The content below is from a 2012 Seattle Landmarks Nomination Form.
The James & Pat Chiarelli House (Chiarelli House) at 843 NE 100th Street was constructed in 1949 in the Maple Leaf neighborhood in Seattle’s north end. It is the work of and formerly the personal residence of the architect James J. Chiarelli who designed and built the house, as well as the neighboring house, for his family. The dwelling today still exhibits key characteristics embodied within both the Northwest Modern movement and Chiarelli’s own body of work, remaining an important example of both.
James and Pat Chiarelli purchased three lots in the Maple Leaf neighborhood shortly after their marriage in 1947. Pat Chiarelli noted that her husband’s designs were very “purposeful… [he was] very careful to save all the trees and work the design within the trees… it was his intention to slip the house into the site – to blend in with the native growth… trees [were] left in place and the design incorporated trees into special sight-lines out the windows and doors.” The dwelling is highly representative of Chiarelli’s design principles and aesthetics, and is easily relatable to numerous other buildings in his body of work. His designs exemplified consistency and an upholding of both his beliefs (such as respect of the landscape and vegetation, integration of the indoors to the outdoors, use of natural light, blending with the environment, compact designs, family-friendly function, etc) as well as his preferences (including the use of wood, often displaying natural finishes, the use of certain light fixtures, durable materials, etc). James, Pat and their children resided in the house during some of the most significant years of Chiarelli’s career, remaining until 1966 when they moved to a new Chiarelli design in Seattle’s Sandpoint neighborhood. The Dore family purchased the house in 1966, and they still own it today. It remains a single-family residence, retaining its form, function and characteristics as a recognizable Chiarelli design.
The Architect, James Chiarelli (1908-1990)
James Chiarelli was born in Spokane in 1908 and grew up in Cle Elum, Washington. Chiarelli graduated with a Bachelor of Architecture degree in 1934 from the University of Washington, and for several years worked for a variety of architecture firms in Seattle, Portland, and Missoula, Montana.
In 1944, Chiarelli formed a Seattle-based partnership with fellow architect Paul Hayden Kirk that lasted through 1950. Between 1944 and 1950, the work of the duo was highlighted in a number of publications including Better Homes & Gardens, Sunset Magazine, McCall’s Book of Modern Houses, Architectural Record, Small Homes Guide, and Architectural Form The Magazine of Building. Because the firm’s tenure dates to the period directly following World War II, much of their work, as well as Chiarelli’s design of the nominated house, is indicative of the experimental nature of the period reflecting new and different thinking about architectural design. These characteristics include the necessity for compact and flexible designs, the option to expand with ease, durable materials, the use of new materials, integrated parking, openness for entertaining, and different treatments for both public and private spaces. Nearly all of these elements are present in the Chiarelli House.
After the partnership amicably dissolved, Chiarelli continued working on a number of residential projects, Chiarelli is perhaps the most well known for his institutional and commercial projects during the 1950s and 1960s. There is a notable consistency in Chiarelli’s body of work, with certain characteristics, forms, features, and aesthetics. His works are easily recognizable both as Chiarelli designs and representations of Northwest Modernism, whether commercial, institutional or residential. Some of these elements include the use of wood, large windows in public areas and smaller, higher windows in private areas, family- or children-oriented elements, vents at the windows, simplicity of design, the importance of function in design, hard floor surfaces, and the consistency of material within each design. Chiarelli also favored flexibility in spaces and siting. The siting utilized in his designs was very intentional, utilizing the natural vegetation, trees, contours, and other elements of the site as well as establishing sightlines to the natural outdoor elements through the placement of doors and large windows.
According to his wife, James loved to work and never really stopped working. He “was a prominent member of the local art and architectural community,” serving as president of the Washington State AIA between 1956 and 1958, president of the University of Washington Architectural Alumni Association, Chairman of the Citizens’ Recreation and Park Committee of King County, sitting on both the Seattle City Planning Commission and the original Civic Art Commission, and serving as a member of the Cultural Arts Advisory Board for the Seattle World’s Fair. In 1959 Chiarelli was elected to the AIA College of Fellows. He retired in 1979 and passed away in 1990.
The Building and Site
The Chiarelli house is a single-story, shed roof, single-family residence set on a concrete-block foundation with a partial basement beneath the north portion of the dwelling. The dwelling is L-shaped, with an obtuse angle at the northeast corner. The foundation is hidden from view on the rear and east elevations, with the main level cantilevered out from the foundation creating the appearance that the house is floating above the ground. On the façade, the second level is cantilevered out over the basement level. The shed roof runs at a gentle slope downward toward the east. It is highest at its west end towering over the carport, which is attached in this location. The northwest corner of the shed roof is supported by a large, square beam, which also serves as the corner for the main entry porch. The primary entry to the dwelling is found in this location, with a single door and a large, rectangular window beside it. The form of the door and window are repeated above, resulting in a tall, vertical orientation at the entryway.
The exterior of the Chiarelli house is characterized primarily by wood and glass, as well as some brick as previously noted. The cladding is primarily vertical boards, and the windows are large, undivided expanses of glass. Fixed-louvered vents run along the bottom of many of the dwelling’s windows. The dwelling, with its dark gray or black stain on the exterior, blends into the surrounding natural environment as the dark colors easily camouflage with the deep, dark foliage, which includes large evergreens. Some of the wood inside and on the rear of the carport have been left natural.
The interior of the Chiarelli house is accessed via the front entryway located at the northwest corner of the main block of the dwelling. Inside the entry door is a small foyer with tile floors, providing access to a small stairway to the partial basement or a small stairway up to the main floor. The entryway’s west wall exhibits a fireplace with a wide, brick chimney extending up, and a brick half-wall extending toward the south passing the rear wall continuing to the outside. A large window is found above the half-wall, and a transparent panel is found in the ceiling above the fireplace. According to Pat Chiarelli, this panel created a dramatic environment during rain or snow. Black-dyed magnesite flooring with flecks of mother of pearl and marble is found throughout the main floor. Electric heating coils beneath the floor provide heat, and were the only source of heat when the dwelling was originally constructed. This flooring material was used by Chiarelli for its fireproof qualities, durability and ease of maintenance.
Off of the living room, is a small dining area. Like the living room, a large window is found on the rear wall, though it does not extend all the way to the floor. Rather, it features a ventilation system below, similar to what is found in many of the rooms throughout the house. An interior panel opens inward, revealing a louvered vent leading to the outside and providing airflow throughout the house. The kitchen is accessible via a passageway from the dining room. It is a small, U-shaped kitchen enclosed on all sides with the exception of the passageway and an opening above the countertops providing a view into the utility area beyond.
The property’s site features a distinctly northwest style of landscaping, featuring Western Red Cedar, Douglas Fir, Japanese Maple, Western Yew, Rhododendron, Azalea, Sword Fern, Oregon Grape, Bamboo, Nandina, Bunchberry, and various mosses. The largest and most notable trees are Western Red Cedar and Douglas Fir.