Sound Design

A Pacific Northwest home blends the indoors with the outdoors.

August 01, 2001


Floor-to-ceiling windows on the “view” side of this 4,044-square-foot Washington state custom home provide the owners with vistas of Bellingham Bay and a bustling port that services Alaska-bound ships.

From a vantage point high above the entrance to Puget Sound, this custom residence in Washington state offers its lucky owners fabulous views of island-strewn Bellingham Bay. The 4,044-square-foot home features a floor plan that deliberately blurs the distinction between indoor and outdoor living space for clients who want to revel in the beauty of the Pacific Northwest.

Designed by architect Rick Chesmore, the home features an abundance of glass including windows, sliding doors and a massive central skylight. These function not only to capture the spectacular view potential of the site but also to infuse the interior living spaces with sunshine, which is so elusive in this area. “Bringing natural light indoors was a very important design element for this home,” Chesmore says, “particularly for the Northwest climate.”


The formal dining room features a pair of massive sliding glass doors that meet in a postless corner made possible by steel beams that support the ceiling.

The three-level home is oriented to provide its residents with a 270-degree vista that includes Bellingham Bay, Lummi Island and Mount Baker. The home is virtually surrounded by outdoor patio space, and Chesmore’s design ensures that every room has its own “outdoor” focal point.

While the home features numerous elements of Prairie-style architecture, including dramatic cantilevers, horizontal lines, and natural stone and wood construction, Chesmore hesitates to classify the home this way. “I don’t really focus on a style when I design a house,” he says. “ I concentrate more on the use of materials and the interplay of light and space. This home has a clean, simple look that is reflective of the climate.


Chesmore designed the home so that every room, including the kitchen/breakfast nook, has its own unique view.

“My clients had a strong desire to make use of native materials both inside and out,” Chesmore adds. The homeowners’ primary residence, it is constructed of western red cedar, fir and Montana ledge stone, with many of these materials used indoors and out.

Builder Gerrit Dykstra’s craftsmanship is evident in the home’s cabinetry and finish trim, which was all custom-built in his shop. “This house is filled with miscellaneous details that really make it stand out,” Dykstra says. The woodwork throughout the home, primarily vertical-grain fir, was finished with a natural stain to allow the grain variations and normal aging process to remain visible, he says.


Flush doors and contemporary hardware gives the home’s custom-designed and -built cabinetry a sleek “Northwest” look.

The main floor features the primary living space, including separate living and dining rooms and a spacious kitchen/nook and family room. A central hallway connects the rest of the house with two secondary bedrooms also located on this level.

The upper floor is reserved as a retreat for the homeowners and includes their luxurious bedroom suite and bath. A separate den and walkway on this level provide an overview of the downstairs. “It really is an exceptionally open plan,” Chesmore says.

The steep slope of the site, coupled with the clients’ desire for plenty of storage space, presented a design challenge. “They wanted enough garage space for three cars, but the topography made this very hard to achieve,” Chesmore says. His solution was to give the home a split-garage design with the larger, two-car garage located below grade. This “attached” garage provides access to the home’s lower “mechanical” level and features a steel-reinforced concrete roof that supports a fully landscaped courtyard above it. A second, single-car garage is linked to the rest of the home by an entry canopy.


Bluestone steps ascend to the home’s entry canopy, which separates the main house from a detached, single-car garage.

Located 10 feet above street level, a winding, “processional” entry drive leads to the main residence. “You don’t see the house right away,” Chesmore says. “You actually ascend to it.”

The site’s steep grade and pie-shaped lot also tested Dykstra’s skills as a builder, Chesmore says. “It really demanded a lot of control on the part of the contractor to pull it off.”

Dykstra built a temporary, paved access driveway that was used during the home’s construction and later removed to make way for the final, rambling approach.

The home was completed in October 1999.


To maintain the home’s open character, Chesmore used cabinets to function as room dividers, such as here in the family room, where the stone countertop is actually part of the kitchen.

Builder | Dykstra Construction Services, Lynden, Wash.

Architect | Chesmore/Buck Architecture, Kirkland, Wash.

Interior Design | Deena Skaggs, Seattle

Major Products Used | Appliances: ASKO; SubZero; Thermador | Cabinetry: wood | Countertops: (kitchen) Burlington Stone, Broughton Moor; (dining room) bluestone | Doors: Northstar | Exterior Finish: cedar | Fireplace(s): Vermont Castings; Rumford masonry | Flooring: hardwood; bluestone | HVAC: radiant heat | Lighting: Juno; Reidhardt; Flos; Teka; Bega; Louis Poulsen | Plumbing Fixtures: Kohler | Roofing: slate | Windows: WindowCraft

Also See

Just Naturally Bright

Floorplan: First Floor

Floorplan: Second Floor

Floorplan: Basement

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