Miller Hull

Cascade Residence

Mercer Island, WA
A home on the lake offers its owners a comfortable serenity that incorporates all aspects of its site’s unique elements, from the trees and topography to the unfurling waters beyond.
Certifications Targeting Net Zero Carbon and Net Zero Energy through ILFI
Completion 2025


At the foot of Lake Washington on a site lush with foliage and armed with access to the great blue, a line is being drawn between land and lake. This unusual property bears a considerable 75-foot grade change from west to east, an assortment of exceptional trees, and a newly delineated wetland that would have intimidated most buyers. This family, however, saw opportunities in the site’s idiosyncrasies.

A group full of swimmers, wake surfers, and canoers, these clients had been dreaming of living on the water’s edge for years. Many waterfront properties have only their lakeside to boast, some even accessible only by boat. But these owners wanted to experience everything that the Pacific Northwest has to offer: the refuge of the forest; the vastness of the lake; the ease of access to downtown. “We’d love to be at a sun-drenched table for breakfast and then retreat into the cool at the back of the house in the afternoon, looking out to the afterglow of the sunset while we make dinner.” One of the owners told us when describing her perfect home.

The family also made it clear that they wanted their home to be a refuge and a respite, a place to recharge, and live without inhibitions. They envisioned quiet reading spaces with views of the water, and individual retreats for each family member to engage in their own hobbies. But they also imagined a kitchen with a large dining table that would function as the core of the home – where family, friends, and neighbors could gather and enjoy a meal or play boardgames. Despite the site’s idyllic location and its serene surroundings, we knew these requests meant the clients did not want to treat their house like a museum, tip-toeing and carefully navigating from room to room. Rather, they wanted a functioning and welcoming everyday abode whose beauty could withstand the realities of life.

The design is thus dually centered around the trees and the tides; the land and the lake; retreat and recreation. Inwardly focused on the forest through an expansive North-facing curtain wall, the residents can enjoy a dappled light cast upon a lush understory, which serves as the quiet background to daily movements throughout the house. Conversely, the home is outwardly anchored to the water with a vegetated roof deck and breezeway through-connection that draws residents out of their shelter and into a sun-filled lakeside experience.

Indeed, it was the comprehensive beauty of the site that the owners always envisioned their future home would highlight, and this acceptance of the surrounding environment included one of the site’s less obvious virtues. Wishing to accentuate the site’s natural character, the clients wanted a building that was sensitive and responsive to the dramatic sloping of the site. As a result, the new house and surrounding landscape elements were thoughtfully designed around a central circulation spine that brings pedestrians from the top of the site down to Lake Washington. Part of this circulation spine includes a stepped stormwater runnel which aims to correct decades of poor drainage throughout the site by celebrating rainwater’s journey back down to the Lake.

Dreaming of a house that would honor its surroundings as well as its inhabitants, the clients knew this would be their forever home, and so it was imperative that the building allow them to age in place. The home mitigates the steep grade change by terracing back to meet the hillside. An elevated covered walkway connects pedestrians to the parking pad and garage location, providing a fully accessible path to the house. Celebrating the heritage of this site, the elevated walkway ceiling will be constructed out of salvaged wood from the original home, creating a connection between the old and the new.

Targeting rigorous sustainability standards, this home will be Miller Hull’s first net-zero energy and net-zero carbon home certified through ILFI, and will contain a rooftop PV array, FSC-sourced wood siding, Red List-free materials, a fully electric system without any on-site combustion, low-carbon concrete and insulation, bioretention for stormwater runoff, and salvaged floor joists from the old home.

A building merging land and lake, adventure and respite, togetherness and solitude, this home will be a haven for its owners, and a maker and keeper of memories for years to come.

Project Team

Architect: The Miller Hull Partnership, LLP 
Civil Engineer: LPD Engineer PLLC 
Structural Engineer: PCS Structural Solutions 
Landscape Architect: Berger Partnership 
Mechanical Engineer: Sazan Group 
Envelope Consultant: 4EA Building Science 
Lighting Designer: Lighting Designs, Inc 
Geotechnical Engineer: Aspect Consulting LLC 
Arborist: Tree Solutions Inc 
Ecologist: The Watershed Company 
Contractor: Krekow Jennings Inc