A Place in the Sun
Terry Hunziker designed his Seattle office with room for art and man's best friend
Tom Austin -- Interior Design, 6/1/2005 12:00:00 AM
After spending five years in a cramped fourth-floor office with ordinary 10-foot ceilings, Terry Hunziker dreamed of roomier offices where he and two associates could create his house, restaurant, and furniture designs while his Norwich terrier, Hugo, padded about.
"This isn't a formal firm—we've been known to go a day or two without shaving," the designer says. "I needed room for artwork and a clean warmth that would make my clients comfortable."
He found that space when a friend who owns a gallery in Seattle's gentrifying Pioneer Square neighborhood told him about a former printing shop that was vacant next door. A follow-up call to a real estate agent revealed that the space boasted 18-foot-high ceilings, 16-foot-high windows, and 2,000 square feet. Hunziker was hooked.
The designer's residence is a condo in a converted 1898 hotel, so he immediately liked the fact that the seven-story building (now condos, with two commercial spaces on the ground floor) also had a history as a former turn-of-the-century paper mill. "I love coming here every morning, leaving my own eclectic space for this one," he says. "And the neighborhood is a weird mix of low-income houses and art galleries. It's definitely organic city living, but sophisticated, too."
His ground-floor space featured its original brick sidewall, spanning the length of the space, and a floor and ceiling beams of Douglas fir. His namesake firm added its signature handcrafted furniture along with paintings and sculpture, but no drastic space-altering renovations. Hunziker was intrigued by "everyone working in one big room" and decided to keep the open floor plan.
Six movable 10-by-7-foot framed-glass partitions delineate the reception area, Hunziker's work and conference areas, the drafting area, and an assistant's workstation. Felt pads keep the steel bases that support the partitions' heavy anodized-aluminum frames from scuffing the honey-colored plank floor.
Because the partitions don't meet the lofty ceiling, "you see something sculptural when you're looking in from outside," the designer explains. The front entrance allows a view through the rows of partitions to the back. Every vantage point seems to offer an object related to art. The reception desk, where the office manager sits, is Hunziker's own creation of Douglas fir counter and shelving fronted by a raw steel plate. To balance out its industrial finish, the designer chose a paper Isamu Noguchi desk lamp and two 19th-century Chinese stands in dark lacquered wood. Nearby, John Vaughan's photographs of the firm's projects hang over a vintage Thomas Lamb chair covered in tan leather and a cerused-oak coffee table on a sisal rug. "Each photo highlights a sculpture," Hunziker says, "and we had the colors enhanced to make them more abstract."
Across the room, a circular painting by Jeffrey Simmons, 11 feet in diameter, is on loan from the Greg Kucera Gallery. "Being next door means Greg's clients can come over to see the art on our walls," Hunziker says.
Club chairs in tan suede are his own design. These flank another chair made from woven reed with an olive-colored acrylic seat cushion. A console composed of marble on an Australian-lacewood-and-steel base recalls the space's factory past. A side table with a steel-and-oak base features a boar-skin top framed in steel, one of Hunziker's edgy designs.
Step into his work area and you'll find another of his tables—a maple-and-steel base supporting a marble top; it's surrounded by four Italian chairs in wengé. His 12-foot-long desk was built from more Douglas fir. "I don't know if there's a distinct Seattle look, but I think we use more organic and raw materials than architects and designers in other parts of the country," Hunziker muses.
The drafting area is chatting distance from his desk. A sheet of waxed raw steel atop two oak bases forms the worktable. On it rests a model of the designer's country house, which he says features "lots of glass, concrete, and strong Japanese influences in the floor plan and furniture."
In the rear of the office, a cobalt-blue plaster wall conceals storage and serves as a perfect background for Peter Millett's wood sculpture resting on a powder-coated aluminum console topped with teak. "It made sense to have a jolt of color there—a certain tension—since the rest of the office is so monochromatic," Hunziker explains. "I find neutrals very restful." Going to work never sounded more inviting.
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