Sculpted For Life

A ROUND, RED eye perched in a chunky brown wooden post sees all in Doris and Steve Griggs' retro-modern Bryant contemporary.

There is a lot to see.

"That's a Doris Chase," Steve says of the sculpture, the latest addition to their artistic home. It's not near the size of Chase's well-known Kerry Park piece, "Changing Form," but it is just right atop the built-in maple sideboard that spans the living and dining rooms. And it fits just so among the clean lines of room, furniture and art. All of it Mid-century Modern.

There's just no other way to put it, the Griggses are hip.

Steve is a jazz sax player, leader of the Steve Griggs Quintet and, by day, a mild-mannered computer-systems consultant. Doris was a graphic artist in New York for many years before going back to school for a degree in social work, and no matter what she's wearing you just have to ask where she got it. Son Benny, 7, has a playroom that is home to a major robot collection and a "Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith" banner in Portuguese, sent by family in Brazil.

Together at Last
Together at Last

In three houses on one block,
a family unites

They can't help it if they ooze cool.

Sitting around the Noguchi glass-top coffee table, Steve says, "We did Heywood Wakefield for a while, but we realized you could go too far with one thing."

So now they mix with care in a retro palette of orange, olive, gray, cream, black and the full range of brown.

"We want things that were modern 50 years ago, modern now and will be modern in 50 years," Doris says.

And that brings us to the house.

"We're living inside a sculpture that we love," Steve says by way of crediting architect Michael Knowles, who was with Hughes Studio Architects when the 2,500-square-foot stucco-and-stone house of gently settled rectangles, clean lines and a metal roof was built by Eric Stelter of Flip Builders in 2002.

Doris' mother calls it a modern Tuscan villa.

The inside features light maple everywhere (cabinets, paneling, master bed) and as many corner windows as the laws of nature will allow (living room, Benny's room, guest-room bath, playroom).

Those windows are frames for the beauty beyond, courtesy of Mother Nature and landscape architects Langstraat-Wood. Bamboo brushes against frosted glass in a bathroom. A corner window in the living room frames a lovely magnolia tree. Out back is an expanse of lawn and row of fruit trees that stretches across Steve's parents' yard next door. Frosty mountains are featured in the master bedroom. The front walk is a mix of mosses and grasses in greens from dark to neon.

And while Doris and Steve wanted a house that spoke for and to them, they also wanted a house that spoke to their parents."There was a lot of melding of our own lifestyle and aesthetic, and what we needed to do for family. It was important to us in case any grandparents needed to live with us in the future," Doris says.

"Even down to handles and pulls. We like clean and spare versus how are these for arthritic hands to hold? Can they open the drawers? Can they be comfortable?

With aging parents in mind, doorways and halls are wide; the guest room and bath are on the ground floor.

But while they were accommodating, the Griggses weren't compromising.

"Steve has always said this house fits us like a glove," Doris says.

"We were very concerned with form," Steve says. "You realize how you form your life to fit your home. And we got to form a house to fit our life."

Rebecca Teagarden is assistant editor of Pacific Northwest magazine. Benjamin Benschneider is a magazine staff photographer.

Doris Griggs' strong sense of graphic design runs throughout the home, done in Mid-century Modern. The dining-room chairs are the classic Panton Chair designed by Vernor Panton in 1967. On warmer days, the outside becomes part of the dining and living area with large sliding doors. The wood post cradling a red circle is by Doris Chase. The piece on the wall is by a Brazilian artist. The table was designed by Henrybuilt. (BENJAMIN BENSCHNEIDER / THE SEATTLE TIMES)
The ceilings in kitchen and entrance areas are slightly higher than 8 feet, but Knowles made them 10 feet in living and dining areas to make a spatial separation from the kitchen. He pushed the windows to the edges of the living area "to create a greater sense of privacy and protection." The painting over the fireplace, "Sloop," is by Spencer Hall. The six paper collages are by Rex Ray. (BENJAMIN BENSCHNEIDER / THE SEATTLE TIMES)
Architect Knowles' goal was to please his clients and respect the neighborhood. "The house needed the appropriate scale because there are mostly traditional homes around there," he says. "The qualities of the materials were very important; that they be low-maintenance and long-lasting." Stucco is the primary siding material, accented with a warm cedar front door, trim and canopy. (BENJAMIN BENSCHNEIDER / THE SEATTLE TIMES)
The Griggs House

Architect: Michael Knowles, then with Hughes Studio Architects.

Size: 2,500 square feet with three bedrooms, three bathrooms, play room, music studio.

Goals: A contemporary home for a young urban family of art lovers that also accommodates aging parents.