Swiss with a Twist - Design Bureau

The street view shows the rotated landscape stairs. The driveway is made of pervious pavers to minimize rainwater runoff. 

The steel and wood stair was designed to be open and transparent. The railing is walnut, and the tread is made of Trestlewood, recycled from the Great Salt Lake. 


Swiss with a Twist

Thursday, December 15th, 2011

by Sarah Handelman
photos by Dale Lang

Space is limited, and excess is frowned upon”—this was the Swiss design principle that Seattle architect Daniel Stettler used to define his renovation of an inefficient home on a petite neighborhood lot. As the director of a University of Washington summer design program in Switzerland, the well-traveled architect had plenty of experience working with tight spaces in the historic Swiss village of Tschlin. Thanks to his summers spent overseas, Stettler knew that small spaces could inspire creative, sustainable design—knowledge that he put to work while designing the Wallingford Eco-House.

In his credo, Stettler used “excess” in terms of both the house’s physical and carbon footprint. “Early on it became clear that for this couple, sustainability was a priority,” says Stettler. He worked with Eco Innovations, a green building consultant, to monitor the house’s sustainability goals. With solar panels, rainwater cisterns, and a hybrid radiant heating system, the house achieved a five-star Built Green rating and scored 630 points on the Built Green rating system, one of the highest numbers for a Seattle home at the time. 

Eco-friendly design aside, the house’s small-but-ideal corner lot still posed a challenge. Without changing the footprint of the original house, Stettler designed the current landscape stairs to corkscrew around the front of the house, which made better use of the tricky site. The second floor of the house was then rotated to face out, and in one Rubik’s cube twist, the Wallingford Eco-House maximized its view of Mount Rainier, giving new dimension to the tight lot.

While the house boasts the best of sustainable technology, Stettler says the real luxury is that the house is an integral part of a vibrant urban neighborhood. The corner lot provides access to shops and restaurants and cultivates a village life in an auto-centric city, another example of Stettler’s European-influenced design thinking.  

As Stettler embarks on two more sustainable home projects and a Swiss-inspired café, he continues to draw from his experiences in Europe to make Seattle a more sustainable community. The designer hopes that the Wallingford Eco-House will become an example of how Seattle can think globally to increase its urban density. “Traveling gives us access to new ideas,” he says. “I’ve designed outside of Seattle, but I am committed to the city. As someone who travels regularly, I feel it’s my duty to make people aware of what other options they may have.”

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