When Max and Nadia Rombakh started considering a new residence for their family, one home in the running was an old acquaintance. In fact, as a realtor, Max had listed it twice and sold it once. Now it was coming back on the market, in a coveted section of the Bridle Trails neighborhood in Kirkland, and they were interested—more than interested. They wanted it.
Where there’s a will, there’s a way, and a contract was eventually inked. The Rombakhs moved into the house in 2018.
Moving in wasn’t the end of the story, however. The intent was never to live in the existing house, but to design and build a new one for the property. A year or so later, in August 2019, the family moved into an apartment, and the demolition began to make way for the new construction. During the previous year, they had completed the permitting process and settled on a design.
Numerous designs were considered before a final decision was made. Nadia wanted something with “grandeur but homey. A gathering place where people feel welcome.” They designed it, in part, as “an entertainment space,” Nadia said. A home they saw in Atherton, California, provided some inspiration, as it was a “modern farmhouse” style.
Another design consideration was how to make the best use of light. “Everybody knows Bridle Trails for its trees,” Max said, “and it can be kind of dark.” Fortunately, their lot had fewer trees than their neighbors, which opened up the lot to the sky. “We wanted a very bright house, to capture the sun,” Max said. “Even on a gray day, it stays very bright.”
All of that brightness comes from an abundance of windows. For example, the front entrance opens onto an atrium, which leads in to a great room with a steel and glass staircase to one side, the kitchen area ahead. On one wall of the great room is a La Cantina 10-foot tall, 32-foot wide sliding door that opens to the patio/pool area, allowing an easy flow from inside to outside and vice versa. “The whole house is built around it,” Max said.
In the kitchen, there is a 15-foot island composed of gray quartz countertop and walnut butcher block. The centerpiece of the kitchen is the one-piece quartzite slab that sits against the back wall. The kitchen also features an all-Miele appliance package, and the refrigerator has the same paneling as the oak cabinetry.
One innovation to keep the kitchen area tidy for entertaining is the scullery, inspired by galleys onboard sailing ships. The scullery has copious built-in cabinetry for storage, and a ladder on wheels is bolted to the cabinets to allow access to higher shelving.
The dining room is surrounded by three walls of glass—8-foot Anderson E-Series windows topped by 2-foot transom windows above. It is the locus of family meals. A “sun hall” is another feature on this floor. The whole house exterior is stucco, but the sun hall has a steel façade that makes it look almost as if it was added after the fact. Nadia noted that it is reminiscent of classic Tuscan villas that have been owned by generations of families and have been modified in various ways over time. There is also a guest suite on the lower floor.
On the Wing
Up the steel-glass staircase are two wings, one for the master/owner’s suite and another for the couple’s 11-year-old twin daughters. The master bedroom has floor-to-ceiling windows on one wall. Uplighting in the room makes the wallpaper look like plaster, giving “a sense of arrival,” Max said.
The girls’ rooms are across from one another, which comes in handy for privacy and remote learning (due to school closures for Covid-19). “The girls shared a room in the apartment, and they hated it,” Nadia said. “Now they won’t come out!” she added, laughing.
They’ve only been living in their new home since December, but already both Max and Nadia have their favorite aspects. “I love it all,” Nadia said, but over the holidays the dining room and courtyard were what she enjoyed most. Max likes the media room. “This media room isn’t your typical home theater,” Max said. “It’s more like a lounge, dark and moody, and outfitted with an incredible THX surround sound media system.”
They both say that “it feels like home.” Max explained, “Interestingly, it almost doesn’t feel new. You spend a year or more on the house, walking through it with 3D renderings, imagining how you would use the space,” and it becomes familiar. “We use the house exactly how we thought we’d use it,” Max said.
In some ways, the immediate comfort with the new home is not surprising. The design was intentional, meant to accommodate the way the family lives rather than being overdesigned or overbuilt. Despite the occasional suggestion that they should make this or that bigger, Max and Nadia insisted on making the house work for their lifestyle, more minimalist, with some accommodations for resale when the time comes; Max is a realtor, after all. “It is just the right size for us,” Nadia said.
The builder, Adam Wanichek of Highlands Builders Group, was an active listener and collaborator who understood what Max and Nadia envisioned. He was able to deliver, completing the build on time and on budget, despite the potential disruptions the pandemic presented. “The entire project took 14 to 15 months, and we had planned for 18 months,” Max said. “I give credit to the builder for bringing the project in on time.” Phil McCullough with McCullough Architects was also on the team.
It’s Settled, Then?
Sometimes when people build a custom home, it is the culmination of a lifetime dream, and they want to stay put. Max and Nadia intend to stay in this house until their daughters are through high school, and then they will see what comes next. As much as they are enjoying the home, it lacks one thing Max aspires to: a view. “That’s why it won’t be our forever home,” he said. But for now, they can’t wait for summer to dive in and sample that backyard pool.