Owner, Architect Emory Baldwin had several objectives in mind when designing his family home in Seattle, Washington:

  • Demonstrate the Principles of Universal Design, lifespan design and flexibility that allows for the changing needs of people over time.
  • Show that these principles could be implemented economically and aesthetically.
  • Assure a typical contractor could easily build this type of house.

In addition to the above objectives Baldwin wanted it to be a model home to educate other designers, owners and builders.

The Baldwin House, aka Greenlake – features curbless entrances.

Design Overview

The home is designed to promote “aging-in-place” and is an urban response to the otherwise suburban ranch-style house. Located in an “urban infill” project in the Green Lake neighborhood of Seattle, Washington, it is a three-story house including the finished basement. Both the main floor and the finished basement (which is designed as a mother-in-law apartment) are accessible. (The main floor is accessible from the front sidewalk, while the basement is accessible from the rear alley.)

All doors throughout the house are wide (3′-0″) for enhanced maneuverability, and the house has many universally designed features throughout, including level thresholds at all exterior doors, and curb-less showers. All bathrooms in the house have base cabinets on casters that roll away when not needed. This allows accessibility for people in a seated position.

Three stacking closets are framed, sized and wired for a future elevator so that the house can accommodate the resident’s changing needs and abilities down the road. The upper level of the stacking closets is currently used as a “reading nook” for bedtime stories. A large vertical open space connects the dining room of the main floor with the bridge of the upper floor. The bridge, in turn, connects the master suite with the children’s bedroom area.

Baldwin House Upper Closet
Baldwin House Upper Closet

To make up for the frequent gray Seattle weather a three-pronged approach was implemented to make the house seem light and welcoming: Adding in many windows for natural lighting, and carefully positioning them to allow for maximum privacy from the neighbors. Interior windows were also used to borrow light from other rooms.

  • Using bright, cheerful paint colors on the walls.
  • Including extra light fixtures, to provide ample lighting when needed and flexibility in the types of lighting available for a particular situation.

Although built on a narrow lot (only 33’-6” wide), the house feels spacious due to its open layout. A center “hub” was created with a high vertical space over the dining room to enhance the sense of openness. It has also makes it easier to communicate with people between floors.

Flexible spaces were created to handle the changing needs of the family over time. For example, the basement is designed to be a comfortable mother-in-law apartment. However, it is currently used as a large home office and exercise room. The structure of the open space is designed to accommodate another room, if it is ever needed in the future. The room adjacent to the kitchen is currently a play area, but in the future it can be used as a family, music, or dining room.