Back in 2009, while he was still training to become an architect, Daniel Toole listened intently as a friend’s parents mused about building a modern house next to their traditional home in Seattle.
The couple, Liliane and Michael Flacco, had an extra-wide lot and used much of it for a large garden. But after raising their sons, Mr. Toole’s friend Nicolas, now 39, and Alexander, 34, in the three-story, early 20th-century house, they wanted to downsize to a smaller, modern one. Their long-term plan was to subdivide the lot, sell the old house and build a new one where the garden was.
“We had lived in that house for 30-plus years,” said Mr. Flacco, 69, a retired anesthesiologist. But after the children grew up, “it was way more house than we needed.”
Ms. Flacco, 71, who was born and raised in Switzerland, was thrilled by the idea of designing something dramatically different from their old home. “I had always liked modern architecture,” she said. “My idea was to do a kind of Scandinavian, simple house.”
own firm. After pandemic-related construction delays, the house for the Flaccos was completed at the beginning of 2021, at a cost of more than $3 million.
Ms. Flacco developed a landscape plan with her friend Dodi Fredericks, a landscape architect, and has continued to tinker with the meadow-like gardens, which sprout with Japanese maple trees, hydrangeas, ferns and sedums. “I want a loose, more natural landscape,” she said, as a foil to the clean lines of the house.
There were moments when the Flaccos worried that a concrete house might feel too unforgiving, but their concerns were allayed once they moved in. “There are a lot of gray, wintry days in Seattle, and I was afraid that I would feel like I was in a bunker,” Mr. Flacco said. “But it’s a really warm, inviting house.”
“After a few days,” Ms. Flacco added, “I didn’t want to go back to the old house at all.”
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