Like so many real estate love affairs, Sally Julien and Peter Loforte’s began by accident. “The funny thing was that we weren’t even looking for a house,” says Julien. Built in 1963 and inspired by a modernist dream house in California, the five-bedroom, three-bathroom home sits in a secluded spot on the shore of Lake Sammamish. Though marketed as a teardown due to years of neglect—in particular, deferred maintenance on the weather-battered exterior—the structure seemed to be salvageable to the couple, who purchased it in 2011. “At one time, this place was amazing,” says Julien, an interior designer who sensed the home’s potential, as did Loforte, who works for Microsoft. Part of the home’s appeal was obvious (that view!), but the other part was the couple’s desire to remake it into an even better version of its original self. Fresh from a successful renovation of their mid-century Palm Springs vacation home, the two were up for the challenge. “We walked through and realized it would be perfect for us.”
We didn’t buy a house, we bought a fireplace,” says Julien of the living room focal point. “That fireplace was at least half the reason I fell in love with this house.” Unfortunately, the fireplace was removed during renovations, and city codes made it impossible to re-install it without creating a sealed glass covering. Instead of scrapping it, Julien had it powder-coated orange and retrofitted with an ethanol burner that is clean-burning and doesn’t need to be vented.Photo by Lara Swimmer
But not even positive thinking could have prepared them for the home’s sorry state. Water had seeped into the living room’s support posts in ways that defied explanation and left all of them rotted out and in need of replacement. “I came home one day to three grown men who probably had 70 years experience between them just looking at the beams and all they could say was ‘Huh.’ They’d never seen anything like it,” recalls Julien. “I heard those words so many times on this project.”
After a false start with another architect, Julien called on her friend Grace Kim of Schemata Workshop, who also recognized the diamond-in-the-rough quality of the home. “Originally I didn’t want to call her, because she’s a friend,” says Julien, whose interior design and staging firm Modernous specializes in the mid-century aesthetic. “But the truth is, Grace and I are really similar. We’re both really direct and we have exactly the same taste.”
Architect Grace Kim ascends the main staircase, which is original to the home. Once covered in shag carpeting (“Not so nice,” recalls Kim), the treads
were resurfaced with wood and brought up to code with a new wood rail topper. Photo by Lara Swimmer
Water, mold and general disrepair resulted in the replacement of all of the windows, flooring, electrical, plumbing and the roof. Unexpected complications popped up during the yearlong process that ballooned the renovation figures to 65 percent over budget. Julien and Loforte had to be talked out of selling the house on more than one occasion. “It was our friendship that kept the project from going off the rails,” says Kim. “There was some counseling necessary.”
Lit up at night and seen from Lake Sammamish, the home’s translucency and modern sensibilities are on full display. Architect Grace Kim’s vision for the home’s renovation focused on connecting the home’s interior to the waterfront. “We wanted to emphasize the transparency and modularity of the original design,” she says. Even where structural upgrades were necessary, unobstructed views were paramount and required creative problem solving by Kim’s team, the contractors and builders.Photo by Lara Swimmer
Now complete, the home stands as a masterpiece of mid-century design, but with modern sensibilities. Floor-to-ceiling windows in the main living area increase transparency between indoor and outdoor spaces. In an effort to, as Kim puts it, “liberate the kitchen,” a steel moment frame (rigid beams and columns to support vertical weight) and counter with seating replaced a wall that blocked the kitchen’s view of the water and the rest of the house.
Loforte’s twin teenage daughters chose watermelon-red light fixtures and accessories for their shared bathroom. Photo by Lara Swimmer
Julien filled the home with classic design, such as a pair of 1960s “Mr. Chair” loungers and a showstopping WWII test bomb found at Pacific Galleries (SoDo, 241 S Lander St.; 206.292.3999; pacgal.com), which stands at attention near the front door. Other decor gems are original to the home, such as a George Nelson cigar lamp that was rewired but otherwise left untouched, shoji screens in the master bedroom, and the front door, now painted a bright orange.
A wall removed from the kitchen allows light to flood the space. Photo by Lara Swimmer
“It turned out exactly how I envisioned it,” says Julien as she surveys the home in its current state. And even after all of the heartache, she says she’d do it all over again.
An exterior view of the Issaquah home. Photo courtesy of Lara Swimmer.
The Julien dog stands guard outside their Issaquah home. Photo courtesy of Lara Swimmer.
Architect: Grace H. Kim, principal architect, Peggy Heim, project architect, Schemata Workshop Lower Queen Anne (temporary location), 112 Fifth Ave. N, Floor 2 South; 206.285.1589; schemataworkshop.com Interior designer: Sally Julien, Modernous 206.399.1419; modernous.com Contractor: Steve Fradkin, Fradkin Fine Construction fradkinfineconstruction.com; 206.706.1123 Structural engineering: Chris Potter, lead, Swenson Say Fagét Belltown, 2124 Third Ave., Suite 100; 206.443.6262; swensonsayfaget.com Windows: Andersen 800.426.4261; andersenwindows.com Flooring: Deco-Pour Snohomish, 13614 State Route 9 SE; 360.668.2218; decopour.com Kitchen and den cabinetry: Jonathan Pauls, Inc. Georgetown, 60 S Lucile St.; 206.767.7971; jonathanpauls.com