When it comes to remodeling, it’s often just easier to knock things down and start from scratch than it is to make calculated changes from within. The downside of this route is that it can result in a hodgepodge design compromise, and, ultimately, in the loss of a home’s heart.
Christine and Eric Larsen, and their architect, Jim Castanes, chose the harder path of a refined remodeling when it came to readying a Capitol Hill house for the modern world.
For the Larsens, it was simply a continuation of their preservation philosophy. “A home with integrity is what we like,” says Christine. “You pick a style, and that’s what you have. You don’t try to go into it in four different ways, like you’re in four different houses.” Their former home was a 1930s Tudor-style house in Wedgwood that they had preserved, but, as their family grew to three children, they also had outgrown it. When they acquired the 1910 Capitol Hill manse in 2004—amazingly, they are only its fourth owners—the to-dos were pretty apparent. “We knew that we were going to have to update the kitchen,” recalls Christine. “It was the driver of the makeover.” The kitchen was suffering from an earlier, style-jarring updating attempt by the previous owners. Castanes not only manifestly improved its aesthetic with period-reminiscent cabinetry and new window banks, but its very circulation with a space-dividing custom island and by re-jiggering its entryway from the dining room. All the while, he was careful to mesh new and old elements, such as painstakingly matching the wood floors and the paint on the 100-year-old panels. “We had to add some new panels, but we saved some of the old panels,” explains Castanes, “and I really don’t think you can tell. You have to find the artisans who can do it like they used to do it.” Says Christine, “I like to say that we got all the modern conveniences that you need. Our kitchen is very modern, but it now has the feel of the house.”
“Then,” she says, “Jim started talking about the basement. And I said, ‘Yeah, but I never go down there.’ And he said, ‘Well, you will when we’re done with it.’ And it’s very true.” The architect’s wholesale remake—which required replacing the staircase, raising the ceiling and removing a massive basement-to-roof brick chimney—created a handy new access point to an expanded garage, nicely topped by a green rooftop, and made way for a playroom for the kids, which elegantly opens out onto a new sunken garden via a pair of bifold doors, and a separate TV room and wine cellar for the parents. “The kids play [in their area], and the Legos can be on the floor for weeks and I don’t care, because this is their space,” remarks Christine. “As the kids mature in their entertaining,” she adds, “the space will look different. Someday, we can put a pool table or couches there.”
Other sensitively integrated, modernizing moves included inserting a gracious transition space, or mudroom, complete with a raised ceiling and French doors, between the kitchen and living room, that leads to the backyard. The top floor gained a custom bookcase installation on its landing, a laundry room converted out of a photography darkroom, and the charming, practical revival of exterior decks off of two bedrooms. Observes Christine of the overall remodeling, “We use so much more of the house….We’ve gained two more floors. When we first moved in, we never went to the top floor, and we very rarely went to the basement. Now the flow is better…and there’s so much more volume, air and light. And that’s important in Seattle.” (Another very Seattle addition to the property is the ambitious landscaping by Ragen & Associates that dramatically tweaked the home’s sidewalk profile.)
Concludes Castanes, “It was a beautiful Capitol Hill home that really showed the style of a period house.” By remodeling the home, he says, he and the Larsens are preserving something special for many years to come. “You have spec homes out there that are here today and gone tomorrow, and this is the kind of house that’s going to be here for many generations.”
Find it Resources
Architect: Jim Castanes, AIA, Castanes Architects, Downtown, 1931 First Ave., Suite 828; 206.441.0200; email@example.com; castanes.com. General contractors/carpentry (including green roof, wine room, play loft): Toby Taylor, Caledonia Bay Builders (closed), Ryan Crossman (formerly with Caledonia), Madrona Builders, Edmonds; 206.335.0437; firstname.lastname@example.org. Structural engineer: Jim Harris, Putnam Collins Scott Assoc., Seattle; 206.292.5076; pcs-structural.com. HVAC/ radiant heat: Tom Miller, Heat N Air, Tacoma; 253.363.5783; email@example.com. Electrical: Eric Pettersen, Pettersen Electric; 206.255.8208; firstname.lastname@example.org; pettersenelectric.com. Plumbing: Jeff Keehr, K&B Plumbing; 253.261.5233; email@example.com. Millwork supplier: Tom Wolf, Western Pacific; 425.773.5195; firstname.lastname@example.org. Interior design consulting (preliminary kitchen concept, backsplash selection): Robin Chell Design, Ballard, 3417 NW 68th St.; 206.760.0849; robinchelldesign.com. Color/materials consultant: Anne Viggiano Color & Design; 206.999.0008; email@example.com; avcolordesign.com. Interior/exterior painting: Anour Abdou, Sierra Painting; 206.992.9198; firstname.lastname@example.org. Specialty painting (dining room panels): Jeffrey Tritt & Assoc.; 206.718.6974; jeffreytritt.com. Interior paint: YOLO Colorhouse; yolocolorhouse.com. Tile install (kitchen/powder room backsplashes, steam shower, basement bath/laundry floors): Joe Lambert, Tile Craft; 253.318.6615; email@example.com. Plumbing fixtures: Seattle Interiors, Wallingford, 3822 Stone Way N; 206.633.2900; seattleinteriors.com. Kitchen cabinetry/island: Quarter-sawn Sapele, Kevin Laso, Acorn Custom Cabinets, Newcastle; 425.235.8366; acorncabinets.com. Kitchen backsplash: Barbara Barry, Ann Sacks, Belltown, 115 Stewart St.; 206.441.8917; annsacks.com. Kitchen island/countertops: Granite, Skyline Tile & Marble, Woodinville; 425.485.2000. Select hardware (basement door knobs): Rejuvenation, SoDo, 2901 First Ave. S; 206.382.1901; rejuvenation.com. Kitchen cushions/living room chairs/bench fabric: Archive Edition Textiles; archiveedition.com. Wallpaper: Bradbury & Bradbury Art Wallpapers; bradbury.com. Select period lighting: Bogart, Bremmer & Bradley, Greenwood; 206.783.7333; bbbantiques.com; Antique Lighting Company; antiquelighting.com. Furniture (master bedroom/living room/bar stools): Masins, Bellevue, 10708 Main St.; 425.450.9999; masins.com. Bifold doors: NanaWall; 800.873.5673; nanawall.com. Patio pavers (sunken garden): Appian Construction, Woodinville; 425.483.0400; appianconstruction.com. Outdoor furniture: Restoration Hardware; restorationhardware.com. Landscape/hardscape design: Chip Ragen, Ragen & Associates, Capitol Hill, 517 E Pike St.; 206.329.4737; ragenassociates.com.