Home of the Month

A couple Adds Son, Then Second Floor, To Phinney Ridge Home <br><br>

Category: NW Home Articles


As head of the green-conscious architectural firm Blip Design, Jim Burton has seen his share of what-ifs, what-abouts and what-could-bes when it comes to home remodeling in Seattle.

When he heard about the modest, 1,700-square-foot bungalow tucked into Phinney Ridge’s southern slope, however, Burton saw more than just the second-story master area that the owners had envisioned. Even with a tight budget, the west-facing, 1912 house resting on a 5,250-square-foot lot had enough design opportunities to make an architect salivate. “Some think that the term ‘challenging budget’ presents a problem,” says Burton, who founded his firm nine years ago. “I just find it more interesting, because when the owners have a strong vision and listen to my opinions on certain elements, it allows me to be more creative.”

Burton’s ingenuity, coupled with the tight budget of the owners, who wished for more space with minimal work to the main floor, led to a remodeled home with an entirely new appearance. The former two-bedroom, one-bath residence with low basement ceilings and a dingy, unusable attic is now the crown jewel of the block. A second-story living space, complete with master bedroom and bath, expanded the home’s overall square footage from 1,700 to 2,500, while energy-efficient measures, including insulating the foundation and installing rainwater catchments and radiant floor heating, earned it a three-star Built Green certification.

Located on busy Third Avenue, which splits Phinney Ridge from Ballard, the house’s original, compartmentalized floor plan was as claustrophobic as it was a space waster. The property, purchased in 1999, had features the owners prized, however: a private backyard, a cozy patio they had added a few years before and an unbeatable location that offered both an easy work commute and neighborhood amenities within walking distance.

When the couple learned they were expecting a baby, more elbowroom became a must. So, one month after their son arrived in February ’07, the family vacated, taking an apartment downtown so that Burton could get to work.

Burton’s first bit of business was attending to a few major structural upgrades, including replacing much of the house’s existing framing, deemed necessary by the contractor during the early stages of construction, and completing a seismic retro-fit. Although, as the owners’ requested, he minimized work on the main floor, home to the kitchen, dining and living rooms and one bedroom and bath, he didn’t skimp on materials or design elements. Durable bamboo flooring, used throughout the house, brightens up the kitchen, which was recast with concrete countertops, birch cabinets from Ikea and the full complement of high-end appliances. A remodeled alcove, now serving as a breakfast nook, overlooks a backyard deck patio, where laurel and pear trees keep company with a vegetable and herb garden along with a rock path that leads to the front of the house.

Burton cleverly deconstructed the main-floor hallway that once connected the two former bedrooms. He left a solitary wall—which he dubbed “the monolith” from the film, 2001: A Space Odyssey—standing in the middle of the room as a means to differentiate the spaces. The toddler of the house, simply views it as a peek-a-boo wall.

The child’s room on the main floor remained intact while, next to it, the old bathroom was given greater space. To make the plumber and budget equally happy, the home’s three bathrooms were stacked, including a new one added in the made-over basement. Previously a cramped, style-free storage space and laundry room, Burton created underground quarters, complete with a laundry/mud room, new guest room and bath and amenities enough to make any visitors