Designed by Miller Hull in 1998, the Michaels Sisson home still looks good as new.
Nestled between thick rows of Douglas fir and maple trees, and just steps away from a dribbling creek, you’ll find the Michaels Sisson house, a narrow corrugated steel and wood-paneled cube atop a two-story concrete base. Nearly windowless from the front entrance, the home’s backside reveals massive two-story steel moment frame windows, blurring the lines between shelter and nature without a neighbor in sight.
And, by the way, it’s only a 13-minute drive from downtown Seattle.
Designed by Seattle architecture firm Miller Hull Partnership, the Michaels Sisson home was built on Mercer Island in 1998. Revered for its use of natural materials and emphasis on sustainability, the home is a poster child of Northwest Contemporary design, boasting three international design awards—two of which are AIA honor awards—and numerous mentions in Pacific Northwest design books.
But it was the pared-down interiors and off-the-grid illusion that allured Seattle couple Laurence and John Barratt to the home in 2008. Laurence Barratt, who, at the time, was a 360Modern realtor specializing in the sale of mid-century and contemporary Modern homes, was in the middle of renovating her recently purchased Paul Hayden Kirk home in Bellevue when the Michaels Sisson home went on the market. It was a difficult decision, especially considering Paul Hayden Kirk’s homes aren’t a dime a dozen, but after much deliberation, the couple bought the Miller Hull dwelling.
“We love significant and iconic architecture with simple and clean lines,” says Barratt. “This pure cube-shaped home planted amongst the trees was purely a dream house. We have always been attracted by the high ceilings, light, floor-to-ceiling windows, and the honest use of materials.”
Before the Michaels Sisson home became the architectural sensation it is today, it was just a piece of land. But in the late ‘90s, Washington couple Amy Michaels and Larry Sisson Jr. purchased the empty pie-shaped lot and called on Miller Hull principals David Miller and the late Robert Hull to design an out-of-the-box residence with a minimal carbon footprint. Advocates for sustainability before it was cool (the firm designed its first passive solar houses and earth sheltered homes starting in 1980), Miller Hull aimed to cut down as little trees as possible, which was a challenge considering the home was located in a dense forest. Remarkably, they only cut down three. Since the home was snug between dark shaded foliage, the designers also elevated the structure on a slim two-story concrete platform to bring in more light and become eye-to-eye with nature.
Today, more than 20 years later, the home’s overall structure remains exactly the same. The foundational concrete block includes a ground-level two-car garage and a second-story with two bedrooms, a Jack-and-Jill bathroom, a laundry room, and a recreation room, which the Barratt’s designated as the children’s area. The upper steel-clad levels share two-story moment frame windows that slide open to a sprawling backyard deck. Miller Hull wanted to protect existing Douglas fir roots surrounding the home’s foundation, so the main floor is efficiently designed to accommodate guests, family dinners, and outdoor entertainment while maintaining a small eco-footprint. The top floor includes two bedrooms, one master with an ensuite bathroom, and a guest room, which doubles as an office. Mirroring the home’s exterior materials, the interiors are composed of a unique combination of natural timber, steel beams, and reconstituted wood.
The only noticeable change to the home since 1998 is a detached Modern shed, which could be an additional workspace or studio. “We maintained [the home] with love, and gently modernized where appropriate, such as countertops, heating, roofing, and so on,” says Barratt. “We see ourselves as custodians of this northwest masterpiece.”
Now the Miller Hull showstopper is hitting the market once again. This week, Seattle realtor Monica Posada-Garcia (and Barratt’s former business partner) is listing the home with Coldwell Banker Danforth & Associates. Be a part of Pacific Northwest design history and make this Modern oasis your home.
“Building a house in this beautiful forest environment is an art by itself,” says Barratt. “It’s an incredibly well-built house and 22 years after being conceived it still gets the same ‘wow’ effect on people who see it the first time.”
Schedule a tour of the home at 5340 Butterworth Rd., Mercer Island, WA, 98040 with us at firstname.lastname@example.org. See more mid-century and contemporary Modern homes now on 360modern.com.