Ultimate Home Tour: The Entrance

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There is an enlightening aspect to entering the Atherton, Calif., residence created by Jim Olson. With garden views on each side, frameless windows that give way to doors, and subtle skylights overhead, all feelings of enclosure seem to disappear. “I wanted people to feel calm yet uplifted when they walked through the door,” says the Seattle architect. “The residents frequently offer their home for museum tours, and they have had thousands of people passing through. Visitors are always overwhelmed and in awe of the space, but there’s also that kind of spiritual serenity you get when you walk into a room with great art.”

The original house was razed, and the current residence was built around the owners’ garden, which has been their labor of love for 30 years. The entryway took into consideration not only the grounds but also the couple’s expansive art collection. “They are great art collectors, but they also love their garden and nature,” says Olson. Both the woven tapestry at the end of the hall by artist Mark Adams and the striking madrona wood pieces sculpted from fallen trees by environmental artist David Nash were placed in the space after the house was completed. “I do believe in a difference between art and architecture,” explains Olson. “Architecture should act as a great frame for the art and complement it. If they try to compete with one another, then the effects of both are weakened.” Olson used slate and concrete for the floor and fir and hemlock for the columns, “with just the slightest hint of a stain.” With light pouring in from all angles, the overall result is a masterpiece of natural materials. “Architecture is there primarily to serve a purpose, whereas art is there to express an idea or intuitive feeling,” says Olson. “But great architecture is able to do both.”


Olson Sundberg Kundig Allen Architects



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