Lights, Camera, Action!

High-tech efficiencies make this home entertaining — and easy

Taking your work home might not be so bad if you’re Mike Toutonghi, the engineer who started Microsoft’s effort to develop home-entertainment and automation systems of the future.

The son of a Seattle school teacher, Toutonghi used to be a jewelry designer. While attending community college he worked on the campus network and taught himself programming. That eventually led him to Microsoft, where he became one of the company’s “distinguished engineers.”

So it’s not surprising that his nearly new Craftsman-style home tucked away on a Bellevue cul-de-sac is comfortably packed with the latest technology. The house is also a sort of laboratory where he tinkers with the latest gizmos for controlling various household systems with a personal computer.

The technology is mostly invisible. All a visitor sees are fancy control pads the size of light-switch plates on the walls and a whiz-bang remote control in the family room. Like a family dog, the house comes to life when people approach, lighting up when sensors on the perimeter are triggered. Inside the foyer, a panel allows you to adjust the lights, turn on music and control the security system.

America The Beautiful

AMERICA the beautiful
In home design, we celebrate the spirit of our independence

Whether it’s a humble habitat in the city or an extravagant mansion in suburbia, the recurring theme in the dwellings that dot America’s landscape is the desire to have a home of our own.

Author Gerald Foster identifies this unique characteristic in the introduction to his new book, “American Houses, A Field Guide to the Architecture of the Home” (Houghton Mifflin, $20): “The single-family home has traditionally assumed an unusual importance in the United States, compared with other Western societies. Buying a home is an American rite of passage, and the house has been a symbol of independence and security, as well as social and economic status.”

Spreading the Love

At AW, they’ve got a head for pots

REMEMBER WHEN terra cotta and maybe a high-fired glaze or two were about the only kinds of pots around? Now it’s impossible to get safely past the dazzling array that local nurseries and garden centers stock. And perhaps nowhere else in the country are so many of these pots being cleverly used. The colors now run the gamut from turquoise to oxblood, and the textures are so palpable you can’t help but stroke the pots as much as the plants.

Counter Culture

Counter Culture
Passing the ‘acid test’ of competition, Nancy’s Yogurt thrives, naturally

WHEN CHUCK KESEY and his brother, Ken, were boys, they often worked for their dad, who ran a dairy in Springfield, Ore. “Ken liked to work the boiler because that gave him a lot of time to write,” Chuck says of his famous kid brother. “But I was more involved in the hands-on activities.”

While Chuck studied dairy technology at Oregon State University, the younger Kesey eloped with his sweetheart, Faye, and enrolled at the University of Oregon. There, he won a scholarship to the creative-writing program at Stanford. To earn extra money, he worked as an orderly in a psychiatric ward and offered himself to the university psychology department as a guinea pig in experiments with psilocybin, mescaline and LSD.

It’s A Colorful Life

In pickle green and retriever gold, a new house charms like an old

YOU’D EXPECT the house of paint-store owners to be gloriously colored. The new home of Mary Hall and Ken Schuricht, proprietors of Winslow Paint Co. and Winslow Hardware and Mercantile, exceeds all expectations, with its brick-red and gold exterior trimmed in richest eggplant and radiant chartreuse.

Viewed from across the wild wetlands that stretch from house to Puget Sound, the silvery-metal peaked roof and multipaned façade look like a child’s drawing of an eccentric grandma’s house. Street-side, the wings of the house spread to embrace twin carports, each housing a matching Honda Element looking more like car-shaped cartoons than actual vehicles. To add to the fun, a garden between road and house overflows with flowers in at least every color of house paint. Burgundy dahlias, cobalt-blue salvia, hot-pink zinnias, orange sneezeweed and dripping golden amaranth are crayola bright.