By Meghan Hall
The popular waterfront neighborhood of Ballard, just north of downtown Seattle, is known for its array of hip waterfront cafes and trendy local shops. But the neighborhood also takes great pride in its Scandinavian heritage, which is apparent in numerous attractions throughout Ballard, from the Nordic Museum, founded in 1980, to Bergen Place Park, Larsen’s Danish Bakery and the 17th of May Festival. The neighborhood’s newest — and largest — multifamily project yet, Valdok, pulled from Ballard’s Scandinavian roots in its design. Spearheaded by developer Lennar Multifamily Communities (LMC), with architecture by Clark Barnes and interiors by Robin Chell Design, the project weaves together the many juxtaposing elements found in Scandinavian design to produce a sense of warmth, comfort and belonging for the development’s residents.
Called “Hygge,” the term conveys a sense of coziness, content and well-being. But the Valdok’s design goes beyond simply pulling from the local neighborhood heritage. The property was previously owned by Bjorn and Randi Valdok, a Norwegian couple who immigrated to the area in 1959 and owned an accounting business on the site. After Bjorn Valdok passed in 2014, LMC purchased the site from the family for about $3.5 million. In honor of the family’s longstanding presence in the community, LMC dubbed the project Valdok.
“It is a very unique property, and when [the Valdok family] did decide to sell, Lennar honored that by naming the project after the original owners,” explained Robin Chell, at Robin Chell Design. “We wanted to take both the history of Ballard and the story of the ownership, and that is how we got started on the design.”
Valdok was completed in two phases and totals 364 units. The exterior of the buildings feature a simple and modern white and gray color palette, with natural woods on the ground level and inset in the project’s soffits. Phase 1’s interiors feature a natural palette as well, with light wood tones, woven textiles and pops of color in muted blues and yellows.
“It was really easy to pull from that Scandinavian heritage because we were very inspired by the Hygge concept, which is that warm, fuzzy feeling that you get,” said Chell. “Candle light, lush textiles, tactile waves—that’s what we were inspired by originally. We wanted a lot of color but nothing intense.”
Phase 2 represents a different side of Scandinavia and is evocative of Icelandic landscapes through the use of charred woods, brass and bronze, dark fabrics and strong contrasting accents. The resident lounge is anchored by a large, dark, lodge-inspired fireplace meant to provide not just lighting, but a community gathering spot. Together, the two phases balance one another to produce the interesting but welcoming feel the project team believes tenants are looking for.
“For Phase 2, we still wanted that Scandinavian vibe, but pulled from darker, moodier feelings. There are sexier materials, and include warm metals and reflective materials,” Chell added.
Clean lines, distinct geometries and adjustable layouts were also incorporated into Valdok’s design and used as a means to lay out the development’s units and amenities. In Valdok, residents have access to a gym, co-working space, a dog park resident lounge and roof deck.
“We didn’t have a lot of space to work with in the club room, but we wanted it to be highly amenitized, so we created spaces within this one large space,” said Chell. “We designed these divider screens that were made out of wood slats. They slide, so you can change the space as needed. The slats are spaced to where you can see through them, so it gives you sort of a visual separation, but it does not completely close you off.”
For its efforts, the project team has been announced as a finalist for the NAIOP Night of the Stars Award for best urban multifamily development over 100 units.
The units themselves are also modern and a mix of studio, one- and two-bedroom apartment which range in size from about 497 square feet to just over 1,100 square feet. Pricing for studios begins at around $2,000 per month, while two-bedrooms come in at around $3,500 per month. The project, said Chell, has been very well received.
“This particular design appeals to all ages; I think it is timeless, so you are not just setting yourself up for young techies,” Chell stated. “Especially with so much competition, you don’t want to just cater to one tenant, you want to appeal to all types. And Valdok does indeed have quite a wide appeal, in age range and different types of industry.”