Commissioned to update a house in Medina, Washington, designers Whitney Maehara and James Fung found themselves in a real-life fairytale. The home in question was a 1924 Tudor with a brick turret, a moss-covered roof and a panoramic view of Meydenbauer Bay. “It looked like a storybook home,” Fung recalls, adding, “We hadn’t come across a lot of Tudors in Medina proper.”
Despite its charming exterior, the structure required nurturing. “It was evident a lot of work needed to be done, but it felt like a great challenge to explore,” Maehara says. Barely touched since the 1980s, the interior was dark and weighed down by heavy woodwork. The kitchen and bathrooms, built for 1920s lifestyles, lacked modern functionality. And although the home’s character was appealing, living in a time capsule was not.
The designers hatched a plan to juxtapose old and new elements within the house, paying homage to its history amid modern pieces. Consistency was critical: “A lot of spaces are really segmented, as Tudors are,” Fung says. “It was important to us, as you progressed through the house, that you didn’t feel like every space was separately designed.” Special attention was paid to texture to give rooms a layered sensibility as well as to woodwork and metalwork that wouldn’t feel foreign to the architecture.
Working with general contractor Mark Duffy, of MandA Homes, the designers began in the kitchen, where new Shaker-style casework sets a transitional tone. “We didn’t change the galley layout but updated the finishes to lean more modern,” Maehara says. They hung a contemporary glass bubble chandelier in the breakfast area and added a dose of color with a blue range that strikes a retro note. New oak flooring was laid in a herringbone pattern to emphasize the room and stained to match the remaining original, which appears on the stair landing and in the nearby living area.
The kitchen updates “helped us build a platform for the rest of the design,” Maehara says. This includes the color palette: With the range as a jumping-off point, the pair turned to relaxing shades of blue, green and gray that reference the property’s foliage and water views. The strategy is apparent in the 20-foot-by-30-foot living area, which the designers were asked to make more intimate. “The biggest challenge was to determine a seating arrangement that didn’t feel too over-packed with furniture but still allows flexibility in terms of hosting and accommodating functions for entertaining,” Maehara says. They placed a gray daybed in the center; paired navy mohair sofas in front of the original stucco fireplace; and added a games table by a window.
The living area furnishings themselves coincide with the old-meets-new ethos, Fung points out: “The sofas are contemporary in terms of having clean lines and navy mohair. But detailing like the exposed wood legs and loose cushions harks back to a more traditional vibe.” The designers carried the strategy through to the formal dining room, where the settee they positioned near the wooden Parsons table imparts a salon feel. “It allows for the space to be used a little more casually,” Fung says.
In most areas, a fresh coat of white paint was all it took to set a clean backdrop for the home’s contemporary and midcentury furnishings, original sconces and artwork that spans generations. To rework the upstairs, architect Kevin Broderick of Broderick Architects came aboard for structural changes. There, in the master bedroom, walls on both sides of the fireplace were opened up to connect the sleeping quarters with the sitting area. The team also raised the flat ceiling to a peak of 10 feet and relocated the closet to the bathroom, which received double vanities, a new shower and a soaking tub set against blue hexagonal tiled walls. “It doesn’t feel foreign to the house but has an interesting modernity to it,” Maehara says of the pattern.
Outside, the team replaced the roof, painted the exterior a lighter neutral shade and swapped inoperable windows for leaded ones to maintain the home’s traditional character. The copper gutters and drip pipes, however, were preserved. “That was important, because that’s something you can’t get as easily these days,” Fung says. “It’s like jewelry in the front of the house.” Now, the Tudor’s updated look acknowledges its 95-year past while ushering in a new chapter with the current owners. “The house doesn’t take itself too seriously,” Fung says. “There is a layered quality and history of the home. Part of the story has been added on.”