PROJECT - LUMEN
Living in an urban condo can be a little like living in an ice cube tray. Sure, the views are amazing but the floor plan can be less than satisfactory, but the times are changing and so are the buyers. New owners want sophisticated architectural detail and dynamic spaces, and they have a new sense of metropolitan necessities. It takes more than a decorative approach using furniture and ornamentation; now alchemy of technology, color, light, and shape is in order. Most of my clients come to me because they seek good planning to start with; they want good hones in the design of their spaces,” said Garret Cord Werner, president of the design firm Garret Cord Werner LLC, Seattle. “My father and grandfather were real estate developers so I know buildings.” High-rise condos can present designers with special challenges. The building’s plumbing and electrical infrastructure tends to run vertically through all the units. Ceilings can be low and floors may not be level enough for hardwood installation. Werner’s recent Belltown project was no exception. “We basically took the shell and opened it up; it was a complete gut and remodel,” said Werner. The unit had not been updated since the building was built in the ’70s, and the rooms were small, dark and maze-like. The owner is a bachelor and he wanted to live in a space that could be open to all available light and views. Werner’s design is an open panorama throughout the condo against dazzling city and eater views.
The architecture of the building has large deep window seats so Werner made the area just off the kitchen into a dining experience. The window seats are an inviting space for breakfast or dinner for two, as well as just lounging with cocktails. The custom dining table expands to seat eight guests. “Just a little bit of drop adds a lot of interest to define the space over the kitchen counter,” said Werner, where he floated the lighting over the bar. Each element in the condo is detailed with precision. The kitchen cook top is recessed to be flush with the countertop. The upper cabinets bi-fold up with soft-close mechanisms and lights inside are door activated. The stove vent is tucked up into the cabinets, disguised so the vent is not visible at all. Although the ceiling height was low, Werner lowered the ceilings a couple of inches throughout the unit, which allowed him to recess the track lighting in the ceilings so that the track element is flush with the ceiling. As a result, the track disappears into a reveal line in the ceiling. “All the baseboards are flush and it is much more difficult to flush detailing than it is to do traditional detailing. Trying to lone up everything so that the reveal line flows exactly straight through the whole space is also expensive,” he said. The spaces flow and adapt as the owner entertains his guests. While the floor plan is open, very large concealed pocket doors can slide shut to provide privacy to the master bedroom and the guest sleeping quarters.
The core of the quest quarters is perforated with a high glass wall panel and a translucent glass door to allow the western light to permeate the hallway. The walls are finished with high- density fiberboard rather than wallboard, for more of a cabinet finish. The unit has just one bathroom. To make the master suite feel grand in a small space they created a showpiece shower and an elegant vanity, and the toilet is in the powder room which can be pocketed off to separate users. Though the ceilings were low, Werner chose to suite the bath on a raised quartzite platform, which gives it sense of loft. It also makes the other spaces feel taller. The open vanity base is custom made with Macassar wood, and the walls are dry stacked Kota limestone. The same stone is also at the tub, but the effect is quite different: hidden integral colors are exposed when the limestone is cut into a flat slab and then honed. The vanity top and custom sink are black granite and water drains down along a stainless steel trough. The space feels tranquil.
The shower is a captivation focal point, “It was very difficult to bend the radius of the custom shower glass,” said Werner. “The shower has a stainless steel column that houses all the plumbing and the drain line is just long enough – in a concrete tower you are limited to how far you can move plumbing. “Stacked plumbing running through the building is always a challenge in condo spaces,” he said. “One of our challenges here was three pipes in the entry. We actually exposed these pipes because we wanted to gain more entry space and we wanted this strip to run right through the kitchen to make it feel larger.” The pipes are clad in Macassar wood veneers to look like tree trunks. Here, too, stacked Kota limestone lines the walls and waterfall pours into a stone and pebble garden. “it is an organic and interesting way to come into the space. We took the plumbing that was at first a problem and made it into an embellishment,” he added. “Often clients need a little help when visualizing the space,” said Werner.
His firm utilizes state-of-the-art computer-generated renderings that convey photo-realistic impressions of spaces. His staff of five includes an architect and an artist so they have the flexibility if both computer and the hand sketching worlds. Werner is also instrumental in several of the new condominium developments under construction of on the boards in Seattle, planning the interiors and doing the architectural layouts. Originally from Vancouver, B.C., Werner worked for renowned design consultant Robert Ledingham while pursuing his interior design degree. Werner gained experience in Vancouver’s downtown high-rise condo market before coming to Seattle eight years ago to help Ledinghan establish a practice. Werner took over that practice and stared his own firm when Ledingham left Seattle. “Seattle’s downtown is just now starting to blossom,” said Werner.” For me this is a really exciting time”