The Semiahmoo Residence represents several architectural themes: a site-specific design methodology in which the house can be seen as a fragment of a larger natural order; the transformation of the language of Modernism by the idea of craft in building; an investigation into the intrinsic emotive qualities of materials such as stone and wood; and a concern for natural light as a generator of architectural form.
The sloping building site faces due west toward the protected water of Semiahmoo Bay, near Blaine, Washington. The base of the house has been constructed as a plinth of split-face Canadian granite, set about twelve inches above grade on the uphill side, increasing to a full story height on the downhill side. Perched on top of this rough stone base is a series of fan-trusses placed on steel-banded fir columns. The fan trusses lift the roof system, separating the primary structure from the enclosure walls. The slope of the roof plane creates a continuous clerestory band constructed of fir windows and v-groove cedar panels.
The main living level is upstairs, taking advantage of beautiful westerly views. An outdoor terrace is carved into the building mass just outside the entry hall, separating the living area from the master bedroom area. On the lower level, within the stone plinth, are guest rooms, family room, and storage.
The house is characterized by the use of beautiful, natural materials: granite, cedar shingles and paneling, Douglas fir, and cherry. All millwork and cabinetry were custom-designed. In addition, Nils Finne designed several pieces of cherry furniture and copper light fixtures for the house.
Sustainable Design Features
High clerestory windows provide extensive natural light and
ventilation throughout the house.
Insulation values 40% higher than conventional construction were achieved by using 2x8 wall construction.
Radiant slab heating distributes heat in a comfortable, uniform manner in all areas of the house, and is especially effective in high ceiling areas.
Wood columns and beams are composed of smaller pieces of wood banded together, thus avoiding the need to cut large timbers.