Tim Bjerk

Being a contractor, Terry Miller has a great eye for properties. But it was his wife Debbie who discovered a secluded piece of property with breathtaking views that extend straight out into Puget Sound. Five days later, the Millers owned the property and set out to build a home that would respect and celebrate the spectacular site.

“It’s an incredible property. We fell in love with the views to the West, and the mountains, and all of the trees. We always looked at it as something that you could put a tent on and be happy with,” Miller says.

The home they built on this property would be Miller’s last (and perhaps greatest) project before retiring from Schultz Miller, the contracting firm he founded in 1981. He asked a longtime friend and partner, architect Rick Sundberg, FAIA, of Sundberg Kennedy Ly-Au Young Architects, to help design it.

Tim Bjerk

“A project like this starts because I'm invited to help work on someone's dream,” Sundberg says. “I'm not interested in the kind of door pulls or drawer pools they want, I am interested in how they live, and how they see themselves in a space.”

Over wine and cheese, the Millers talked with Sundberg about how the house would be built, the craft of it, the warmth, the wood, and the feeling they would get when they were inside.

“The home was designed around their lifestyle,” Sundberg says. “They like to entertain, but they are also informal, and the house reflects that.”

The resulting design is simple and open, with an exposed structure that facilities a feeling of connectedness. The spacious common areas act as a social center for impromptu art shows, a living gallery for their talented network of friends. Debbie has a studio and Terry has an office just a few steps apart from each other, fulfilling a need for open space to be together, but also separate spaces to retreat to.

Tim Bjerk

Where the Millers had originally envisioned a Western-facing wall with windows on each side, Sundberg had a different vision—a wall of glass that would harness the daylight.

“I’ve always liked the idea that we live in an overcast place. It intuitively makes you want to bring more light into a space and manage that light more carefully,” Sundberg says. “I’ve been fascinated with this for most of my career, and there’s enough data now about how people live better with plenty of good daylight.”

Sundberg Kennedy Ly-Au Young Architects relies on computer programs to measure the intensity, the spectrum, and the behavior of light to consider how glazing and windows can help harness its flow.

“Here, you need to have light. Light is critical to our well-being, to be honest with you,” he adds.

Miller worked with his longtime Marvin distributor to design 9-foot sliding glass doors with narrow profiles to keep sightlines clean. Combining the doors with direct glaze windows and specialty-shaped transom windows from Marvin’s Signature Ultimate collection created a Western-facing glass façade that maximizes daylight even on the most overcast Pacific Northwest days.

Tim Bjerk

For Miller, looks and performance were equally important. “I’ve been amazed with the insulation qualities of them in the summer. It stays cool, and in the winter, you can walk up to them and they’re warm on the inside,” he says.

Infusing their home with meaningful, artisan touches was also important to the couple, and their creative network meant they could rely on experts in unusual materials, like eramosa limestone from Canada and cedar from the small southwestern Oregon city of Port Orford. A felled tree on their own land was cut into slabs and used to create furniture and a front door that helped build the unique story of their home.

Tim Bjerk

On a lot that was once just vacant land looking out over the water, the Millers have created a forever home that expresses their personalities and their love for natural light and the outdoors.

“To sit outside in the evening and look out over the West is amazing. The house is incredible. We can really live here,” Miller says.

Learn about Marvin’s Signature Ultimate line of aluminum-clad windows and doors.