Lake Forest Park Couple Shows How Gorgeous Slow, DIY Remodels Can Be

Mid-century modern meets Japanese design in this open-plan kitchen and dining space.
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Black walls link the kitchen and dining room, referencing the charred wood finishing technique found on Japanese structures

“My husband builds and I design!” laughs Audrey McGill. She’s referring to their 1958 Lake Forest Park home, which was designed by John Burrows, a popular local contractor at the time who was influenced by modernist architects. Since moving here from Virginia in 2014, the McGills—Audrey, Kevin, and children Aidan and Evan—have been slowly transforming the home’s interior, taking a budget-friendly, DIY approach. The couple (Audrey is a freelance writer, and Kevin is a senior network security engineer with Holland America) renovated and redesigned the connected kitchen and dining room to highlight the mid-century modern details and incorporate their love of Japanese design. 

To open up the small U-shaped kitchen while retaining the home’s mid-century aesthetic, they removed cabinetry and replaced it with open shelving, including marble shelves from CB2. They covered the lower half of the walls with white and gray marble hexagon tile, installing it themselves. 

“I like to tie in similar shapes when I design,” says Audrey, who discovered a Jonathan Adler milk glass pendant lamp, which hangs above the sink and echoes the silhouettes of bottles collected from thrift shops that are scattered throughout the space. The McGills painted the upper half of the walls black to mimic the Japanese style of shou sugi ban, a technique of charring wood for preservation. The aesthetic is carried through to a dining room wall, which also displays a large shibori print (a dyeing technique that produces patterns), a chance thrift store find. 

Photographs by Alex Crook. A bar cart, ready for entertaining, sits between the dining room and kitchen; the couple installed hexagon tiling in the kitchen themselves; though the McGills have yet to use it, John Burrows’ original design included this brick grill—located in the dining room.

Linking the dining and kitchen spaces is a bar cart from Target, which contains the tools and supplies for making Audrey’s favorite cocktail, a Cosmopolitan. A bonsai tree (the art has been a passion of Kevin’s since he was a teenager) sits by a window of the dining room, a space that receives additional light from a skylight above the dining room table. One of the unique features of the dining room is the fully functional indoor grill, original to Burrows’ design. It shares the same flue as the living room fireplace on the other side of a painted white brick wall. The McGills have yet to barbecue inside, but the idiosyncratic detail is a conversation starter among dinner guests.

Although there’s still work to be done on the home—the McGills plan to tackle a bathroom next—their space is beginning to feel more like their own. “When you move into someone else’s design decisions, it doesn’t feel like your space, even if it’s nice,” says Audrey. “It’s great to put our own personal stamp, and now I can really relax.” 

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