Any renovation is hard, but old houses, especially, tug at your heartstrings, and you need that in order to get through the challenges. That’s what makes them rewarding,” says designer Andy Beers. Such was the case with one of his recent projects–the renovation of a 1910 home for a large Seattle family. Fortunately, several haphazard cosmetic makeovers throughout the years had left many original elements untouched. “We thought, let’s preserve what’s great and carefully remove what’s not,” Beers says. And while that may sound simple enough, there are no guarantees with historic houses.
Beers’ clients weren’t specifically seeking a renovation project but purchased the property because, says the wife, “It was a perfect fit for our family and we loved its history and beauty.” Working with architect Jessyca Poole, they set about gently, gracefully contemporizing the house for today. The primary objectives were to let in more natural light and to redesign the kitchen, last updated in the 1980s. To achieve the airy feel the couple wanted, Poole reconfigured the main floor layout not only for increased daylight, but also for better functionality. Beginning at the front door, she devised a defined entryway, borrowing a little bit of space from the living room and den that flank it. “It’s nice to come in and have a bench, shoe storage and a place for the kids’ backpacks,” she says. “You don’t want to see that from the living room!”
Poole also opened several walls to allow vistas across rooms, flooding the main living spaces with light and facilitating a more practical flow. “It was a maze to get to the kitchen from the front door originally,” the architect remembers. To enlarge the kitchen and boost its utility factor, she again borrowed a little square footage, this time from the adjacent dining area. By narrowing it almost imperceptibly, she had space to add a sizable pantry and mudroom behind the new kitchen. “It’s nice and big now,” says the wife, “which is good since we always have lots of people over!”
Ultimately, the most remarkable aspect of this renovation was the surgeon’s skill Poole and general contractor Gil Tabori employed to preserve the integrity of the house. “I enjoy remodeling older houses, so this was right up my alley,” says Tabori. Where new doorways were cut through walls, he created custom millwork to replicate the original style for a seamless look. “The craftsmen were quite good and the woodwork, in particular, is of high-quality,” he adds. “We worked hard to keep the moldings, as well as the hardwood flooring, stained-glass windows, doors and hardware.” And rather than concealing modern utility features, they embraced the old, restoring nearly all of the home’s radiators, which still function perfectly. “We used them where we could and let them be a feature of the rooms,” explains Poole.
Those period elements also played a crucial role in furnishing the home, especially when it came to the palette, which Beers pulled from the residence’s stained-glass windows–shades of blue, green and orange. The colors also jibed with one of the wife’s key wishes. Somewhere in the home, she wanted to use the same grass-green hue that had adorned the front door of the family’s previous abode. It was that request, realized on the kitchen island, that really pushed green as the predominant shade throughout the interior. “It became a leitmotif as we selected finishes and decoration,” says Beers. “Given the large scale of the house, we were able to use it frequently without feeling like we were adhering to a theme–it feels fresh in each room,” he adds. To emphasize the palette, the designer kept the woodwork white and let in light at every opportunity.
Landscape designer Gabriel Shulman of Sage and Stone planned for mature plantings to screen the house, allowing Beers to remove interior shutters that had been added to the living room in years past.
As the renovation progressed, Beers and his client frequently enjoyed sharing ideas with each other. For instance, the wife actively participated in selecting the light fixtures. “That was the hardest part since it’s a huge house. There were so many to pick!” she reports. And while they had initially hoped to use the family’s existing furniture, they ended up starting fresh with pieces that better suited the scale of the house, like the living room’s vintage Knoll sofa, a prized find, the dining room’s classic midcentury shell chairs in a color Beers playfully calls “pickle” and the custom Chadhaus dining table that arrived just in time for the family’s first Christmas dinner in the home.
Beers work also extended upstairs. “Every room has a grounding element and crisp tailoring,” says the designer, who refreshed the master bathroom with tile and fixtures that impart a period feel. In addition, he worked with all six children to design their bedrooms and kept their charmingly illustrated wish lists as a reminder of this project. It’s a tender footnote that acknowledges the spirit of the house and its inhabitants. “This family is about togetherness and hospitality,” says Beers, “and you can glean a portrait of them from the living spaces.”