Western Interiors


Western Interiors and Design

October, 2007

When a Seattle couple decided to downsize, they transformed dowdy high rise interiors with materials and open spaces that reflect the natural world of the Pacific Northwest Architect Steve Hoedemaker and designer Garret Cord Werner updated the interior for a 1960’s high- rise condominium in Seattle. A stacked limestone- and – bronze fireplace is the center piece of the living area, which has walls and a ceiling sheathed in bleached black walnut panels. For the seating area, Werner grouped a B& B Italia chaise longue and armchairs around an Isamu Noguchi low table. Through the telescope in their living area- a sleek, tailored lair twenty- two stories above Lake Washington- a Seattle couple has a bittersweet view into their shared past. The scope is fixed on the site of their former suburban residence across the water, designed for them decades earlier by architect David Hoedemaker. Fond of that house as the two were, their appetite for travel outgrew their patience for battening down the homestead for extended absence. Downsizing to a condominium made all kinds of sense. The couple found a unit in a lakeside high- rise created in 1969 by the late Roland Terry, an architect considered a pillar of northwest modern design. Evidence of the master’s hand, however, had vanished from the interior. The floor plan was a warren of incongruities and fussy details, with dropped fluorescent fixtures and striped wallpaper. Low ceiling compounded the cloying effect. For their new space, David Hoedemaker referred them to his son Steve, a principal of the Seattle architecture firm Bosworth Hoedemaker. “The wife was feeling a little claustrophobic about the condominium,”recalls Steve Hoedemaker.”There were two imperatives: Open things up, and deploy natural materials that connect with the northwest and convey a sense of the outdoors.” A series of framed spaces trimmed to the millimeter, the remodeled condominium showcases hard surfaces and crisp edges in browns and ashy greens that possess an earthy, burnished luster. A soft blue-green panorama of lake Washington and the north Cascades wraps the space at its outer edge. “This project was as much about interior design as it was architectural manipulation,” says Hoedemaker. He called on designer Garret Cord Werner, who specializes in the detail of condominiums. “Garret’s talents overlap into architecture. He can assess spaces in terms of utility and function, not just limits his treatment to fabrics and pillows.” The previous arrangement for rooms followed the traditional postwar convention of erecting walls around eating, sleeping, bathing and lounging. “The rooms were tiny and unfriendly,” says Hoedemaker. “We needed to reorganize a chaotic space and create clear rhythms so it didn’t seem so haphazard.” The transformation began with broad strokes, by removing superfluous walls to erase visual clutter. The architect grouped the kitchen, dining and living areas at the unit’s core. In private quarters, he linked separate bedrooms and baths to form luxurious master and guest suites without squandering precious square footage. The next challenge lay in devising a strategy that further downplayed the transitions from room to room. “In terms of the surface design details,” says Hoedemaker,” we developed guidelines to understand exactly how materials would behave how two materials would meet, how they would turn a corner and how they would shift from plane to plane.” Three materials jacket the condominium throughout: planks of black walnut, panels of bone- white fiberboard, and narrow channels of bronze. Werner attached the walnut to the ceiling and walls while lowering the fiberboard ceiling panels by several inches- a counterintuitive move that actually creates the illusion of more room as the darker black walnut recedes into shadow. The focal point of the living area is Werner’s driftwood- colored stacked- limestone fireplace. “You want to sit down there and toast marshmallows'” says the wife. The same material in coarser dimensions covers a full wall in the master bath. “This remodel is a completely new design, but it echoes their old home,” says Werner. “I do miss my garden,” the wife muses, “but not the maintenance. We just live closer to the sky now than we do the ground.