For some, the dining room is strictly for special occasions, but this Seattle family gathers around their elegant dining table set under a crystal chandelier as part of their nightly ritual. Most evenings start in the pale-hued kitchen, where the husband frequently whips up taco dinners, and conclude in the living room, part of which is designed for games and puzzles, with a rousing session of Sleeping Queens.
A few years earlier, this domestic rhythm would have been more difficult. “Our prior house was smaller and darker,” says the wife. With a growing family, more space held appeal. And, she adds, “While our last house was a good house, it was not one that we fully loved and wanted to be in forever. So, we were looking to find something that we loved.” The solution lay blocks away in this large, 1920s-era residence. Owned by the same family for decades, the place was in fine condition but dated. For the husband, it was love at first sight—but the wife took longer to warm. “We had never done a remodel,” she says. “But friends who had more experience convinced me it could be special.” After they purchased the home, some of those same friends introduced the couple to architect Jeffry Wilson. When general contractor Brian Messina and designer Julie M. Kleiner joined the team, they were ready for action.
The first decision was to tread lightly. “Our tastes skew traditional,” says the wife. “And we wanted the interiors to match the classic exterior.” Wilson feels the same, saying, “The house had great bones; it would have been a shame to change it too much. It was just a matter of thoroughly refreshing it.” The architect made minor interventions on the first floor, notably opening the kitchen to the breakfast room. “We also made the plan a little more circular and connected rooms to get sight lines through the house,” he reports. The most significant tweak took place upstairs, where there were once four bedrooms. By combining two of those, he gave the home a stunning main suite.
For the designer, assembling the interiors meant executing a balancing act. “While we worked hard on making the rooms feel traditional, we didn’t want things to feel stodgy,” says Kleiner. “After all, this is a young couple, so their home shouldn’t have an antique-shop vibe.” The solution was to pair classic lines with clean silhouettes, such as the traditional dining table and the more contemporary chairs surrounding it. Color also plays an important role in breathing new life into the old dwelling. “Not every object is made of brown wood, although we do have some of that,” Kleiner says. “There is a freshness with vibrant Rebecca Atwood wallpaper, fun artwork and more colorful modern pieces—this results in an overall harmony.”
But when it comes to floor coverings, antique rugs dominate. “They’re eco-friendly and they’re well made,” says Kleiner. “To me, a vintage rug adds a layer of ‘comfortably lived-in’ like nothing else. You can tell they were used and loved, and they usually contain beautiful colors. Plus, their durability and forgiving patterns make them perfect for a household with dogs and young children.”
In some cases, these rugs set the color palette. The antique rug was the inspiration for the blue and blush shades in the living room’s furnishings and accessories. “While we kept the background neutral and traditional, we added splashes of color throughout with the furniture, art and fabrics,” says Kleiner.
To keep things appropriate to the era of the house, the team put aside the idea of recessed lighting in favor of central ceiling fixtures, sconces and lamps. “I love lamplight,” says Kleiner. “It has a different glow that’s at eye level.” Many lamps are treated as sculpture, such as the pair with bulbous bases and slender necks by Hwang Bishop in the dining room.
Today, the family feels they achieved their goal of honoring the past while making way for the present. “While we wanted something very tasteful and beautiful, we also wanted a house that feels like us—a family of four,” says the wife. “We try to be intentional about how we spend our time, and this house has provided ways for us to be together.”