On a frigid winter evening, after the sun has dipped behind the trees, Tim Butler heads out for a bike ride. Shedding his daytime financial-analyst apparel in favor of cycling garb, he traverses the rainy streets for an hour or two before heading home for the night. His wife, Sue, one of the top cyclists in the world, makes dinner; she took a three-hour bicycle ride earlier in the day and has her suitcases packed in preparation for yet another race over the weekend. Eighteen bicycles, all Cannondales except for a single Litespeed, are lined up in the garage. The Butlers discuss recent rides and flat tires while they eat. The couple lives and breathes on two wheels, so it comes as no surprise that they built their home around their shared obsession.
“We were running out of space at our condo, and we had overtaken the whole communal boiler room with our bikes,” Sue explains of their impetus to build a house. “And coming home from cyclocross races, we’d traipse upstairs in muddy clothes to use the community washing machines.” So the two enlisted the help of Path Architecture, a local firm headed by Ben Kaiser and Corey Martin, to create a home that not only evokes their love of the outdoors but also meets their need to restore both bodies and bicycles.
Kaiser and Martin, also avid cyclists whom the Butlers initially met during a Canadian mountain-bike race, innately understood what the couple wanted. “Biking is all about the experience of moving through a landscape,” says Martin. “The love of that is the foundation of our work.” To allow the Butlers to see beyond their neighbors’ backyards, much of the house is oriented around manipulated views. The site itself is only 44 feet wide, more than 5 feet narrower than a standard lot. To compensate for the lack of width, and also to maximize vistas, the architects built the house to three stories—as tall as city code allows—and topped it with a sedum-planted roof deck where the couple sleeps on balmy nights.
Inside are carefully positioned floor-to-ceiling panes of glass, all left unfettered by coverings or shades, with the exception of an exterior sliding-wood louver system that lets in light in the winter and filters summer rays when the sun is hot. The placement of every window has been considered—the long vertical pane of glass in the master shower that lets the morning sun wash in; the expansive, lofted bedroom windows that provide views of the surrounding treetops while maintaining the couple’s privacy; a low window in the entry that filters light in at an upward angle; a living room wall of tall windows that looks to the towers of downtown and the mountain ridges beyond. Even on the rainiest of days, the Butlers never feel far from the outdoors.
Built by contractor David R. Rush, the home’s contours also connect it to the environment. “Pacific Northwest barns, with old, dark cedar walls and concrete ground floors, inspired the form of the house,” says Martin, pointing to the custom cedar channel siding. A cedar fence that wraps its way around the lot is echoed by the interior entry wall, made of the same cedar. “Literally, you’re blurring inside and out,” Martin explains. The second and third floors sit delicately atop a ground floor of stucco walls. The walls’ solidity, along with the elegant stucco fireplace that stretches its way up the full height of the interior, suggest the massive columns of basalt rock in the Columbia River Gorge, where the Butlers spend many weekends at an alpine cabin. “To me, that’s the most sublime landscape in the world,” Martin says. “And it’s local.”