectly parallel courtyard, which Hossner designed to be wide open, encouraging sunlight to seek out every inch of its smooth paver and gravel surface and border plantings. (A manicured lawn leading down to the lake often hosts family croquet and badminton games.) “The typical Northwest home is all about trees and shade,” Hossner says, “[but] we really wanted to keep it open and to capture more space and a sense of a graciously proportioned space [for the courtyard].”

Canopies made of sail fabric are suspended from a cable system, allowing for a pleasant experience, even during summer’s hottest days

Perhaps the greatest inducer of grace and space is the overhead cable system conceived by Hossner and executed by his close collaborator on outdoor projects, landscape architect Randy Allworth. Not only is it an easy, charming way to hang lighting, including party lanterns, but it also makes a fine line upon which to drape a dreamy sun-shading canopy. “The owners wanted something they could bring out in spring and summer, when the sun starts becoming intense and they do need some shade,” Hossner says. “The rest of the year, they can just pull it away and get all the sunlight pouring into the courtyard and into the main rooms of the house.”

And beyond serving as a practical climate-control measure, when the brilliant white canopy is fully deployed during the height of the summer heat, it’s hard to imagine a Northwest villa that makes a prettier picture.

Architects: Tim Hossner (project lead), Jim Replinger, Christopher Osolin, Replinger Hossner Osolin Architects (downtown, 911 Western Ave., No. 304, 206.933.8228; Bainbridge Island, 10456 Beachcrest Drive, 206.842.1246;
Landscape architect: Randy Allworth and Nanda Patel (canopy assistance), Allworth Design (Queen Anne, 159 Western Ave. W; 206.623.7396;
Custom sail-fabric canopy: Quantum Sail Design Group (Ballard, 6319 Seaview Ave. NW; 206.634.0636;