Walk into Joe’s house, and you can see through walls.
You may remember the spot the house stands on: right across from Mosaic Coffeehouse, between 1st and 2nd Ave NE, we covered back in early 2009 when they knocked down the tiny old house that stood on the property previously. We can’t find a link to our post from the time, but Google Maps remembers what it looks like, and if you want a piece of it, just head down to Second Use, the building salvage company. Their crew spent a day taking everything out of the old house they thought re-usable before it was demolished: fir floors, cabinets, a few windows, doors and hardware, etc.
This is what Joe built in its place. This past weekend, we got a tour.
Joe Hurley is an architect, a long-time Wallingford resident, Wallingford Neighborhood Office board president, and someone who loves to get his hands dirty trying new things out (his previous home and building project over on 41st and Ashworth won the AIA House of the Month Award). And when an architect designs his own home, you’re apt to get a wishlist of goodies.
In this case, the wishlist included substituting Lexan for drywall on many of the walls. Why? Joe explained:
My archetypal experience was two months framing an addition to a health club [when I was in design school]. The day we finished, it was a spectacular assembly of wood studs, steel connectors and engineered wood beams. Two months later, it was covered in sheetrock and synthetic stucco, another pile in the American middle landscape.
One of the ideas for this house was to allow the structure and systems of the house to remain exposed whenever possible. Floor joists and beams are exposed, wiring is in galvanized conduit and plumbing in black ductile iron. The large south-facing windows look like a commercial storefront assembly, but the system is comprised of engineered lumber, with no trim outside of the glazing stops. …
The stud walls that support and surround the stairs are clad in semi-transparent Lexan, showing their composition clearly. The manifolds that control the hydronic heating system are in an open frame in the stair hall; when the system is engaged, lights come on, dials move; the function is apparent.
As you come into the house and past the central stairway, you let onto a balcony that overlooks the large, open family room / kitchen. We’ve always had a sweet spot for the open floor plan approach, since it creates more conversation and communication between people as they go about their daily lives of cooking, eating, reading, etc., but what was interesting about this house was that the openness extended up to the second story.
The balcony that horseshoed around the common room below had at one end a small office and, tucked in at the other end, a cozy daybed piled high with pillows and comforter. Joe practically blushed with pride when we asked him about this spot:
“I’ve been very lucky in that we have a family of readers,” he said, gesturing first at the two-story, floor-to-ceiling, house-spanning bookcases, and then to the reading nook. “[My daughter] Alice can be up there, reading or hanging out with friends while we go about our business down here and she can have her own space, be on her own, but still be aware of us, part of what’s going on down here, and vice versa.”
And what would a modern house built by a Wallingford architect be without a healthy dose of green?
“The house is designed to be passive-solar,” Joe explained. “The main space has large south-facing windows and a concrete slab-on-grade floor. The low winter sun enters the space and warms the thermal mass in the room, while the high summer sun is kept out with exterior screening.”
Joe allowed how the approach was a bit of an experiment in Seattle’s climate, though. “If this were California, big window passive solar would be a slam dunk. But here in Seattle, well, we’ll be watching our fuel bills this winter and learning how it worked.”
And, course, it wouldn’t be green without a garden. The back yard is green grass, but the front tumbling and raw.
“The landscape design (which I think is fabulous!) is by another neighbor (4300 block of 2nd), Heather Hirschy of Felopoldi Design,” Joe told us. “I asked her for something sort of ‘wild’ to contrast with the house, and her concept was for an ‘edible meadow’. The main pieces are wild grasses, interspersed with some flowering stuff and tons of edibles: apples, blueberries, tulameen, raspberries, blackberries, figs, kiwi fruit, grape vines, strawberries, lingonberries. We are looking forward to next summer!”
As a family not abashed of picking a berry while strolling the neighborhood, so are we.