Sachin was all set, living the single life in his little two-bedroom place in Green Lake. He figured he’d found “his forever bachelor home,” says Anna – “and then he met me. We had been living together and dating, but when out-of-town friends or his parents would come to town, it was very small.”
Sachin had attended the University of Washington and suggested looking for roomier homes in Hawthorne Hills, where he used to run. “As we were driving through it, I fell in love,” Anna says. “It reminded me of Somerset in Bellevue. It just instantly felt like home.”
They discovered this 1948 brick daylight rambler, and, “I loved it,” Sachin says. “When you walked in the front door, you were looking into the canopy of this huge Japanese maple.”
They bought the house. And their affection kept growing. “We fell in love with our neighbors,” Anna says. “It’s kind of a mixed-generational street. It felt like we had grandparents and parents and kids. It instantly felt like we could live here forever. The first day we moved in, he proposed. We were married a year later.”
Love of all kinds brought them here, and keeps them grounded. “If we were going to be here for the long haul – we felt really invested – it was time for us to grow up the house a little bit,” Anna says.
Those feelings, and that investment, have driven two remodeling projects, both designed to optimize and open spaces, reconcile varying-era inconsistencies and basically help an older home keep up as modern-day circumstances change (Sachin and Anna had two children in between projects), and both were with architect Julie Campbell, of CTA Design Builders.
“Midcentury homes typically had separate rooms and hallways. Those 1940s-’50s homes were by the dozens: warrens of little rooms, simple rectangles,” Campbell says. “The culture now is more communal living: communal eating, cooking, living. We knew it wanted to be a modern midcentury remodel, but not stark. Fir doors and fir trim became a theme we built on in Phase Two.”
But perhaps the most significant thing they built on was … the ground. While Phase One tackled living room/fireplace and cosmetic work, Campbell says, the more-intensive Phase Two reworked the functional but dated C-shaped kitchen and the bathrooms; re-envisioned the entire landscaping plan; and added an oasis of a master suite on the daylight-basement level, below a family room that had been built off the main-level kitchen in the 1980s.
That “created a dark, unpleasant area underneath that structure in the backyard,” says Campbell, who calls such dark unpleasantness “a beer-can space.” ” ‘Beer can’ goes back to a professor I had in school. It’s an unused alleyway or corner of a lot, where people sit 1/8and toss beer cans3/8. When my professor used it, the context was: ‘No space should be beer-can space. Every space should be a place.’ You don’t want to have an unloved space.”
No. “Unloved” does not work here.
In their quest for a bigger, brighter, upgraded bedroom, Sachin and Anna had considered building up rather than under. “But if we had gone up, we probably would have spent all of our money and wouldn’t have connected with the outdoors,” Sachin says. “I felt from the standpoint of the street, we would’ve been the house that stands up.” And out.
That doesn’t work here, either.
“As we considered that beautiful Japanese maple just outside the back basement, we realized it would be the perfect focal point for a master suite tucked under the upper-floor addition, creating a rear courtyard that both floors could enjoy,” Campbell says. (She credits landscape designer Scot Eckley for “a key design aspect of this house”: all-new landscaping, including the backyard courtyard and “a very public patio in the former front yard.”)
Overall, she says, “Our remodel removed many walls, eliminating hallways and creating vistas throughout the house to the outside. … The open stairway is now visually connected with the lower level so that going downstairs doesn’t feel like leaving the main part of the house. But once in the master bedroom, with its very private view to that magical tree, it feels like a private retreat.”
Private, yes, but – for one day, anyway – also very much public.
This might be a 1948 home, but with a new spare and limited (yet warm and relaxed) materials palette, “It’s very contemporary and luminescent,” says Campbell. “It’s very minimal in floor plan and layout, and it feels large and more open.”
Or: just as “modern” as “midcentury.”