The Octagon: West

I was Googling “octagon” in an attempt to find a witty title for this post, when, lo and behold: I found something called The Octagon Museum in Washington, DC. Notable not just for its name but for the fact that it is “The Museum of The American Architectural Foundation” and its latest exhibit honors “31 Buildings that Changed Modern Life.” Sweet. There’s a slide show of the 31 “Structures of Our Time,” including the work of luminaries like Frank Lloyd Wright, Mies van der Rohe, Philip Johnson, Eero Saarinen, and Louis I. Kahn. Have a look.

One of the profiled structures in the exhibit is a modern masterpiece in Darien, CT. Which reminded me of what bothered me a little about the house I saw today. In suburban NY (northern Westchester County, for example), there is no shortage of mansions. From Italianate villas to Mondrian-inspired cubes, home styles are as varied as budgets and tastes allow. What makes it all work together, somehow, is the size of the property surrounding the house. Like the empty space needed around a logo to preserve its character, the homes seem to need this space around them so as not to feel like crowded giants straining against their walls. Framed with acres of green, they sit stately and confidently, asserting their right to be exactly where, and who, they are.


I thought of that as I entered this new Clyde Hill “manor.” To comment on the replacement of modest homes with mansions in the Clyde Hill section of Bellevue would be very old news. Still, that thought occurred to me here. This is a tighter, more “regular” street just off Bellevue Way. There is something incongruous to me about seeing a house like this on a fairly ordinary street. Sure, there are other monolithic homes here and a few modest older ones left. Still, it seemed odd to go just steps off the street into this ornate mansion. Instead, it feels like it deserves to be set back, accessible only after passing through wrought-iron gates and maybe a hedge maze.

The octagon shape is a theme repeated on both levels of the home. Downstairs, it’s a central foyer space, and upstairs, it’s another central foyer with two wings extending outward (one for the master suite, the other for the “smaller” bedrooms). Opulent is the word here, with primo design details too numerous to mention. In what I think was the family room, I looked up and noticed the ceiling was far, far away. The tile work throughout the home is extraordinary.

This is an impressive mansion, indeed. Minus the manicured grounds out front (and with a fairly plain fenced yard out back). And is it my imagination or, at $454/sq. ft., is this somewhat affordable, as mansions go?


Price: $1.999,500.
Location: 10251 NE 30th Place, Bellevue, WA 98004
Last sale price: $565,000 (in 2005)
Square footage: 4400 sq. ft.. Lot size: 11,472 sq. ft.
Bedrooms: 4 Baths: 3.25