A Natural Take on a Modern Mount Baker Home

Reclaimed wood accents and siding help soften this house’s modern angles.

After five years in a one-room loft just off the Pike-Pine corridor, Liga Mezaraups and her husband, Ian Wright, felt like they were living on top of each other. “Although we love each other a lot,” Liga says, “we probably don’t love each other so much that we want to be in the same room all the time.” To compound matters, the two health care professionals—he’s an anesthesiologist, she’s a nursing administrator—were disrupting each other’s varied schedules.

The search began for a new place. They wanted walkability and bikeability, so they hewed close to the city center they knew: Capitol Hill, Madrona, Madison Park. But a couple weekend drives through Mount Baker—its diversity, its familial feel, parents teaching their kids to ride bikes, denizens walking their dogs—opened them up to the neighborhood, and when they found a modern, four-story home a quick walk from the light rail station and Lake Washington, they fell in love. It was a house built on spec that seemed made just for them.

John Trieger of JT Architecture designed the home to blend with the land and the neighborhood. Yet he had to meet the rigorous passive-model environmental standards that builder Dwell Development demanded: a five-star Green Built certification—triple-paned windows, thickly insulated walls, heat-recovery ventilation, airtight sealing. With solar panels the house could achieve near net zero energy cost.

From a design standpoint, its plot of land, previously undeveloped, was the first hurdle: A slope rises more than 20 feet from street level to the alley behind the house. Instead of fighting the steep grade, Trieger embraced the topography, creating a bridge to the detached garage, and then introducing outdoor spaces into the structure’s four stories with decks and a grotto and a covered patio.

That vision—folding the natural world into a modern, high-functioning design—carries over into the house’s aesthetics, too. Large windows invite natural light and tree views, while century-old wood taken from an Eastern Oregon barn functions as outdoor siding and softens the design’s modern angularity so that it better melds with its Mount Baker context. “A lot of builder-boxes reflect all the high-tech stuff that’s going on in Seattle,” Trieger says, “but they forget about the natural beauty that was here originally.”

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