After living in a traditional Tudor-style residence, a retired Seattle businessman was ready for another approach. “I wanted a home that was different and reflected a new phase of my life,” he says. So, he turned to designer Jules Thomas to fashion this next phase. “I saw this spark in him—a Southerner’s ease mixed with corporate toughness—and decided to push the envelope,” she explains. “He trusted me to move forward with a design that was new to him.” Looking beyond the dated oak cabinetry, pink marble and sheetrock railings, Thomas “envisioned a masculine home with a soft edge,” she says. “I wanted to bring a freshness to the combination but with a sense of history as well.” The new spaces would conjure a 1930s Parisian gentlemen’s smoking club—mixing the relaxed sophistication of the Ritz Paris’ Bar Hemingway with a vibe that evokes the effortless ease of actor Jack Nicholson.
Getting that Paris-in-Seattle feel required an extensive undertaking on the part of both Thomas, who worked with Alev Seymen, a former project manager at Castanes Architects, for the drawings, and builder Klaus Toth. For Toth’s part, he ensured that every detail—from the living room’s dramatic custom fireplace to a tailored staircase railing near the entry—was installed with the utmost care. “The quality of the finishes was essential to this project,” says Toth, who worked on the home with superintendent Chris Nason. In the combined living-dining room, for instance, the sterling-silver-leaf ceiling, which now perfectly aligns with black plaster walls, was a challenge that required careful engineering. “There are points of connection where different materials come together,” Toth says. For example, high-gloss wood-panel walls, black hardwood floors, mirrored walls with glass moldings, Italian plaster surfaces, white veined marble, and full-height tile and stone wall finishes all make an appearance in the home. “A lot of thought was spent on those unions: what the material choices would be and how they’d play together,” he says. “Jules also wanted to celebrate the light and how it reflects off these different finishes.”
For the color palette, Thomas chose a black backdrop punctuated by metallics and white. “I thought it would be elegant yet understated, like Seattle, to play the gray light off a black palette in a variety of finishes from muted steel and mohair to lacquered walls,” she says. “I let the light in the spaces dominate over the idea of a color scheme. It’s really the absence of color in favor of enhancing the natural light.” To capture the natural brightness and to better match the scale of the house, the designer raised the doors and ceilings—those doors and windows will frame the gardens that are currently being designed by landscape architect Kenneth Philp. Thomas then considered the custom staircase, which features a bronze railing and blackened-steel posts. The black hue of the plaster walls became a beautiful canvas for an extensive art collection that includes Peter Waite’s large acrylic on panels that hangs in the dining room. “My client picked pieces he really loved,” says Thomas, who helped the homeowner curate the various works.
The graphic yet luminous palette well serves the luxurious surfaces. “Each finish or surface in this home was part of a layer cake,” Toth says. “There were so many materials to consider and finishes laid on top of each other that create a unified look.” Those layered elements that Thomas chose include the dining room’s black plasterwalls, which bestow a traditional but fresh patina; the entry hall’s custom paneling that plays off the living-dining room ceiling; metalwork including doorknobs, floor grates and the master bathroom’s console legs; and the living room’s hand-cast glass mirror wall. “It all comes together and is beautifully strong but soft at the same time,” Thomas says. In the living room, a brass coffee table and sinewy leather armchairs rest on a custom silk-and-cashmere rug, and the dining room’s cozy tufted banquette effortlessly pairs with bespoke cabinets and two tables for dining flexibility. “Every detail plays off each other seamlessly,” she says. Meticulous details can also be found in the kitchen, where custom lacquered cabinets with inlaid bronze-and-nickel trim balance the creamy marble countertops etched with a linear motif. “There’s so much depth to this project and blending of finishes that’s very cool,” Toth says.
The renovated abode now reflects Thomas’ client perfectly. “A house has to really belong to its homeowner in every way, like a custom-tailored suit,” she says. And the personality of the owner is truly displayed in each area of his house. “If you want a home that’s a personal reflection, a designer with a critical eye is key,” he says. “I love how the dark walls and floors add warmth to the house and reflect light. The finished product is absolutely magnificent.”