Wyss Family Container House, an Innovative Mercer Island Remodel Designed by Paul Michael Davis Architects

Wyss Family Container House, an Innovative Mercer Island Remodel Designed by Paul Michael Davis Architects

Project Name: The Wyss Family Container House
Architect: Paul Michael Davis Architects
Landscape: Performance Landscape Company
Shipping Containers: ITS ConGlobal
Structural & Civil: Trans Olympic Engineering Inc.
Contractor: Karlstrom Associates
Clients: Balthasar + Stephanie Wyss
Location: Mercer Island, WA USA
Year 2019
Area: 3200 SF
Scope: Garage and Family Room addition and extensive remodel of a 1950s house on a wooded suburban site on Mercer Island’s south side. The project includes the incorporation of two repurposed shipping containers.
All photographs are by Mark Woods unless noted otherwise
Courtesy of Paul Michael Davis Architects

The Wyss family approached Paul Michael Davis Architects with a vision to design a bold, unusual, and adventurous addition to their existing ho-hum 1950s split level where they could raise their 3 active boys. And they really loved the idea of re-purposing shipping containers.

Paul Michael Davis Architects
Before: existing house front from street. Photo by Tiffany Chow

Paul Michael Davis Architects
After: The new garage addition on the right and other improvements to the existing house and site

The clients, Balthasar + Stephanie Wyss, asked the house be designed to fit into the style of the existing traditional neighborhood, while at the same time integrate new, contemporary elements. The remodel should reflect the unique history and development of the Seattle area and Pacific Northwest, key themes include:
• The roots of the Pacific Northwest as a place of vast untouched forests and the wilderness of the Cascades and Olympic mountains
• Seattle as center for global trade and a door to the Pacific and Asia
• The region as a technology hub with hi-tech companies and global retailers
• The international roots of the Wyss family [Basel, Switzerland]
• The design should be a communal gathering place connecting various parts of the house in a simple flow with a living room and kitchen at its centers; at the same time there should be ways to have quite areas for contemplation and reflection.

The completed remodel from the street. Photo by Tiffany Chow
The completed remodel from the street. Photo by Tiffany Chow

The new, extra wide front door.
The new, extra wide front door.

The firm found lots of great examples of buildings made entirely from shipping containers. But in this case, in which most of the existing house was going to stay in place, and the neighborhood had a clear vernacular language, placing a big stack of shipping containers next to it seemed like the wrong move.

Before: the existing house from the back yard. Photo by Tiffany Chow
Before: the existing house from the back yard. Photo by Tiffany Chow

Wyss Family Container House, an Innovative Mercer Island Remodel Designed by Paul Michael Davis Architects
After: The remodeled house with new siding and windows, and the rotting decks removed. Photo by Paul Michael Davis

Instead, the firm opted to treat the containers more like found objects, even artworks. PMDA designed a simple rectangular volume on the west side of the house to create an informal entry courtyard and, more importantly, serve as a neutral container for the containers. The new addition has a garage on the street side, and a large multi-purpose space which steps down with the topography.

before
Before: the existing house from the west side of the backyard. Photo by Tiffany Chow

After: the remodeled house with the family room addition on the left at dusk
After: the remodeled house with the family room addition on the left at dusk

The Wyss Family Container House required a greater level of collaboration with the contractor than normal, as many of the things we were trying were completely novel, like welding together 3 shipping container doors and putting them on a 30-foot-long sliding track. Dick McDonald and Roger Reynolds of Karlstrom Construction, and their team of about 25 subcontractors all rose to the occasion, inspired by the chance to try something creative and new, as well as rectify some unfortunate mistakes in the original house.

After: the remodeled house with the family room addition on the left
After: the remodeled house with the family room addition on the left

Now that the Wyss family has moved in, the shipping containers serve as both a backdrop and functional necessity for their lives—the giant sliding door can divide the living space into two when sound or social separation is needed, the indoor container houses a small bath and mud room that get daily use, and the outdoor container is ready to be a work from home retreat.

Wyss Family Container House, an Innovative Mercer Island Remodel Designed by Paul Michael Davis Architects
Detail view of a planter made from re-used shipping container panels

The outdoor shipping container
The outdoor shipping container

 

Wyss Family Container House, an Innovative Mercer Island Remodel Designed by Paul Michael Davis Architects
The new family room with a mud room and bathroom concealed in a repurposed shipping container

Wyss Family Container House, an Innovative Mercer Island Remodel Designed by Paul Michael Davis Architects
The new addition to the house with the mud room inside a repurposed shipping container on the left

Wyss Family Container House, an Innovative Mercer Island Remodel Designed by Paul Michael Davis Architects
The existing house and new addition are separated by a large opening which can be closed with a large sliding door made from re-used shipping container doors welded together

Main Floor Plan

Wyss Family Container House, an Innovative Mercer Island Remodel Designed by Paul Michael Davis Architects
The dining room was enlarged as part of the project to improve the connection between the existing and new parts of the house

Wyss Family Container House, an Innovative Mercer Island Remodel Designed by Paul Michael Davis Architects
Selective improvements were made to the kitchen and living room, which the homeowners had previously remodeled, using their own design

Wyss Family Container House, an Innovative Mercer Island Remodel Designed by Paul Michael Davis Architects
The mud room in the repurposed shipping container

Upper Floor Plan

Wyss Family Container House, an Innovative Mercer Island Remodel Designed by Paul Michael Davis Architects
A new bath inside the repurposed shipping container

Wyss Family Container House, an Innovative Mercer Island Remodel Designed by Paul Michael Davis Architects

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