Behind The Thoughtful Update Of A Notable 1970s Northwest Home

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A Mercer Island home perches...

This Mercer Island home enjoys a waterfront site.

A large window juts out...

A window-lined nook in the living room creates an inviting place to sit and relax. The Michael Berman Limited armchairs and ottoman are upholstered in a velvet from Holly Hunt’s Great Outdoors collection, and the amber-tinted tables are by McCollin Bryan.

A kitchen has wood cabinets...

Lake Washington views are the star of the kitchen, where white oak cabinets are enhanced with minimalist pulls from Sun Valley Bronze. The quartzite countertops were sourced from Architectural Surfaces.

A fireplace is bookended by...

In the family room, a Nathan Anthony Furniture sofa and coffee table rest on a felted-wool rug from Driscoll Robbins. The Eames lounge chair and ottoman are from Design Within Reach and are paired with a Creativemary lamp as well as a Tuell and Reynolds table.

A dining room with a...

A painting by Myke Reilly hangs above a Tao Studio sideboard in the dining room. The Berman Rosetti table and Bright Chair Company chairs are illuminated by a Stephen Hirt Studios chandelier and a Porta Romana lamp.

A living room has large...

The living room’s main seating area includes a Holly Hunt Studio sofa, a chair from Dennis Miller New York and an RH coffee table. A Cameron Design House chandelier hangs over a rug from Driscoll Robbins; the bronze diptych is by Delos Van Earl.

A bedroom has a water...

A pair of RH swivel chairs and an ottoman create a cozy sitting area in the primary bedroom. A Phillip Jeffries grass cloth defines the wall behind a bed made up with a duvet and pillows by Lesley Petty Studio. The bench is Joseph Jeup, and the lamp is by Kelly Wearstler.

It isn’t surprising that curious otters, turtles and beavers in Lake Washington have been popping their heads out of the water to watch the transformation of one of Mercer Island’s most noted dwellings. The house, originally designed by architect Reid A. Morgan Jr. in the early 1970s, has been lovingly renovated by a couple who embraced its spectacular setting and all the magic that comes with it. 

“We’d been looking for a waterfront home for a long time, and when we walked in—wow! It was so peaceful,” recalls owner Kent Sacia. “The design was purposeful and flowed with the property,” his wife, Lisa, adds, noting their eagerness to honor its history. “This was one of the first residences built in the neighborhood, and it has seven levels that go down from the street to the lake,” explains residential designer Michael Troyer. Working with general contractor Ali Serra, he updated the exterior (blackened-steel panels replaced deteriorated wood banding, and the parapets were raised to better hide the roof) and knocked through interior walls and ceilings to create generous spaces. “The house was typical of Northwest dwellings built during this time period, so we reduced the amount of cedar paneling inside to brighten things up, but we didn’t want to strip the character, so we left some of it intact,” he adds. “Now there are lake views from every room,” notes Lisa, who admits to a wave of relief when the original owner visited and loved the changes. 

“Keeping the pedigree of the architecture was important, but we wanted to infuse the spaces with the clients’ personalities,” adds designer Danielle Krieg. “Because it’s on the water, we chose to bring in a primarily neutral palette, adding colors like blue, orange and yellow to connect the rooms to the garden.” The designer also put a special emphasis on creating “destinations” within the abode, such as the cozy family room off the kitchen (“a good place to gather around the fire when it’s raining,” Kent notes) and the pair of plush lounge chairs in the living room that can swivel toward the view or the fireplace. One altogether new must-visit spot is the window-lined, gallery-like hallway overlooking the courtyard and its three totem-inspired carvings by artist Steve Jensen. “Opening that enclosed space changed the entire house—you feel like you’re outdoors,” Lisa says. “Originally, it wasn’t a significant place in the home, but now it’s special.”

“These clients were open to a lot of ideas,” Krieg adds, noting design elements like the bar-height table for six that bridges the living and dining rooms. While it can serve as a place to dine, it’s also a multifunctional space that can be used in myriad ways when the couple entertains. The designer also emphasized textural materials throughout the rooms, such as the grass-cloth wallcoverings, tile-and-metal dining room buffet, and knobby lamps in the couple’s bedroom suite. Artwork, too, now fills the dwelling, including a painting commissioned from Myke Reilly. “This work was curated for the house,” Lisa explains, “but most of our collection has been gathered over the years, marking moments in our lives.”

To renew the abode’s natural surroundings—a critical component to the renovation—the couple called on longtime collaborator landscape architect Dan Groves. “Befitting the midcentury style of the home, we wanted the landscape to reflect a clean, contemporary, Zen-like feel,” Groves says. “While every project dictates a different plant palette, I’m admittedly a texture guy. With considerable latitude from the clients, I chose easy-to-maintain plantings that have intriguing forms and provide contrast and year-round interest.” Spreading yew, privet honeysuckle, blue- and chartreuse-leaved hostas, and grasses dot the property along with rhododendrons, azaleas and hydrangeas. Also drawing guests outdoors are entertaining areas with colorful container plantings of Mistral begonias and Tropicanna cannas by Groves’ colleague Michele Walker. 

“The house is so integrated with its surroundings that you don’t even really think about if you’re inside or out,” Kent says. To which Lisa adds, “It may have needed some updating when we found it, but this place was ahead of its time. This home was, and still is, so relevant.” 

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