Courtyard provides focal point for Seattle home by MW Works


The architecture firm MW Works in Seattle helped a couple build this house themselves, which is arranged around a courtyard and clad in weathered reclaimed wood.

Helen Street from MW Works

MW Works designed the home on Helen Street for a couple and their two dogs who wanted to return to town from their country estate and downsize. The corner lot in Seattle’s Madison Valley neighborhood is near the Washington Park Arboretum and a short walk from local shops.

Helen Street from MW Works

“The new project would reduce their way of life to a smaller area specifically tailored to their tastes and activities,” said the architects.

Helen Street from MW Works

With a modest budget, clients took on project management and built themselves up. They wanted a modern, light-flooded home that gave them privacy and still offered a view.

“Most of all, the owners described a calm design that blends in with the landscape and creates a noticeable calm in the house,” said MW Works, who also updated a mid-century modern house in town.

Helen Street from MW Works

An inner courtyard in the middle of the house brings light into the rooms and acts as the organizational center for the plan. This private outdoor area is hidden from the street by a screen made of steel panels and wire mesh for plants to grow on.

Helen Street from MW Works

Behind it, areas with wooden terraces, which are used for eating and sitting, are divided by rocky parts with lots of green. One of the covered walkways leads from the street to the entrance of the house, covered by a section of roof that extends over a small garden shed opposite.

Access to the larger terrace is via floor-to-ceiling glass partition walls that slide backwards and open the interior kitchen and dining room to the outside.

Helen Street from MW Works

On the ground floor, glass alternates with dark cement panels that block the neighbors’ sight lines. A library and two bathrooms on this floor are among the hidden areas, while a fireplace clad in the same material partially separates the lounge from the rest of the living area.

Helen Street from MW Works

The master suite is reserved on the upper floor and is clad with weathered cedar boards. There is sufficient storage space between the bedroom on one side and the washroom on the other.

An outdoor fireplace and garden shed are both covered in blackened reclaimed wood, while the indoor palette is much lighter – with light tones and accents of steel and marble in the kitchen.

Helen Street from MW Works

“The limited construction budget focused on key areas and experiences while keeping others simple,” said MW Works.

The photography is by Andrew Pogue.

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Project Loans:

Architects: MW Works
Lead Architects: Eric Walters, Steve Mongillo
Design team: Suzanne Stefan
Landscaping: Wittman Estes (Matt Wittman and Jody Estes)
General contractor: Treebird Construction (Ian Jones)
Structural Engineer: PCS (Jim Harris)