Backyard Goals: Check Out This Bellevue Lakefront Cabana

For a Bellevue couple who love the outdoors, this house is everything
Master Suite: This beautiful cabana was designed to match the existing Gene Zema-designed house behind, with an emphasis on seating to maximize entertaining potential

This article appears in print in the September 2018 issue. Click here to subscribe.

Jim and Mary Jo Bruckner have always loved the water, even while growing up in the landlocked Midwest. But it was Jim’s experience in the Navy and the time the couple spent stationed along the West Coast over the years that solidified a deep, enthusiastic appreciation of the element—the sea, Lake Washington (outside their front door) and even the little stream that trickles through the Japanese-inspired garden at the heart of their Bellevue property.

But in 2010 when the Bruckners bought the property and its 1962 house, designed by celebrated local architect Gene Zema and located in Bellevue’s Enatai neighborhood, they recognized it had more to offer than sweeping lake views and a dock for their sailboats. Zema’s Japanese-meets-midcentury-modern aesthetic offered a unique design that Mary Jo adored. The surrounding grounds, covered in lush, established landscaping, was a big draw for Jim, an avid gardener. They knew a remodel was needed to bring the house’s charm up to date. With it, they decided to add a waterfront cabana.

Interior designer Laurie Chriest helped come up with the cabana's look. Photo by Alex Crook

“My goal was to have a space at the water that had a bathroom and storage,” Mary Jo says. “People always ask why we didn’t have a loft where people could sleep—that wasn’t our goal. We just wanted a comfortable entertaining space.”

The Bruckners on the cabana steps. Photo by Alex Crook

Mary Jo contacted Redmond-based Stone Pillar Remodeling, contractors they’d worked with on a project for their previous Mercer Island home. With architect Mark Nelson, the team designed the boathouse, as the Bruckners refer to it, to suit the needs of a family—Mary Jo and Jim have three grown sons—that loves to enjoy the lake. The Bruckners also enjoy sharing their view and property with friends.

A second, smaller seating area is positioned away from the cabana and right on the lake. Photo by Alex Crook

The inside of the structure is relatively small—just under 500 square feet—with a couch that faces the fireplace, and a small kitchenette featuring countertops, cabinetry and old copper fixtures taken from the main house after the remodel and repurposed. But the area is more about incorporating the cabana with the outdoors, achieved with sliding doors that open the structure completely on two sides; a patio, where Jim loves to barbecue; and multiple outdoor seating options that provide different vantage points from the property’s slope down to the lake.

In a region where the outdoors isn’t always hospitable, the Bruckners have found a way to enjoy it as much as possible.


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