Remodeling an alluring but antiquated home requires a delicate touch. Like an aging beauty queen given a drastic face-lift, a too-trendy renovation can strip away all that distinctive character. Luckily, the remodel of this 1910 Seattle Colonial Revival house is the result of a team committed to highlighting its historic grandeur while updating it for contemporary living. It even gained a “crown”—a new third story that harmonizes effortlessly with the existing structure.
The homeowners had found plenty to like when they first toured the house. It presided over a double lot in North Capitol Hill with views of Lake Union, featured attractive period trim, and boasted French doors on the main floor that flooded the space with light—unusual for an older house. Not as appealing was the layout, particularly a chimney that awkwardly split the dining room and kitchen.
After discovering the two-story structure didn’t hit the city’s maximum height limit, the idea for an attic was born, and a more extensive renovation plan took shape. To revamp the structure and interiors, the owners reached out to architect Ryan Rhodes and designer Andy Beers. And, while they were committed to a gut renovation, adding a floor and pushing out the western wall with a two-story addition, preserving the home’s century-old charms was a key consideration.
The devil, of course, is in the details; Rhodes, project architect Brandon Skinner and general contractor Chris Heldridge spent a dizzying amount of time preserving, restoring and recreating the elaborate trim, especially on the main floor. “The main floor originally had more ornate trim, which was common back then. There were also rooms that had more elaborate trim than others,” he explains. “The challenge was pulling it all together as honestly as possible.” The team contended with trim profiles that simply don’t exist as standard options in the 21st century. “In many areas, trim profiles were specially made,” says Rhodes. “Replicating that meant tons of custom work. But the subtlety of those details, all those fine shadow lines, is one of the things that makes this house so cool.”
Another major challenge the team faced was the stairwell. The steps needed to extend another level and be brought up to meet 21st-century code, but the sinuous handmade handrail complicated the process. “It slopes up, turns and curves in a way no machine can replicate,” says Rhodes. “We could have redone it different ways, but the homeowners saw its quality and uniqueness and committed to doing it the old way.” That meant hunting down a “half craftsman and half mathematician” to recreate and extend the entire structure by hand from scratch.
As these restoration riddles played out, Beers dove into the interiors. The homeowners, both very involved in the process, love color and geometric patterns and gravitated to touches of glam—but they wanted to honor the house’s history, too. Beers masterminded a cohesive edit that accounted for all those ideas. “I think they felt a desire to do right by this very formal home, and that influenced the way they felt about their style,” says the designer. “What we came up with is a tailored, playful version of an old house that toes the line between traditional and contemporary. We’re toying with the archetypes of a traditional look and twisting everything through a modern lens.”
To wit, the living and dining rooms are formally attired, but the dining room ceiling is painted a merry pink and the living room curtains are an eye-catching blue. And not just any blue, but Tiffany blue. Beers scored the end of a fabric bolt custom-dyed for the jewelry retailer and added Greek-key patterned trim. The kitchen is kitted out with a 60-inch range, a massive 14-foot island painted blue and nearly 40 feet of cabinetry in a crisp, white shade punctuated by brass knobs and pulls. The foyer showcases the original ornate trim, now unconventionally highlighted by icy-blue ceiling paint. And, as you ascend, a contemporary, candy-colored chandelier faces off against sophisticated paneling.
Each level gets progressively more modern, and Beers cleverly found ways to work in the couple’s design passions. The master bathroom is a contemporary oasis clad entirely in tile; other bathrooms feature bold flooring, patterned wallpaper, or glitzy lighting. The top floor, anchored by a family room, is marked by more modern furnishings amid an angular, architecturally striking interior roof line.
For the homeowners, who welcomed their first child just as construction was wrapping up, a vindication of each careful choice came after they invited two of the previous owners to see the remodel—a couple that had spent over 30 years living there. “They absolutely loved it, which made us feel so good,” says the wife. “That meant we succeeded in staying true to the character of the house.”