Cavehill Residence

Seattle, Washington

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The Cavehill Residence is a substantial alteration of an existing single-story house on the west slope of Seattle’s Queen Anne Hill. A neighboring house blocked potential dramatic views to Puget Sound and the distant range of Olympic Mountains. Because the street facade of the original house was much closer to the property line than presently allowed, projected new construction at an upper level, intended to access the desirable vista, had to conform to the current setback standard of fifteen feet.


The existing structure was in a badly deteriorated condition, which needed to be stabilized and strengthened to carry new living space above. A severely restricted budget required that the owners and their friends provide much of the construction labor over a period of several years. A general contractor was retained to perform essential skilled tasks such as structural foundation and framing work. He was also responsible for all electrical and plumbing interventions and the installation of gypsum wallboard finishes. Further, he provided guidance to the owners as needed for any efforts requiring a modest knowledge or level of skill.


Living, dining and kitchen spaces were placed on a new open loft at the upper level, beneath a distinctive “butterfly” roof, with uninterrupted views to the west, south and north. The resulting roofscape view of the Sound and Olympics was reminiscent of the owner’s childhood bunk bed view to the shipbuilding harbor of Belfast, Ireland. Private spaces were set on the ground level with the master bedroom positioned at the back for seclusion and garden access. An office/guestroom, was placed at the front and an integrated master/guest bath suite located in the middle. A simple steel stair with wooden treads was developed as a clear, elegant and sculptural transition element from a lower entry gallery to the upper loft. The house is sheathed with a cost-effective, owner-installed cementitious rainscreen siding system on metal tracks. Meticulous detailing of the system belies its basic warehouse-grade quality.

Awards & Publications

  • “Affordable Architecture: Great Houses on a Budget ” by Stephen Crafti (Australia), 2010
  • “Shoestring Modern” by Susanna Sirefman, 2008
  • “Emerald Isle, Emerald City” Seattle Metropolitan, April 2006
  • “25 Houses Under 1500 Square Feet” by James Trulove, 2004