Fred Bassetti’s, Rebuilt by Chadbourne + Doss Architects

When ever I see that an iconic piece of architecture has been remodeled, I tend to cringe. On far to many occasions, people buy a house not knowing anything about the architect or the period from which it came. The results are usually horrendous. People take a classic home and update it by attaching current stylings, finishes and fixtures that just don’t match.

This however is not an example of that.

Located on Mercer Island, Washington, this house is a reconstruction of one of  Seattle architect Fred Bassetti’s earliest designs. The house, built in 1962 fronts a busy street, Chadbourne and Doss architects wanted to root the house to its sloping wooded site and provide a protective shelter for family life.  The plan was opened up allowing for large family gathering spaces and visual perspectives throughout the full interior of the house.  A new metal skin graces the exterior, with interior cedar liner wraps over the roof. All of this helps to ground the house to the site.  An aluminum bar grating screen was added to enclose an exterior patio with deck filtering interior views,  forming a sparkling and diaphanous wall from the street.  The entry approach was redesigned with a cantilevered concrete landing in a sunken courtyard and a magnificent 4’ x 11’ pivot door opens to the interior.  Bathing spaces are  bright, smooth and seamless.  Materials throughout are natural but installed and crafted in an extremely crisp modern manner.

What works so well with this re-build is the care that the architects took in respecting the original design aesthetics and trying to compliment rather than remove them. The house still has a feeling that is reflective of the open architectural styling of the early to mid 1960’s, without being overly retro.

It's hard to tell, but I think that is a Lotus Elise in the car port.

Exterior glazing facing the deck

open interior looking from the kitchen to dining room

Interior wall glazing looking out to the thin deck and perforated aluminum screen

It's hard to tell from the photo, but I think those Lacava shower fixtures

Exterior rock garden and patio, note the Bertoia chairs.

exterior from the street

Photography by Benjamin Benschneider

One comment

  1. It would be interesting to find out Fred Bassetti’s opinion of this redesign. I am the owner of a 1948 Fred Bassetti house and when I had the opportunity to speak with him about it, he seemed to belittle his early modern design. Personally, I love his modernist work, but it was hard to argue about architecture with such a brilliant man. His point was modern architecture is often too rigid or cold and it fights against it’s environment and the people that interact within it. This is a over simplification of his point of view. As far as I am concerned my Bassetti house is inhabitant friendly and flows well within the surrounding natural environment. I would love to walk through this house to see how it feels.

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