Envelope House

Seattle, Washington

1 / 10 – Photo credit: Nic Lehoux
“Livable infill multi-family housing is hard to do, but has acquired a level of urgency in a growing region. This project makes the most of its steep, narrow site, interlocking three units that successfully exploit light, view and context.”
Jury Comment, AIA Seattle



Located in a dense Seattle neighborhood, the Envelope House slips into its narrow urban site. Designed under new city building regulations that allow the use of existing non-conforming building footprints, this small three-unit structure is part of the neighborhood’s transition from single to multi-family buildings.

The increased density provides opportunities to explore issues of light, circulation and privacy, while maximizing the investment potential of this long held property. Two articulated volumes cascade down the sloping site and form an elevated central courtyard. Flanked by reading pods and two transparent stair volumes, the sunlit courtyard becomes a vertical garden that is both a connection to the landscape and a veil of privacy between the units.

The three units are arranged as interlocking spaces that give each dwelling its own approach and views. Stairs to the roof decks become habitable spaces and small bay windows push outward like saddlebags to capture the magnificent views of Lake Union and the Seattle skyline, while screening neighboring properties. Fiber cement panels and galvanized steel flashings form a trim and economical exterior skin.

The client’s desire to develop an architecturally and socially significant structure within the bounds of a limited budget informed the design at every level.

Project Data

Seattle, Washington
2003 – 2006
3,205 sf


Honorable Mention, Urban Living Category, Sunset
Futureshack Award
Gold Award, Custom Urban In-Fill Home of the Year
Citation for Design
Merit Award
Home of the Year Design Award