Seattle Homes+Lifestyles

The definition of NEO-NORTHWEST Contemporary

Seattle Homes & Lifestyles
March, 2008

Through the horizontal slats of a wooden fence, a little body stops to gawk at what looks like a spanking new house. His mother, pushing a baby carriage, also takes a peek. Even the family dog pokes its nose into the fence.
The object of their admiration is a two-bedroom, two-bath Northwest-style house on the edge of Washington Park, a block up from Lake Washington. Amid old-fashioned bungalows and stone mansions, in neighborhood where Zillow lists waterfront properties at more than $7 million, the taupe metal-roofed structure looks as if were beamed in from the Pacific Science Center.

Its look is new, but the house was built in 1959. It was designed by Ralph Anderson, a trailblazer in Northwest-style architecture, which features dramatic lines, natural lighting, indoor-outdoor rooms and local stone and wood. Michael Myers purchased the three-level property in October 2005, when he and his wife, Shera, were dating. They went through the 19-month remodeling process together, completing it just in time for their August 2007 wedding.
With the help of interior designer Garret Cord Werner, they have created a stylish 1,580-square-foot dwelling that’s cheerful and bright even on windswept Seattle days. Its paparazzi appeal both amuses and disconcerts the owners. It was worse during construction, when workers came every day and strangers could stroll in off the street. “They were shameless,” Michael recalls.

The Myers are both fans of Northwest style. “We live in the Northwest–I just think we should live in houses that reflect that style, not something brought in from somewhere else,” says Michael, a Bellingham native and an avid reader of Architectural Digest. He likes the openness, the way the rooms flow, the natural light and the merging of indoors and out. “The style is simple, clean, maybe with a little Asian influence. All those things appealed to me,” he says.

Before finding this property, Michael searched several years for a house designed by Anderson or Roland Terry, another Northwest architectural pioneer. He discovered his dream house while jogging.

Michael and Shera knew the home’s old appliances, worn carpets, dated fixtures and cabinets would have to go, but they were determined to remodel without altering the original footprint. They insisted on stripping the house of fussy added-on details, such as “faux drapery and fancy wallpaper,” Michael says, explaining that “Ralph Anderson has the Northwest-style ethic, but the house been remodeled several times in ways that worked against that. We have restored that now.”

Outside, contractors painted the chimney a dark gray, ripped out overgrown landscaping and replaced the front door and obscured glass in the entryway with a new wooden door and clear glass. To make more room and improve traffic flow inside, they took out a wall in the kitchen-dining area and moved back the stairway that connects all three levels.

The contractors ripped out the original hardwood and linoleum floors, then applied a durable Milestone finish over plywood subflooring on the master-bedroom upper floor level, the main living areas and on the existing concrete slab on the guest-suite lower level.

An open-tread stairway leads up to the master bedroom, which has a walk-in closet and a large bathroom with a spacious shower. Downstairs are a guest room, bathroom and laundry room. Out back is an enclosed garage painted the same taupe as the house and a patio area with a barbecue grill.

On the main floor, the dining area, kitchen and living room flow into each other, and a warm-toned fir ceiling offsets the crisp white walls. In the kitchen, a Thermador stove and oven and Sub-zero refrigerator add shine. Wherever possible, undraped windows offer views of green foliage outside.

The designer’s goal was to “keep the essence” of the original 1950s-style home, while freshening its design. “Unfortunately, people lived differently then, in closed kitchen, with more hallways and lots of rooms,” Werner says. “There was a big separation between men and women. They lived separate lives. Women were relegated to the kitchen. The guys hung out, smoking in the house, in the rec room or wherever. It was a much more formal way of living.”

Werner kept design details–such as white walls and custom walnut cabinetry by Henrybuilt–consistent throughout the interior. For furnishings, he chose simple, modern, cool-toned sofas and chairs to complement pieces the Myers already owned. Everything is calm and relaxing. Nothing grabs the eye.

“We respected the architecture,” he says. “You couldn’t do a super-modern Italian design or put French antiques into a house like that.”

Werner designed the comfortable living-room sofa. The Myers bought the coffee table and small end tables at Crate & Barrel. “We have two lounge chairs in the living room that Michael picked out,” says Shera, noting that the dining-room set came from her husband’s parents. “We simply had the wood ebonized and the chairs reupholstered.”

They describe their house as a soothing retreat from the noise and clutter of downtown, where both have lived and still work. Michael heads a litigation firm, while Shera is paralegal at a different firm.

“This is a beautiful neighborhood with great school,” Shera says. “It gave us a wonderful chance to get out of downtown and into a residential neighborhood.”

Perhaps the most startling change was replacing the original shake roof with metal. “The clients like a clean, contemporary look,” Werner explains. “We changed the roof to move the date up, to make the design a little more crisp and modern.”

That may tamper with Anderson’s ode to Northwest style, but the designer makers no apologies. “We have taken the house forward,” he says. “Now it’s more modern than modern. It’s newer than new.”

No wonder so many people stare.