One of the owners of this storybook Shingle-style residence in Laurelhurst overlooking Lake Washington remembers admiring the house that she and her wife now call home, but she never expected to live there. “I played golf with the people who lived here then and kidded with them for about a year,” she says. “I told them that I coveted their home, and if they were ever to give it up, they had to call me first.” She doubted the call would ever come, because the former homeowners were committed Seattleites, but then one fateful day, it did. She and her wife had never even been inside, yet once they got a tour and saw the panoramic views, it was a done deal.
There was plenty to love—airiness, natural light, the waterside locale—but the interiors didn’t suit them. So they replaced the carpeting with wide-plank wood floors, added crown molding, and made other modifications to bring it closer to their aesthetic, as well as created a playroom for the kids on the bottom level and revamped the master bathroom. Then, to push it to the next level and achieve the coastal vibe they both love, they hired designer Graciela Rutkowski. “Their mantra was, ‘Nantucket, Nantucket, Nantucket,’” Rutkowski says. “They wanted a casually elegant beach house, without it being too beachy—no shells or coral.”
One of the moms, who is a managing principal at a powerhouse firm, needed a calming retreat where she could decompress. Her counterpart, a stay-at-home mom to their two young kids—a boy and a girl—says the home also needed to function for family and entertaining. “We wanted it to be bright, comfortable and inviting, with lots of blue, white and yellow,” the owners expound. “That’s all we had to say to Graciela, and then it was just a series of rapid-fire questions from her.” And they definitely had answers. Having decorated three previous homes together, the pair were certainly decisive.
To create the coastal serenity they wanted, Rutkowski took cues from the natural surroundings. “We wanted to play off the lake and the sky views, which means blues and grays here in Seattle, to make it seamless inside and out,” she says. The couple had already painted the walls pale yellow, which they wanted to keep, so Rutkowski used a neutral palette of furnishings and then added splashes of yellow accents to tie everything together. She also incorporated pops of navy blue and red, and some lively motifs. “The house is pretty linear—a lot of windows and no draperies to soften anything—so a bit of swirly pattern, the ikat in the pillows and the floral in the powder room, add movement and softness,” the designer explains. She artfully blended more formal elements, such as the skirted sofa, with naturalistic woods that evoke the home’s waterfront setting.
Rutkowski found the perfect furnishings for one of the home’s prime viewing spots: near the living room window. “When we moved in, we thought that it was going to be two chairs facing each other with a lot of space in-between,” the owners recall. “But Graciela said, ‘Nah. I’ve got just the thing.’” The designer then brought in a tête-à-tête, which has been a big hit with the kids. “We wake up early, and our kids will come and cuddle on that every morning,” they say. “We play I Spy and we thumb wrestle—it’s magical. After dinner the kids will ask, ‘Can we snuggle on the tête-à-tête?’ It’s a place to hang out for all of us.”
Rutkowski also devised a solution for an area of the living room that wasn’t living up to its potential. “There were bookshelves that were kind of funny and the television sat really low. It was an odd configuration, so we added a new bookshelf and mantel area, and refaced the fireplace,” says Rutkowski, who worked with builder tk on the change. It was just what the owners never knew they wanted. “That whole unit was just brilliant because we needed that kind of storage in the living room,” says the couple. “Graciela came up with things that, in a hundred years, we wouldn’t have thought of.”
With tk’s help, Rutkowski also redesigned the kitchen—refacing the cabinets, and adding a farmhouse sink and a refreshing tile backsplash—and made the room more functional, as well. A new island, for example, offers storage for everything from cookbooks to culinary equipment. The revamped kitchen comes in handy when the couple entertain, as does the spacious deck overlooking the water. “In the summertime, with the deck, we have another room,” the owners say. “There’s a dining space, a grill and all of the seating. That whole wall facing the lake is glass, so it really does make it feel like another room while still being a part of the outdoors. We paid attention to the colors, because we wanted this to blend with what was already going on inside.”
Calling this house home has proven to be worth the wait. “We do a lot more entertaining than we used to do since we moved in,” the couple says. “There are fun, exciting things that happen in Seattle, particularly right outside our windows. In the wintertime, there’s the festival of boats, so everybody comes over to our house. The boats dock right near us and people sing Christmas carols. In the summer, our friends will come up from the beach club, and we’ll have impromptu dinners or lunches.”
And when the family needs some quiet time, the home also delivers. One look around the house and out at the view recharges them from the stresses life may throw their way, and their souls fill up again. Rutkowski indeed brought their Nantucket fantasy to life—just on the West Coast. “As a family, we’ve always spent a lot of time at the beach, on the water and at the pool,” the owners say. “So to have a beautiful lake house that is not only gorgeous but also something that we can live in is really a dream come true.”