The Seattle home of Madzy Besselaar and Ian Taylor presents a combination of Zen-like calm and welcoming sociability immediately upon arrival. Emphasizing a sense of tranquil escape, architect David Coleman designed a courtyard that beckons the owners and their guests to walk across a small bridge over a sunken landscape of plantings to reach the entry door. But after passing a modest foyer festooned with orange and blue geometric paintings by a family member, the floor plan opens up onto the great room where, thanks to designer Holland Stephens, the dining table takes center stage beneath a chandelier made from glass ball-shaped pendants that are hung at different elevations.
“The dining area is the central element of the house very deliberately,” says Madzy. “It sets the tone right away.” Not only is it a spot for dinner parties, but the wood floors and an adjacent piano also allow the owners to slide the table to one side and create an impromptu dance floor. “We’re a big music family,” she adds. “We all get on the piano. There’s singing; there’s guitars—it’s quite entertaining.”
Madzy and Ian were ready to move on from their former confined Craftsman house and its neighborhood of busy streets and high hills, and were looking for a more contemporary open plan where their family could easily congregate and enjoy being together inside and
out. When the couple found a midcentury modern house in the Broadmoor neighborhood surrounded by a halfacre of landscape and barely visible from the curb, they knew it could make for the kind of urban oasis they sought. “That’s what I fell in love with first,” Madzy says. “Most other houses are right on the street. Here you feel like you’re not in the city at all but in a refuge.”
Coleman came on board to extensively renovate, repurpose and expand the existing house to better suit the owners’ wish list and lifestyle, with builder John Korhumel overseeing construction. Originally designed in 1956 by noted architect William Bain Sr. and having undergone a remodel in the ’70s, the home had a storied past and great potential. Salvaging a portion of the old structure and remaining true to its casual nature, the team built largely anew to add square footage and make the layout more open and full of light, and to further merge building and landscape. “We wanted to create a building that was modern but had a timeless quality,” Coleman explains.
The interiors were designed with a processional quality, with one room opening onto the next. To blur the lines between the indoors and outside, almost all of the spaces, be it the living and dining areas or the kitchen and master bedroom, wrap around an extensive meadow filled with deciduous trees, ferns and ornamental grasses, fashioned by Coleman as part of his holistic approach to design; he enlisted the help of landscape architect Bruce D. Hinckley of Alchemie to collaborate here and at the entry courtyard. Oversize lift-and-slide doors and glass panes further that indoor-outdoor connection and bathe the interior with natural illumination along with a series of shafts that bring light deep inside the house, including the master suite. “You feel like you’re outside even when you’re not. But it’s a private lot, so you don’t feel like somebody’s watching you in your bathrobe,” says Korhumel, who credits superintendent Scott Knobbs for precise execution down to the last millimeter.
In addition to that central dining room, the kitchen also makes for a natural gathering spot, be it during parties or as Madzy cooks for the family. Above the kitchen island, Coleman designed a floating ceiling plane he calls the cloud that “gives a sense of intimacy to the space, and makes the room feel a little more like a destination,” he says. “It really does seem like it’s floating.”
This architectural element is one of many instances where Coleman created warmth in the open, modern home by changing ceiling heights, creating wall partitions, or implementing rich architectural materials. For furnishings, Stephens had a head start on tailoring the home to the family’s needs and tastes, as Madzy had spent years collecting magazine clips and pictures in binders.
“Madzy had been dreaming for quite some time,” says Stephens, who added a dose of familiarity to the project as she happens to be married to Korhumel. “That goes a long way to jump-start a project, when you’re really inside their head.” The result is a simple palette of natural materials and neutral colors, punctuated by the clients’ vibrant art collection. “We were challenged with the owners’ desire to use as much as we could of furniture that they had from their previous home, which was much more traditional in style. But with some creative sourcing, we were able to achieve the vision that they had in mind,” says Stephens, who notes that Christopher Thompson of Studio Lux had a hand in the design of the ambient and accent lighting.
Throughout, the design is unified by its materials, such as the natural sapele wood used for the exterior siding, cabinetry and window frames, as well as a massive pivot door at the entry. Ceramic tile flooring in the kitchen matches the concrete on the outdoor terrace just beyond the glass, while end-grain Douglas fir in the master suite sets it apart as an oasis from the rest of the house: It’s at one end of the home, with a two-story children’s wing at the opposite end.
Though the master suite provides Madzy and Ian moments of quiet respite, the family seems happiest with how welcoming their home is to friends and guests. “The basis for the design was bringing the outside in, and I love it when the doors are open and the kids are running around the backyard,” Madzy says. “It’s those kind of moments when we say we’re really glad we did this.”