Studio in Seattle
James Jonassen of NBBJ combines a family residence with a studio for his painter wife.
Edie Cohen -- Interior Design, 8/1/2001 12:00:00 AM
Seattle, home to Microsoft, Starbucks, the Space Needle, and the Experience Music Project, also features a structure known only to an elite architecture crowd. Conceived by artist/developer Koryn Rolstad, it is a complex of two-story shell spaces designed by Ed Weinstein as live/work lofts for local artists. The waterfront project has won a national AIA honor award. James Jonassen, the managing partner of the city's largest architecture/design firm, NBBJ, and his wife Marilyn, a painter, reside in the 3,500-sq.-ft. penthouse, which boasts a 1,400-sq.-ft. terrace.
The Jonassens were clear about their needs. As first-time loft dwellers, they were intent on celebrating the intrinsic, pared-down aesthetic. They wanted a contiguous studio/living room layout that maintained the industrial vernacular of the building. But they also desired a richer, more residential component for the public areas, concentrated on the lower level, and the private bedrooms and library above.
Jonassen constructed a 17-ft.-high, 66-ft.-long, 15-in.-deep wall spanning the length of the interior. It effectively bisects the floorplate. He conceived the side facing the terrace as a "great hall" where studio and living spaces have merely a hint of separation, established by a freestanding concrete-and-steel plate fireplace. Concrete flooring, which incorporates steel bands providing access panels for utilities, adds to the arty aesthetic, as do painted steel beam covers and a raw steel stairway and valance. On the other side of the wall, madrona wood floors and warm colors throughout the entry, dining room, and kitchen suggest a softer face.
The architect describes the wall's construction as a masterpiece of carpentry. Paneled with vertical grain hemlock, all the veneers come from a single log. The wall also presents a lively grid, its pattern established through the interplay of panels and painted steel background, and serves as a framework for 10 art glass windows along both levels of the space. The Jonassens created the windows themselves by assembling layers of glass and copper screening that were then fired with the assistance of Peter David Studios.
Marilyn's paintings crowd the atelier. Her art comprises two distinct bodies of work—on the one hand, oil-on-canvas depictions of abstracted feminine forms; on the other, an investigation of "the essence of paint" executed in acrylic on acrylic panels.
As collectors, the Jonassens concentrate on works by artists of the Pacific Northwest. Their collection includes oils, acrylics, ceramics, and works on paper by Brent Rogers, Fay Jones, Carolyn Law, Akio Takamori, and Richard Sperry.
The project was completed in 18 months. Moberg Epstein Architects are credited as associated architects.