“When we originally purchased this residence, we thought it might be a temporary move for us,” the homeowner recalls.“But after settling in, it became clear that there was no need to look any further for a ‘forever’ house— this was it.” She and her husband had just relocated their young family back to Seattle after living in Spain when they found this circa 1908 Queen Anne Revival on Capitol Hill. “What most appealed to them was the light,” says designer Karen Skadan, who first met the couple 15 years ago and designed several of their previous residences. “Barcelona was bright and happy, and they had sunshine every day.” Skadan, along with architect Bernie Baker and project architect Jay Volz, immediately got to work, planning a modern design for a contemporary lifestyle in a traditional house with sophisticated European flair.
The house had great bones and had undergone a series of remodels through the years; the most recent was an extensive restoration by Aaron Mollick and Stuart Silk of Stuart Silk Architects, Rocky Rochon of Rocky Rochon Design Studio and build firm KrekowJennings. That makeover involved structural reinforcement, family room and master suite additions, new flooring, fresh fireplace surrounds, and new wall paneling and beams in the living area. This time around, Baker says, the architectural changes were executed to fit the needs of the client. “I think our work respects earlier renovations, though that wasn’t nec- essarily the primary goal,” he says. “The clients’ personalities needed to be applied to the house, which we did in ways both subtle and not.”
Included in the renovation—which touched the dining room, kitchen, master suite, and an upstairs guest room and office, and saw the creation of a study—was Baker’s addition of a covered courtyard that provided the clients with the kind of indoor-outdoor experience they fell in love with abroad. “We call it the ‘Seattle room,’” says Klaus Toth, who helmed the build with Danica Holmlund and Chuck MacLaren. “You can be outside but still be protected from the rain.”
Accessible mainly from the kitchen, the structure’s etched-glass roof is supported by rusted-steel framework that extends from the garage; translucent glass-block walls offer a backdrop for plantings chosen by landscape designer Gayle Petitclerc of Morning Star Design. Filtered overhead light brightens the space, where Skadan arranged a casual outdoor sofa with a pair of low tables. Nearby, a long glass-top table on a steel base runs alongside a trough near a calming 4-foot-high water feature. “The outdoors flow from the indoors, reflecting how the family had been living,” says Baker. The owner agrees: “The setting naturally lures everyone outside.”
For the interiors, Skadan used a soothing palette of soft gray and wheat throughout, warming the walls and moldings with two shades of white. To achieve what she calls a “modern eclectic vibe” inspired by the clean design of Barcelona, she selected a few special antiques from the couple’s previous traditional residence and weaved them in with contemporary finds and a few items brought back from Spain. As a result, an acrylic console and Z-chair offset the living room’s elegant traditional millwork; a 19th-century mirror in the entry sits above a new cabinet painted in a graphic honeycomb pattern; and a tall wiry standing lamp bought in Barcelona—Skadan says its fun shape is “like a wild hairdo”—anchors a corner of the family room. Design solutions help update the classic house, as well. In the entry, it was discovered that the handrail on the oak stair was four inches lower than code. Baker’s solution was adding a customized rail of aqua resin on top of steel plates, injecting a playful color in the process and mixing old and new. “It’s a reminder of our time in Europe,” says the owner, “where these sorts of juxtapositions are common.”
Between al fresco dining and touches of furnishings from overseas, Europe may have settled in Seattle after all. In the bronze-walled master bedroom, past a row of birch trees rising from a planter, there’s even a view of a cathedral steeple. “At night with the French doors open,” says the owner, “it looks like we have a view of the tip of the Eiffel Tower.”