Design Inspiration
April 20, 2022

Homes of Seattle – A Look into the Architecture of the PNW

By: Anna Popov

Design Inspiration
April 20, 2022

Homes of Seattle – A Look into the Architecture of the PNW

By: Anna Popov

Being based in the Seattle area, we may be a little biased, but we think that this this area has a very special charm. The major hub of the Pacific Northwest, Seattle is a city with a rich and fascinating history. This history is ingrained in the city through its buildings, and even more so in its residential architecture. These homes reflect the times in which they were bult and are the homes that we enter regularly and get to put a fresh take on. They carry the characteristics of the styles back in the day and have withstood the test of time. Some neighborhoods of the city have a distinct look to them, built together in the same design era. Other places are a mixing pot of homes that create a uniquely diverse residential area of several different prominent styles.

As designers, we love to integrate our designs with the natural character of the home. Some homes have personality built right in and we love to bring it out, emphasize it and make it the heart of our design.  By taking inspiration from the architecture of the home, it can be lovingly remodeled to bring out its best features with a modern twist.

As with all cities with a rich history, Seattle has many different residential styles, but there are a few that have a distinct “Seattle-ness” and PNW charm that we enjoy and see the most – take a look.

Queen Anne - 1890

The Queen Anne style is a variation of Victorian architecture that peaked in 1880-1890. This style is most prominently found in the Queen Anne neighborhood of Seattle, named such because of the residential architecture. As a popular English style of the time, these homes would have been among the first significant houses to be built in Seattle and remain as lofty and elegant today as they were in the past.

Queen Anne homes look like miniature, adorned castles, with steeply pitched roofs and angles. They have round, peaked turrets, which were a key feature of their asymmetrical facades. Wrap-around porches with large overhangs were ideal for the Seattle weather. They were also heavily decorated with spindles and the use of textures on the exterior.

The Seattle Box - 1900

In reaction to the fussiness of the Victorian age and the Queen Anne style, the Seattle Box was born in the early 1900s. A variant of the popular foursquare house, a Seattle Box home is a simple square, two story building with four main rooms on the first floor and four bedrooms on the second. It could be adapted to different styles, with ornamentation and extra features added or removed with ease. One of the defining features of the Seattle box were bay windows and large porches to gather more sunlight. 

You can see both the remnants of Queen Anne architecture, and the start of the Craftsman style in these homes as they are often embellished and have asymmetrical features, but in a distinct, unique way that merges both styles.

The Seattle Box seems to be making a comeback in some modern Seattle neighborhoods, as architects seek to incorporate classic Seattle design into newer, urban areas.

The Craftsman Bungalow | 1910

The Craftsman Bungalow was the modern architecture of its time! It was born from a desire to appeal to the lifestyle of middle-class families rather than the extravagant Victorian and Tudor homes of the past. Bungalows offered more informal living, with more open interior spaces and the use of natural materials, such as wood and river rock. These houses are modest one-story homes with large, covered porches and eaves perfectly suited for the chronically rainy Seattle weather.

We think these bungalows exude charm and comfort and that is one of the reasons they are still so popular today. They made great homes for people who live alone and small families whilst allowing you to live in a little piece of history.

Midcentury Modern - 1950

The city of Bellevue, just outside Seattle, is home to a great many Midcentury Modern houses that are perfectly suited to the winding, hilly streets of the area. These homes had a more streamlined look, with brick and stone textures on the exteriors. Living rooms; the key feature of these homes, had cathedral-like ceilings and large window walls, with wraparound outdoor decks to overlook the views. The bedrooms were often lodged half underground and were more cave-like, a stark contrast to the light and airy main level.

Inspired by the Midcentury Modern movement, these homes were a result of bringing modernism into the post-war suburbs. The style emphasized open floors plans and bringing the outdoors in, a theme that is still very present in modern architecture today. Function was a key aspect of this style and focused on the needs of the average family while providing simplicity and integration with the natural landscape.

Modern Townhome - 2000

Today, as you drive through the urban areas and suburbs of the Seattle area, you will see an influx of townhomes being built. These homes are often three to four stories tall and are narrow, as to fit more houses close together. Modern Townhomes are able to accommodate a family in a reasonably sized home on a relatively small patch of land, ideal in a busy city with limited space. These townhomes also have the modern appeal, with minimal interiors, the latest gadgets, and green building design. However, they definitely present their own unique design challenges that push the limits of good design. The smaller footprint and stairways skirt the line between apartment and house style that requires clever thinking and a high reliance on functionality and use of space.

The Seattle Area has homes for every kind of preference; old or new, ornamental or sleek, historic or modern. As designers, we have a responsibility to consider the original architectural features of a home when we come at it with fresh eyes. We love this aspect of our work and look forward to many more opportunities to design homes of character.

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