At first blush, the understated sensibility of the Pacific Northwest and the more exuberant vibe inherent in the Palm Springs look might seem mutually exclusive. But for designer Brian Paquette it’s a mix that came easily as he went about conceiving the interiors for a Seattle family’s home. “My clients wanted something that spoke to the Pacific Northwest but also had some elements of their favorite vacation destination, which is Palm Springs,” Paquette says. He addressed the Pacific Northwest part of the design equation by employing a muted palette drawing from the colors found in Seattle’s natural landscape. And, to deliver a feeling of Palm Springs, he selected plush textures and low-slung furniture silhouettes that reference midcentury modern design. “A strong design doesn’t try to be one thing,” the designer says. “It’s a collection of personal references.”
Paquette’s clients decided to move and build their dream home when a property in a coveted locale became available. “We’d always wanted to live here because it has great views of Puget Sound,” the husband says. “We waited for a lot to come up, and, when it did, we bought it.” Once the idyllic spot was theirs, the family took down the existing house. “It was built in the ’30s and was in pretty bad shape,” says the husband, who engaged residential designer Dave Biddle to imagine the new structure. “They liked a midcentury modern aesthetic,” Biddle says. “We started there, and then the site’s topography and the views drove the design.”
From the street, the flat-roof structure–clad with ipe, cultured stone, glass and HardiePanel–appears like a single-story house. But the rear elevation reveals that it actually comprises three levels. “The house sits on a hillside,” Biddle says. “If you just drive by the front, you don’t see how the backside works.” On the main level at the street, Biddle arranged the open-plan kitchen, dining and living rooms, as well as a master suite and an office. “It functions like a rambler for when we get older,” the husband says. “As we age, we won’t have to climb up and down the stairs.” The architect tied this level to the larger Seattle landscape and the view of Puget Sound. “NanaWalls open to the views, so it feels like you’re on vacation,” says general contractor Rob McVicars. The vision of landscape architect Karen Kiest emphasizes an understated take too. “We used soft colors that weren’t flamboyant,” she explains. “We didn’t want anything that would compete with that setting.”
Since the waters of Puget Sound are on full display through the large windows on the main level, Paquette dressed the rooms with cream, copper and brown tones and accents of blue, gray and green. “I think a lot of times when clients come to us with this idea of a midcentury or Palm Springs influence, it’s very sort of atomic midcentury, which can be garish in the Pacific Northwest,” Paquette says. “It’s too bold and bright against the backdrop of gray skies. If you try and compete with nature, nature always wins.” For the living area, the designer selected a low-slung, tufted midcentury-inspired sofa from Lawson-Fenning in Los Angeles. He upholstered the sofa with light brown fabric that contrasts with the black-and-cream cashmere boucle covering a pair of barrel swivel chairs. “Swivel chairs are my favorite part of Palm Springs midcentury style,” Paquette says. “They just have tons of function. I find myself using them in almost every project I do.” Ottomans wrapped in blue performance fabric, a large pale-green glass vase and a chandelier with smoke-colored glass globes add cool notes to the room. The space also displays an Eames lounge chair and ottoman, a live-edge coffee table and a cream-and-copper-toned rug.
A neutral palette and comfortable, practical furniture meant Paquette looked to texture to provide interest. “If you’re going to have functional chairs, you want a really sophisticated fabric,” he says. “But overall, we wanted as much super rich texture as possible.” The designer outfitted the dining room with an ethereal green wool rug, a custom walnut-and-powder-coated steel table, a brass chandelier and chairs upholstered with wool-blend fabric. “The fabric on the upholstered bed and the vintage Italian chair in the master suite are performance, too,” says Paquette, who also chose linen drapery material and a brass bench designed by Kelly Wearstler with a linen-wrapped cushion for the room.
In Paquette’s hands the restrained palette and plush textures threading through the home don’t read as literal interpretations of Palm Springs style transplanted 1,200 miles north. Rather, the elements play tribute to both locales. “We were inspired by midcentury modernism in Palm Springs, but we didn’t want something that would look dated in 20 years,” he says. “We wanted timeless design.” Those consistent elements are also the reason the house functions with a seamless aesthetic. “They tie the rooms together, so you’re going to see the same colors, repeated textures, and repeated scale or shape throughout the entire house,” adds the designer. “It gives an overall energy and, psychologically, it helps the body move through the space.”