Architecture: BCRA-Inspired Design

The atmosphere in the offices of BCRA is light, contemporary, and inspired. Innovation thrives here; it’s apparent in the creative buzz in the air. Owner/President Jeff Brown believes that work should be fun and fulfilling. A positive environment and respect for the work place family are priorities along with recognizing and supporting the creative and entrepreneurial spirit of each individual.

Jeff’s chosen field was greatly influenced by his grandfather who had meticulously designed his home on a cliff overlooking Deception Pass on Whidbey Island. He was further inspired through his enjoyment of mechanical drawing courses he took in ninth grade. “It was my dream from that year on to become an architect.”

In his kind, unassuming manner, Jeff chronicled the inception of BCRA. He had been laid off with a wife and three young children to support. During that time he began doing design work in his home office. He laughed as he described the day he was working in the kitchen, drawings spread out on the table with three kids in the house… needless to say office space was needed. Space was rented and in 1989, together with associates Rory Connally (Vice President), and Ken Rowan (Secretary/Treasurer), Brown began BCRA.

Celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, BCRA has grown from the original association into the largest architectural firm in the Puget Sound. Currently, BCRA employs a dedicated staff of over 150 persons within three architectural studios. They provide a full range of design services for retail, religious, office and residential.

BCRA has several showpiece homes in the South Sound area. One of them is located on Fox Island. As you approach the Fox Island residence, you are visually pleased by the way that the traditionally influenced barn style home with contemporary construction practice surrounds its neighboring properties. From the use of traditional 12” vertical board & batten cedar, to the clean lines of red, wood/clad windows and metal roof, the guesthouse has a feel complimentary to the Pacific Northwest’s style of architecture. While paying attention to the traditional details of an old barn using today’s materials and resources, the architect also designed a functional floor plan layout and building orientation to suit the future addition of the main home.

Another BCRA accomplishment is a beach property located on Henderson Inlet which had been owned by the client’s family for 60+ years. The property had a single story cabin with tree stumps used as its foundation which allowed the streambed to flow under it. The newly remodeled cabin now rests on four piers, still open for the streambed. The substantial remodel included adding a new lower level—two bedrooms, bath, and entertainment room and a main floor—mud room, family room, kitchen, dining, and a bridge used to access the cabin on the main level. A loft includes a built-in reading nook in a space overlooking the inlet. Providing a view of the inlet was essential for both the client and the designers, and much of the side of the home is glass which provides stunning views.

Still another showpiece is located in the Narrows area. Looking from the entry space through the dining room and indoor/outdoor covered patio, you are engaged into an amazing view setting with close to 180-degree views facing the Narrows Bridge and the neighboring town of Gig Harbor across the Puget Sound.

Enjoying a wonderful view yet creating a floor plan to meet the functions and style that the clients were striving to achieve was difficult, but definitely a rewarding experience at the same time for both the clients and architect. Existing property conditions which included a near 100’ cliff drop off and a height restriction of 16’ from the median street grade elevation addressed from the design review committee was a challenging process for floor plan flow. Since the clients’ interest is in the Arizona architecture of homes, they wanted the main living spaces on the lower level to incorporate the indoor/outdoor features of a Mediterranean living style in a Pacific Northwest setting. In order to accomplish a lower level entrance to the home, a terracing stairway to the house had to have a visual and a soothing interest for the individual leading up to the entry. A well lit walkway, Mediterranean style plants and shrubbery usable in the northwest, and a multi-level water feature were used to draw one into the space, leading them to the home’s entry.

As part of the design criteria, it was emphasized that maximizing the incredible views on the property were a necessity as it was a huge consideration for the owners when they purchased the vacant land. In order to accommodate the views, floor to ceiling walls of glass were a must. Typical wood construction could not achieve the transparent views that the owners were looking for, so the option of two steel moment frame systems that would fight lateral, seismic and at times heavy wind conditions was needed.

Building a home that was suitable for entertainment purposes was addressed during the early phases of the design process. From the gourmet kitchen setup including top of the line appliances, to a pair of barn doors opening into the oversized pantry, to two large 12’ islands, one for food preparation and one for serving, the clients find it to be functional as well as enjoyable to entertain. An open concept with the large living room having a connection to both the kitchen and outdoor living space serves as an ideal floor plan design to have large gatherings controlled in public spaces, separating any flow into private spaces. One subtle design feature that gave the connection between the indoor/outdoor spaces was the use of stained concrete flooring and oversized sliding doors. The heated stained concrete flooring from the living room and dining room spaces to the outdoor covered patio as well as using large oversized slider doors helps to maximize the experience of bringing the indoor spaces to the outside.

As award-winning Arthur Erickson said, “Life is rich, always changing, always challenging, and we architects have the task of transmitting into wood, concrete, glass and steel, of transforming human aspirations into habitable and meaningful space.”

BCRA does just that. A twenty year legacy of inspired designs.