Architect George Daniel Wittman Gives a Dated Mercer Island Dwelling a New, Mod Attitude

A couple adopts a fresh approach for their latest remodel
| Updated: November 27, 2018

No question: Their original remodel, at the tail-end of the 1990s, went slightly awry.

First, the homeowners inherited an architect from their general contractor. This led to a series of misadventures; including discovering during one site visit that the window in the master bathroom was set too high to enjoy the scenic water views while seated in the soaking tub, as requested.

“[The architect] did a lot of things without asking and ignored things I did ask for,” recalls Kathryn. To be fair, she adds, “I don’t think he was used to having clients who were opinionated like me.” The resultant remodel, typified by showy staircases, rounded corners and a bland blond palette, fell short of her dream aesthetic for another reason. “I hadn’t been able to get my husband to go as modern as I wanted to go,” she admits. 

The couple did come away wiser, however, and, over time, the husband’s taste underwent a modern evolution. When talk of adding a third bay to the garage, and then an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) above it, mushroomed into a plan for a whole house remodel and addition, prospective architects were interviewed and three finalists paid to work up preliminary designs. “It seemed like a worthwhile investment,” says Kathryn, “and I didn’t leave them blind. I had gone through a bunch of magazines and had dog-eared both likes and hates. I was trying to make it really plain where I was coming from as a client.” When she and her husband, Chris, saw George Daniel Wittman’s winning effort, their reaction was a simple, “Wow.”

Wittman’s take for their 5,300-square-foot dwelling on Mercer Island’s eastern shore is crisply contemporary. A new mod mantle of cedar rainscreen and cement board was laid over the original clapboards, and the above-garage ADU was tightly integrated with the main residence. “I was really adamant that the addition not be the tail that wags the dog. I really wanted a cohesive design,” says Kathryn. The existing garage was loosely connected to the residence by an entry and breezeway. Explains Wittman, “We eliminated this breezeway and reconfigured the entry so that the residence, garage and addition are directly connected to and integrated with one another.” As well as an expanded entryway, boasting a handsome wood-and-glass, custom pivoting door, Wittman added a floating staircase to access the newly added spaces. Although one day the homewners say they might use the ADU as a mother-in-law apartment for their parents, it currently serves as the family room and has become a favorite space of Kathryn’s. Unlike the old game room in the basement, she says, it has toasty, radiant-heated concrete floors.

Although the interior layout was relatively untouched, deceptively simple tweaks on the main floor resulted in big style changes. The oddly small, frumpy fireplace in the living room was replaced by an elegant, long, lean insert fitted with a custom metal surround. The living room’s previously uninspiring lake-facing wall, complete with small windows and a skimpy vinyl sliding door leading to the deck, gave way to a new wall of glass and a slider that can open up eight feet wide. Wood ceiling beams were exposed in the living room and, an inspiration of general contractor Jeff Rudd, an echoing beam was added to the revamped kitchen. The kitchen itself, formerly a blight of light maple, is now a rich material mix of dark Sapeli veneer cabinetry, creamy Chroma countertops and burnished, big-dog-proof Cumaru hardwood floors. (The initial flooring choice, mahogany, was nixed for being less hardy.) Finally, the decision to sharpen up all of the wall corners from their dated bull-nosed originals not only gives the home a more architectural edge, and a stronger canvas for the couple’s dynamic art works, but now those original curvy staircases serve as a more appealing transitional point into the different levels of the house.

As for the master bathroom on the top floor? This time, the couple had opted to stay in-residence throughout the remodel, and Kathryn ensured that the soaking tub got its proper waterfront vantage. 

Furniture for the photo shoot was provided by Seattle's Roche Bobois.




Home of the Month: Architect: George Daniel Wittman, GDW/a, Mercer Island, 9027 SE 37th St.,; 206.275.2252;; General contractor: Jeffrey C. Rudd, Peak Builders, Mercer Island, 3011 78th Ave. SE, Suite 170; 206.232.3554; General contractor (addition, phase 1): Gary Redman, The Redman Company, Mercer Island; 206.232.3022; Roofing: Jornado Roofing, Auburn; 253.735.6400; Electrical: Roger Hill, Hill Electric Corp., Woodinville; 425.485.4321; Plumbing: Eric Andrews, Andrews Plumbing, Snohomish; 360.563.9510. Siding: DOM Construction, Des Moines; 206.870.0329; 206.870.0329; Cabinet design: Keith Ann Blankenship, Interior Inspirations; 206.799.2187. ADU custom console: Kevin Werbinski, Mountain Modern; 208.309.2366 cell; Master closet/pantry: Amazing Spaces, Everett; 425.304.0706; Stairs: One Step Ahead, Bothell, 1517 183rd St. SE, No. 3; 425.487.1869. Metal design/fabrication (fireplace surround): Metal Solutions, Georgetown, 5212 Sixth Ave. S; 206.682.5587; Addition windows: Marlin Windows; 800.541.6200; Window supplier: Jeff Harlan, Tesco Screen, Mukilteo; 425.347.0947. Sliding door: Fleetwood Windows and Doors; 800.736.7363; Fireplace: Fireside Hearth and Home, Bellevue, 13200 NE 20th St., Suite 100; 425.747. 3473; Plumbing fixtures: Bud Wright, Ferguson’s Plumbing, West Seattle, 7115 W Marginal Way SW; 206.767.7700;; Chown Hardware, Bellevue, 12001 NE 12th St.; 425.454.7420;; Best Plumbing (master tub), Wallingford, 4129 Stone Way N; 206.633.1700; Appliances: Albert Lee Appliance, Bellevue, 1038 116th Ave. NE, Suite 370; 425.451.1110; Painting: Fernando Picado, Tico’s Painting, Kirkland; 425.876.0224; Lighting fixtures: Seattle Lighting, Bellevue, 14505 NE 20th St.; 425.455.2110; Area rugs: Palace Rugs, Bellevue, 10644 NE Eighth St.; 425.454.7879; Carpets: Carpets To Go: Bellevue, 12700 Bel-Red Rd.; 425.453.7607; Hardwoods: AllStar Flooring, Snohomish, 9217 164th St. SE; 425.770.9646. Tile: Pental, Georgetown, 713 S Fidalgo St.; 206.768.3200; Key furniture: Roche Bobois, Downtown, 1015 Western Ave.; 206.332.9744; roche-bobois.comHome theatre: Definitive Audio, Bellevue, 14405 NE 20th St.; 425.746.3188; Theatre chairs: Relax the Back, Bellevue, 1048 116th Ave. NE;


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