Home renovations often take surprising turns, but for one Seattle family, theirs was a bit more than that. They had been working with architect Alix Day on a remodel of their Capitol Hill home. “At a meeting, the wife said, ‘Let’s go for a walk,’ and she took me to a house a block and a half away,” recalls Day. “She said, ‘We bought it this weekend!’ I thought I’d been fired.” That was anything but the case. Instead, the owners leaned into Day’s talent, trusting her to implement a design for the new home within four weeks. Day, in turn, relied on general contractor Dalen Bakstad and designer Anna Thomassen to help make it happen. “It was a fascinating, collaborative project, as if we could read each other’s minds,” she says.
Bakstad, who has been remodeling older homes for decades, came to the project well aware of the needs of houses like this one, built in 1909. “Back then you’d hire a builder, and he’d come in with his touch-inlaid floors, heads of doors and crown moldings. Old homes have a special quality, and there’s a story to tell, but the question is: How can you create your own story?” That challenge became the crux of the project. “We knew that together we could interpret the owners’ wishes and keep the history of the house intact,” says Thomassen. “I think the intent was to give more interesting textures and organic lines to the historic Craftsman palette.”
The first major decision was how to handle all of the woodwork. “It was dark, which the husband loved, but the wife wanted bright and airy,” explains Day. To bridge their preferences, she and Thomassen went room by room, formulating a plan. “We wanted to emphasize the wood where we could, but it had to be about balance.” The entry and living room were painted “a soft white to minimize wood tones,” says the designer, who was working with the couple’s existing furnishings, including custom maple cabinets, and she kept the color scheme neutral while borrowing “atmospheric blues” from a painting by local artist David Price.
In the adjacent dining room, they left the millwork untouched. “The ceiling is an explosion of strong geometric angles, so we wanted to bring an organic feel to it with wallpaper,” says Thomassen, pointing to the beams and coffers above. “We tried an English floral, but it was too dark. When we held up this one, it was like there was music in the room. It’s masculine—charcoal and bronze, with dashes of blue and chartreuse—but whimsical at the same time.” The pattern also feels slightly Japanese in design, an aesthetic the homeowners who lived in Asia for a time, especially like.
The second major design decision was how to arrange the bedrooms, which were all located on the second floor, though there wasn’t a true main bedroom. Reconfiguring things, the architect left the second floor to the children and guests, and the attic level became the main suite. There, she placed black steel collar ties to vault the ceiling. “We loved the idea of maximizing the height, exposing the structure in a minimal way, and then adding a light that had a cloud-like feel,” says Day. “From their window, they have this gorgeous view of the treetops in the surrounding neighborhood and Lake Washington.”
Thomassen took it a step further by letting an antique-inspired French bed be the sole focus of the room, though she did create a moody moment in the bathroom’s vestibule by papering it with the same pattern as in the dining room. “This house is big and called for texture and human scale, so I used more wallpaper than I’ve done before,” Thomassen shares. And she wasn’t afraid to mix eras. With William Morris’s classic Pimpernel in one bedroom and a David Hicks hexagonal pattern in a bathroom, she has spanned nearly a century of design. To bring things into a more human scale, she chose biomorphic lighting fixtures that lower the ceilings without lessening the home’s innate grandness.
It’s a thoughtfulness that permeates the entire home; to wit, the meditation space for the husband. “That was a cool challenge,” says Bakstad. “We took building it out seriously. If someone was having a bad day, I didn’t want them working on it. I wanted to keep the energy clean.” Outside, too, is now tailored to the family with a design by Ryan Sarvis of Green Spaces that provides entertaining space, a grassy area for badminton and raised vegetable beds. “The rooms are different, but the house feels pulled together now. Shapes and textures throughout the house look and feel right,” says Day. “This was a dream home—the owners couldn’t pass it up.”