BELLEVUE, Wash. — There’s something rather magical about Dan and Cari’s peacefully meandering driveway. For one thing, it’s tucked into its Bellevue neighborhood as stealthily as an endless scarf up Siegfried’s sleeve.
For another, once you eventually descend to the end of it, you’re in Old World Europe.
Well. It looks like Old World Europe. And that’s magically deliberate.
Dan, Cari and their college-age daughters Alyssa and McKenna live in a luxuriously romantic stone home on Lake Washington that gives the classic French chteau a run for its euros: 6,500 square feet of intricate craftsmanship; natural, durable materials; impeccable details — and 21st century livability.
“From the beginning, the owners wanted to give the house a feeling of Old World quality with European roots,” says architect Tom Kuniholm. “The tall stone gables, chimneys and terraces recall grand residential architecture of the British Isles or Lake Lucerne.”
Inside, a broad balcony overlook, sky-high ceilings, shallow arches and an impressively baronial hall/dining area express the requested aesthetic. But at the same time, Kuniholm says, “The house was built to provide for informal family life and relaxed entertaining.”
So, cozy pockets of comfort, practicality and fun snuggle all along the wide-open, highly vaulted great room: an intimate bay-windowed sitting area; a cutout, compact mirrored bar with actual pennies covering the actual bar; and a darkish nook that “started it all,” Cari says. “I ripped out a magazine picture and said, ‘Tom, make this happen.’ The whole house evolved from there.”
Informal and formal, Old World and state-of-the-art, this highly evolved home succeeds grandly on many levels — literally, many, many levels.
Its low-bank, acre-or-so waterfront site, at the end of that winding, hilly drive, posed quite a challenge, Kuniholm says. “None of us wanted a daylight basement. We went to great pains to terrace down to the water, and the floor plan is strategically stepped down to follow the contour of the hillside. There is a fair amount of level changes to nestle into the waterfront: three floors with half-levels in between, to get the hillside to work with the house.”
All those levels require a lot of stairs, as you might imagine, from the welcoming sunken auto court to the exquisitely tiered backyard terrace — with one almost-unimaginably OMG entry stairway in-between: locally milled walnut treads, risers and stringers bracketed by meticulously hand-wrought iron.
“It’s the tour de force,” says Kuniholm.
That could be an understatement.
“All the steelwork is hand-forged, with a hand-shaped, carved railing,” says artisan fabricator Nathie Katzoff, of NK Woodworking & Design. “Each piece is unique in geometry and 100 percent custom.”
The elaborate handrail is held together by just two or three fasteners, he says; otherwise it’s all wood joinery. “It’s really traditional, 2,000-year-old techniques. It was a fair amount of work.”
That could be another understatement.
Katzoff crafted the staircase in the shop and installed it in pieces. All told, he says, it required 3,000 hours of labor.
While we’re talking numbers … there’s that stone: 38 tons on the exterior, says Hamish Anderson, of Hamish Anderson Custom Homes, all from a quarry near Bozeman, Mont.
“It was really great when Cari and Dan gave the green light to go all stone,” Kuniholm says. “It gave the ability to have a traditional-house level of authenticity, not just like sprinkling around stone.”
Authenticity counts. And here, in this hidden Old World slice of high-tech Bellevue, it works. Magically.
“I’m from the East Coast and live in an old farmhouse here,” says Kuniholm. “I appreciate well-done traditional work and when someone wants traditional materials and a high level of craftsmanship. (Dan and Cari) knew exactly what they wanted, and they got it. I can see the house suits them.”
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