WHEN BELLEVUE, WASH.–BASED Bennett Homes acquired the parcel that was to become the Harmony Collection at Dahlia Park, an enclave of 60 homes in the master planned community of Issaquah Highlands, the builder was intent on outfitting each residence with a strong connection to the outdoors. No problem for the community's perimeter lots, which opened onto greenbelts. But the internal lots at the core of the site plan needed to provide an alternative means of experiencing nature.
The solution, conceived by architects at Weber + Thompson, was to tuck an outdoor “garden room” into the lap of each floor plan—an idea frequently seen on the other side of the Pacific. “The Japanese have become masters at building small spaces on very small lots because of their population density and land being in short supply,” notes Paul Glosniak, president of Bennett Homes. “The concept of a backyard is foreign to them, so you often find spaces carved out in the middle of the building footprint to create these intimate outdoor rooms. Since all of the homes [in Dahlia Park] are alley-loaded, we didn't have the backyard option either.”
Garden rooms in plans ranging from 1,600 square feet to 2,300 square feet proved to have considerable allure, and nearly a quarter of the homes sold to single women. The intimate courtyards offer a place to entertain, read the paper, or rejuvenate, with the added benefit of channeling more natural light to the interiors.
Standard garden rooms in the neighborhood (which is now sold out) came landscaped with patios and shrubs, but the spaces could also be upgraded with pavers, potting tables, fountains, and flowering plants. Nature-loving female buyers were also drawn to the community's ample walking trails, shared green spaces, and an adjacent “Bark Park” for dogs (a common form of companionship and security for women who live alone).
All of the homes at Dahlia Park feature master down floor plans (with the option for a second master on the second level), and are Built Green and Energy Star rated, “which translates into lower utility bills and less home maintenance,” says Glosniak. “As we watch the boomer generation entering retirement, we are mindful of older single women who may not want to take care of a 3,500-square-foot house anymore and certainly don't need that much space.”
Project: The Harmony Collection at Dahlia Park, Issaquah, Wash.; Project size: 18 acres; Price: $600,000s; Unit size: 1,600 to 2,300 square feet; Builder: Bennett Homes, Bellevue, Wash.; Architect: Weber + Thompson, Seattle