Postwar split-level remodel in Seattle: Zipper House

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The Zipper House is a modern remodel in Seattle, Washington offering a new take on the postwar split-level type, designed by DeForest Architects. At first glance, the existing house was less than inspiring, a series of small rooms packed around a cramped central stair. The foundation was solid and the house well-maintained, but there was nothing to set it apart from hundreds of similar post-war homes.

 The client said he wanted a house designed around everyday tasks like listening to music, catching up on e-mail, cooking, doing laundry, and hanging out with family, friends, and pets.

 The architects came up with a plan to extend and transform the split-level type. By opening up the stair, raising the roof, and adding a fifth level, the architects saw the opportunity to create a ‘zipper’ that linked views and spaces and that better fit the client’s informal style of living, working, and entertaining.

For cost, zoning, and environmental reasons, the architects re-used the foundation and floor framing for the first four floor levels. Additions to the footprint of the Zipper House were limited to decks and a small entry vestibule.

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The exterior of the house is clad in low-maintenance fiber-cement siding with stained wood accents and inexpensive thermal-break aluminum windows.

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On the interior, a light-filled central stair connects the three upper levels with varying degrees of transparency and creates numerous opportunities for displaying art.

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The master suite includes a spa-like bath, exercise room/nursery, and stunning views of downtown Seattle and Mount Rainier. A bamboo-wrapped partition allows light and views to be shared between the bed and bath while light from the stair filters through a watery blue resin panel behind the walnut and steel vanity.

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PHOTOGRAPHER  Ben Benschneider

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