“This project has been a labor of love,” says the owner of a contemporary home on a wooded lot overlooking a lush, green golf course in Medina. The owners relocated from Louisville to the Pacific Northwest, trading their traditional southern home for a 1965 rambler with loads of potential. Inspired by a visit to their relative’s contemporary retreat on Martha’s Vineyard, the owners desired a similarly modern aesthetic for their new home, and they were happy to discover that the architect, Brett Baba, was based in Seattle. “It was meant to be,” the wife says.
When Baba first toured the house, it had dated interior finishes, gable dormers that didn’t jive with his and the owners’ vision, and a sunroom that had been added in an earlier renovation that could be altered to function better for the new family. With the help of the owners, interior designer Holly McKinley, and builders Frank Fabens, Les McAuliffe and Matthew King, Baba carried out a three-part renovation that triumphed over all of these factors and more.
Initially, Baba focused on making the interior more livable. To make the 8-foot ceilings seem higher, he removed the headers and raised the door heights throughout the home. In the master bedroom, he took the opposite approach, cladding the ceiling with stained tongue-in-groove wood to create a sense of coziness. “The master bedroom was too voluminous,” the architect remembers. “Not only do you step down to enter the room, but the volume of the ceiling also pops up. It was a little too dramatic.”
Large-scale furnishings, such as a platform for the bed, also reduce the room’s massive scale, says McKinley, who worked with the architect on the home’s built-in cabinetry and fireplace surrounds.
“The lines start to blur when Holly and I work together, which is what makes it a great collaboration,” Baba says. McKinley set the tone for the interiors in the first phase of the remodel by selecting a neutral color palette and designing many of the furnishings herself. “We used beautiful reclaimed woods for the custom coffee table and the console behind the sofa in the family room,” McKinley says. “The lines of the furniture are clean and very complementary of the architecture. The bones of the house really called for that.”
The custom furnishings and carefully chosen materials can be found throughout the home. “Everything is detail-oriented and cohesive,” the wife says, pointing to the stairway leading from the entry to the living room, which Baba redesigned along with the stairway stepping into the family room from the kitchen. Baba also used concrete as a countertop surface in the family room, for which he and McKinley created a wall of built-in cabinetry with a bronze-patinated blackened-steel fireplace.
“People use blackened steel all the time. It’s the design and placement of it that’s really exciting and wonderful in this project,” says Fabens—who helmed construction during the first phase of the renovation with Les McAuliffe, of then-Beacon Remodeling—noting the metal reveal between the casework and countertop, which matches that of the railing and the fireplace mantel. “We did multiple tests to get the right patina.”(The builders also oversaw the installation of the custom flame-sprayed nickel fireplace surround in the master suite.)
In later renovation phases, Baba worked with King to completely redesign the formerly enclosed kitchen, opening it to the step-down family room and installing cabinets with a rift-sawn oak veneer. King also implemented Baba’s plans for the exterior, which included installing shiplap siding, replacing the gables to flatten the roof and rebuilding the sunroom with a new foundation, radiant floor heating and a glass roof in place of the original skylights. “We gave it a much sleeker look,” King says.
“Brett has a great eye for integrating steel and wood surfaces. The transformation is amazing.” And landscape architect Randy Allworth, of Allworth Design, conceived of an entry sequence and plantings for the front of the house that complement the modern scheme of the updated exterior.
Although the project took several phases to complete, the owner says that the results are seamless. “Matthew and his team did a wonderful job allowing us to live in the space comfortably while all this work was happening,” the wife explains. “We have concrete and metal, but we also have a lot of wood and warmth. It’s a contemporary house, but the scale keeps it grounded and very organic.”