Penthouse Pyramid: Seattle’s Tower-Top Mystery Apartment


A series of fought-for conversions, happy accidents and perfect timings led to this amazing two-story apartment that occupies the pyramidal pinnacle of Seattle’s Smith Tower, once the tallest building on the West Coast of the United States (yet one encircled with much misinformation about who lives at its top and why).

And on top of this mysterious dwelling? A great glass globe with unparalleled 360-degree views of Puget Sound, Mount Rainier and essentially every other sight the city has to offer, urban or otherwise. (Images via Castanes Architects &  Stuart Isett for The New York Times)

The building owners did not want to change much, but fortunately neither did the the aspiring tenant: a few steel staircases and platforms were all that was needed to infill the gaps but preserve the remarkable and layered history of the space (including carved-bronze doors and crisscrossing wooden beams details).

Entrepreneur and choreographer Petra Franklin Lahaie occupies this much-discussed, mystery-shrouded space atop floors of offices and banquet halls, with her young daughter. The live in a kind of ad hoc wonderland combining childrens’ toys with vintage architectural elements never meant to make a home.

The furnishings have histories as fascinating as the abode itself – centuries-old chairs and huge slaps of marble were found rummaging through lower floors during renovations. And speaking of: just imagine being the worker who had to slice and refit windows on the ancient angled roof exteriors, suspended thirty-eight floors in the sky.

In the late 1990s, when the (now current) new client came on the scene, the apartment above was in shambles – leaks were everywhere, concrete and dust littered the half-destroyed residence, and ladders rather than stairs spanned from floor to floor.

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