Inform Interiors is located on Bellevue Avenue between Pike and Pine Street, in the Colman Building. The building dates from 1916 and was originally a showroom for the Stanley Auto Agency. It retains, thanks to a thoughtful restoration, the large display windows that characterized the Capitol Hill auto showrooms from that era. Collectively, they are known as ‘auto row’ buildings.
As one would expect in a home furniture and furnishings showroom that features contemporary design, there are many shiny, geometrically pure housewares of mostly European design. Contrasting nicely with that aesthetic are the hand-woven baskets from Africa, which are the product of local artisans.
The showroom is as conducive to displaying furniture as it was automobiles. The open floor plan, afforded by heavy-timber construction, continues to offer flexibility in layout to the current tenants, allowing them almost endless ways to arrange lighting, chairs, couches, and rugs. And unlike current construction, the columns and beams were milled from single old growth logs, not laminated together from smaller pieces as is today’s practice.
Home furnishings are a type of fashion with trends coming and going, making familiar pieces, such as this Aalto Vase, pleasant reminders of the enduing power of classic design. The vase was first exhibited in the famed Finnish Pavilion at the 1937 World’s Fair in Paris. The oak cheese boards were also designed by Alvar Aalto (1898 - 1976) who many consider to be among the finest architects of the 20th Century.
Inform is on two floors in the Colman Building. While only occupying one half of the first floor, the second floor is all theirs and is flooded in daylight. The building was recently completed renovated, with new building services and a seismic upgrade. Note the large steel wide flange columns and beam that ensure the building is robust enough to survive the next earthquake. The steel structure is unpainted and left in its ‘mill finish’.
A thing rarely seen in today’s buildings is when the structure and the finish are the same: the beams and columns are Douglas Fir, as its the tongue and groove floor. The materials deployed for the furniture include ever-so-thin plywood, wrought iron, and textiles covering varying amounts of sculpted foam.
The Street Critic is an occasional CHS special featuring architectural and design observations from the built environments on and around Capitol Hill. This special neighborhood series has been created to highlight features of some of the area’s most important gathering places as restaurants, bars, cafes, and shops face unprecedented challenges during the ongoing pandemic. Is there a space you would like us to feature? Let us know in the comments.
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Wednesday night will bring two virtual design review meetings that could help set the course for new developments on Capitol Hill in 2021 including a project planned to preserve the E Pike facade of the 1910-built commercial building that has been home to Gay City and Kaladi Brothers as part of an eight-story, incentive boosted mixed-use project.
CHS reported on the early plans from developer Hunters Capital and longtime property owner Chip Ragen to redevelop the corner of E Pike and Belmont.
Wednesday night, the Studio Meng Strazzara-designed project will take its first step in front of the East Design review board. Continue reading →
13th Ave’s St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Cathedral (Image: John Feit)
Regardless of how modest the structure, ecclesiastical architecture has a unique expressive ability. No better example of simple forms melded with powerful symbolism exists on Capitol Hill than St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Cathedral, on 13th Ave between Howell and Olive. The simplest of brick boxes, the church relies on exotic details and forms to announce its Orthodox beliefs, setting it apart from all other churches in the neighborhood. Continue reading →
A condominium development proposed for the literal edge of Capitol Hill’s westernmost slope will return this week for a second round in the early phase of the city’s design review process.
The virtual design review session will look at the latest plans for 1578 Lakeview Blvd E — a planned six-story, 40-unit development along Lakeview Blvd E that is also envisioned as a way to hold back at least one small stretch of the eroding, crumbling slopes of Capitol Hill’s western edge above I-5. Continue reading →
The Eastlake neighborhood is only five blocks west of Volunteer Park but its even closer proximity to Lake Union makes it a neighborhood quite different than Capitol Hill. Highlighting this difference are buildings representative of Eastlake’s commercial and maritime heritage which range from small, jewel-box like office buildings to large industrial structures.
Eastlake engages Lake Union in a variety of ways including seven ‘streetend parks’, such as Lynn Street Park. The streetends give one a chance to launch a Kayak, play catch with your dog, or simply to watch boats and seaplanes skim the lake’s surface. Some folks are so captivated by such water-borne activities that they have decided to live on the water, making Eastlake’s houseboat community the largest in Seattle.
Great urban landscapes are typically comprised of a collection of good buildings and landscapes instead of superlative singular designs. 17th Ave, between E. Union and E. Spring, is just such a landscape and warrants a visit. On this stretch of 17th, one will find a half dozen apartment buildings which individually may stir only a passing (if admiring) glance, yet as an ensemble are a gift to behold. Many of the buildings were built (and perhaps designed?) by the same developer, Samuel Anderson, in the 1920s.
The most conspicuous of the apartments, owing both to its advantageous corner location at the intersection of 17th and E Spring and to its equally proud corner entry, is The Barbara Frietchie. It is one of the very few co-ops in Seattle. More common in New York City, co-ops were a form of apartment ownership that pre-dates condominiums. Perhaps its New York roots account for its being the most visible – ostentatious, even – of the bunch? Its unique quarter-round entry portico set in a subtractive corner is another feature that hints of its big-city aspirations. Continue reading →
An artful rendering of things to come above First Hill (Image: Clark Barnes)
The COVID-19 crisis and the resulting economic fallout could snuff Seattle’s latest development boom. Or the change might be more complicated and less predictable.
One of the more interesting projects in motion before the crisis is readying to return to the public development process with a plan that has grown in scale despite the uncertainty.
Developer Pryde Development and the architects at Clark Barnes have revised plans for a “mass timber” high-rise planned for First Hill to grow the design to 18 stories — adding six more floors to an already ambitious project.
“The project has elected to proceed with an 18 story, Type IV-A construction type,” the developers write in their updated proposal for the planned development that will replace a one-story 1949-built dental office on Seneca. “The structure will be mass timber, which requires a modular, gridded structural system,” they write. “The wood structure must be fully protected (covered) with gypsum wall board, therefore CLT wood veneer will be used as an interior expression of the wood material.” Continue reading →
The developer behind a 15th Ave E project set to rise above the corner long home to the Hilltop Service Station is questioning a city board’s decision to reject its design proposal for the planned brick, concrete, and metal five-story building inspired by auto row-era preservation elsewhere on the Hill.
“Through deliberations the theme of the board was to get the applicant to create a more modern and contemporary design and come back to present again,” Michael Oaksmith of Capitol Hill-based real estate and development firm Hunters Capital tells CHS. “There were several other small items to be worked on, but a more ‘contemporary’ design was clearly the deciding factor for rejection.”
Oaksmith says he and Hunters respect the board and its volunteer members but feel that any push for a more modern design is beyond the scope of the design review process. Continue reading →
Few building typologies have the history or endurance of the basilica. First appearing about the 2nd Century BCE, the basilica evolved from its initial, secular roots as a building housing courts and other civic functions to the archetypal building form for Christian houses of worship. Capitol Hill’s own St. Joseph’s church, at 19th Avenue and Aloha Street, is both an outstanding example of the basilica typology as well as of art deco architecture. Continue reading →
Two projects set to come before the Central District’s design review board will add new housing neighboring the Liberty Bank Building and create an intriguing mix of hotel and apartment units on Broadway near Seattle U.
Thursday night’s session of the Central Area Design Review Board takes place at Washington Hall:
The first project on the night’s roster is up for what could be its final pass in front of the board. Anew Apartments is the developer on the Neiman Taber Architects-designed project to create an eight-story hotel building with “91 sleeping rooms for congregate residences” and retail on Broadway between Jefferson and James. Continue reading →