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“My working relationship with Sean Bell begins with an interesting story.
I purchased a home on Whidbey Island in 1995. My husband and I were looking for an interesting, unique, and thoughtful home on Whidbey, but we were not in the market for a very high-end home, and the options were very limited. After months of looking our realtor brought us to a creative little masterpiece in the Admirals Cove neighborhood. Unlike the other homes in the neighborhood that responded to property lines more than the surroundings, this home was positioned to take full advantage of the incredible views of the wetlands, Key Stone ferry and the Olympic Mountains beyond. The creative and innovated use of materials —a beautiful hemlock trunk in the living room as a support beam!—and the quality of light were exactly what we were looking for in a home.
Years later we were riding our bicycles through the Fauntleroy neighborhood of West Seattle and noticed a home that we knew must have been designed by Sean. We knocked on the door and discovered that the home was not only designed by Sean, but it was his personal residence. We were in the process of looking for land in the Fauntleroy neighborhood and commissioned Sean to assist us in the finding land and designing a new home. Sean listened to our needs and desires and designed a beautiful, creative and environmentally sensitive home that surpassed our vision.”
Attention to detail
“I have worked with Sean on several projects over the years. I find his unique use of materials, attention to details, and use of day light a wonderful recipe for inspiring architecture and spaces.
Sean thinks out of the box. This is what drew me to his style. The organic nature of the material palette results in a very warm and intimate space that is efficient and comfortable.
Lately I purchased a home in the Fauntleroy neighborhood of West Seattle and it needed a full transformation. Sean was the perfect person to integrate the view with a new vision of what the house could truly become. I commissioned Sean, and while working in the existing footprint of the structure, he has created a stunning, efficient and inspiring design, turning a house in need of a remodel into a work of art. A strong believer in “less is more” Sean stripped the home back to its simple, elegant essential form. I can’t wait to complete this project and see Sean’s creative mark and attention to detail come to life.”
e-mail from a professional colleague - April 4, 2015
“Sean, funny enough, there are two residential projects in Seattle that I love. I never knew who had designed them and this morning I decided to dig through DPD records to names on the permit application. Turns out both projects are yours. When I saw both the West Seattle houses and the ones on Lakeview I was like, “ Yep, that makes sense.” I too am an architect. I currently work for Perkins + Will doing large projects in Seattle. But having spent most of my career in the residential design/build world, I can very much appreciate your work. The thing I love the most is the thinness you create with the framing of elements, e.g., window adjacencies, windows to doors and exterior walls. I suspect it is the way that the roof and wood volumes under gable are so opaque and float above the glazing. Anyways, I gush. Just wanted to say that I appreciate great architecture and I look forward to driving past of yours soon. Take care.”
By Shelley D. Hutchins - Custom Home Magazine
““The steep urban infill site for Sean Bell's new passive-solar home was considered a critical area for mudslides. Compounding the stringent setbacks this dictated was a southern exposure with an ugly view of the freeway. Bell, the architect, developer, and builder of his family's home, surmounted these tribulations with a plan for a sustainable, kitchen-centric, light-filled house that is 70 feet long and a mere 18 feet wide. He accomplished all this without making the house “feel like a bowling alley. ” Sixteen concrete piles driven 30 feet into the hillside anchor the house firmly on its Seattle site. Bell had to orient the windows away from the south but beefed-up sustainability in other ways—tankless hot water, radiant heat, and energy-efficient lighting. But the highest marks on Bell's scorecard are for cleverly mixing green materials and architectural details that let the long, narrow footprint feel like home. He designed kitchen, dining, and living areas as one big room, but broke up the circulation path. Twin kitchen islands with raised eating bars stop the eye with multiple layers. Bell prefers to leave materials in their natural state, so no one need worry about finishes that off-gas. “I try not to paint anything,” he says. “Most materials have an inherent beauty that you don't need to cover.”
By Shelley D. Hutchins - Builder - Posted on: March 05, 2014”
“Project of the Month”
Fireplaces generate a lot of heat. Both for open living areas like these in five townhomes overlooking Lake Union near downtown Seattle, as well as to the sales pitch for the developer. Trim kits for economical, off-the-shelf, non-venting gas inserts, however, aren’t so appealing and would get swallowed up by the double-height spaces. Architect Sean Bell speced the inexpensive fireplace units and then increased their hotness factor by designing an oversized surround and elongated hearth.
Bell needed to generate a big statement without taking depth away from usable floor space. A ¼’-thick steel plate was cut and bent by Specialty Metals in Kirkland, Wash., while the 14-foot-long hearth was cut from a slab of unfinished Mahogany. Bell had the slab split in half and used the twin 20-inch-deep hunks, live edge facing outward, in the two front units of the development. Hot-rolled steel and raw wood add warmth to the industrial material palette that also includes concrete, bamboo, and stainless steel.
"Lakeview Townhomes in Seattle Offers Hip Design and Glorious Views
This development of five townhouses survived the housing crash by maintaining design integrity.
Architect Sean Bell helped developer Justin Bloch find the ideal site—a large hillside lot overlooking downtown Seattle and Lake Union. The 0.18-acre lot had a single house on it but was close enough to commercial properties that getting approvals for subdividing the site into five residences was no problem. Taking advantage of a location near the central business district and spectacular views, Bell designed multilevel houses averaging around 1,500 square feet with open, flexible public spaces and steel-framed window walls to soak in sun and vistas. The target buyers were young professionals, so high-end yet hip industrial materials such as concrete, steel, and natural wood adorn interiors and exteriors.”
By Meghan Drueding - ARCHITECT - Outdoor Connections– April, 2007
“Many design visionaries imagine expandable and collapsible houses of the future. In a present-day Seattle remodel, though, architect Sean Bell has created a kitchen that can easily double and triple in size. His secret isn’t some high-tech mechanism, but a few simple sets of pocket doors. The homes kitchen and living room form an “L” around an outdoor deck, and the oversized glass doors along both walls slide all the way back. “On a summer day, the deck, kitchen, and living room become one big outdoor space.”
By Bethany Lyttle - The New York Times-Living Here/Architect Designed Home - Sept 19, 2008
“Not From the Mold”
“We saw a lot of plain-vanilla houses before we saw this one. But all I had to do was walk inside to know we had found what we were looking for. It was so connected to the land. A 20-fot hemlock log was part of the interior design, a log that we learned had come from down the road. It had been lowered into the shell of the house by a crane.
The house was designed by an architect named Sean Bell of 360 Design Studio in Seattle. Everywhere, there is evidence of his respect for the environment and his love for the landscape. There are wonderful,curved walls of wood, and are so many windows.”
Dear Mr. Bell-
Yesterday my wife and I went to see the lot for sale on 30th Avenue SW, and rediscovered your two CityView house projects there. We had admired these once before, years ago, when we happened to see them while crossing the West Seattle bridge, but lingered some minutes yesterday to walk around and take in the houses from different views. And then this morning we looked through your website, and now have even a greater appreciation for those two homes, and for your work more generally.
We really hope that whoever buys that lot will work with you on a house to build there. It's clear that you have a great understanding of taking advantage of what might normally be considered site constraints, and then making buildings that address the many functional and aesthetic needs of the people who live in them. Thank you for your wonderful contributions to Seattle architecture.