A Four-Year Remodel for a 21st-Century Craftsman
A careful three-stage redo—complete with space-enhancing built-ins—opened up this 1918 bungalow to a new way of living
It's not often that a house comes with nice neighbors, period charm, and a just-right kitchen—plus a game plan to make the house even better. But when Anders Brown and Monica Welle Brown first scoped out their one-and-a-half-story 1918 cottage, near downtown Seattle, there it all was, from a snug cook space with an updated vintage look to an ambitious master plan.
Shown: The house retains its original charm despite an ambitious redo spread over four years.
The kitchen and ready-when-you-are architectural drawings came courtesy of the previous owners and J.A.S. Design-Build, a one-stop firm known for turning dowdy workmen's bungalows into envy-making showpieces. The couple bought the whole package. "We fell in love with the kitchen, then built a house around it," says Anders, only partly joking.
Shown: The galley kitchen, updated during stage one of the redo, blends pro-style appliances, linoleum flooring, traditional flat-panel cabinets, and oil-rubbed-bronze hardware.
Earlier, during stage one of what would become a three-stage redo, J.A.S. had not only renovated the kitchen and upstairs bath but also reinforced the framing and added support posts for a new second floor, along with hidden computer wires and cables, in hopes of returning one day to finish the job.
So when the house changed hands, "the core framework was already there, and that added momentum to the project," Anders says.
Shown: The light-filled breakfast nook has a built-in bench and a small footprint.
The couple had other reasons for wanting to forge ahead. "The stairs were right in the middle and cut up the house," Monica says. Above them were only two bedrooms, the smaller one so small it could barely fit beds for Aedan and Cecelia, then 6 and 4. "They were definitely ready for their own rooms," says Monica. And she and Anders were ready for their own private suite.
Shown: Columned half-walls with an arched beam overhead set off the dining room while allowing air and light to flow.
Kitchen ceiling fixtures: Schoolhouse Electric
The master plan, devised by designers Kim Clements and Joe Schneider, called for a new set of stairs at the rear of the house, illuminated by large windows overlooking the yard. Upstairs, Clements says, the challenge was to create more usable space within the existing footprint. The designers' solution was to replace a small central dormer with a larger one and to raise the roof a bit, which would allow the second story to grow just enough.
Shown: Windows added in the new stairwell channel light inside and through awning-style interior windows in a child's bedroom
The family decamped to a cramped condo nearby, and a crew arrived to demolish the stairs and slice off the second floor, neatly cutting around the upstairs bath and the roof over it, leaving them intact like a hut in a clearing. Carpenters built new stairs with a cutout balustrade, and the small upstairs grew to hold two kids' bedrooms and that longed-for master suite.
Shown: The relocated staircase has Craftsman-inspired balusters that form a light-filtering screen.
Interior windows in daughter Cecelia's bedroom make the most of Seattle's famously scarce light. Lined up with the windows over the stairwell, they frame a view of trees from her new perch: a built-in captain's bed.
Shown: A child's compact bedroom with a sloped ceiling was outfitted with built-ins for work, sleep, and storage.
Which brings us to stage three. It began after the family left their cramped quarters behind and moved back into the house, gradually filling up every available bit of space. Soon, Cecelia needed a desk and more clothes storage; Monica, a knitware-pattern designer, craved a studio; Anders, a software consultant, wanted a spot for his laptop; and guests were casting about for a place to sleep.
Shown: The family command center has one cubby per person, plus an extra to share. The perforated lower-cabinet front keeps computer equipment cool; wires and cables are hidden behind the walls.
J.A.S. returned to augment the stage-one built-ins, adding the captain's bed and adjacent desk upstairs and a novel Murphy bed-desk downstairs, which turned an early-20th-century bedroom into a 21st-century flex room. "We share it," says Monica, and Anders elaborates: During the day it's Monica's design lab, and come evening it's a quiet place for Anders to plunk down his laptop. "I can actually work there," he says. "I pull up a chair and I'm up and running."
Shown: Fold up the guest bed into its cabinet and latch it in place, and a flip-up desk beneath a magnetic blackboard is at the ready.
When guests aren't exclaiming over the clever hideaway bed, they are talking up the "unexpected" gray-green of the kitchen cabinets, Monica says, adding that it inspired the rest of the palette.
Everyone—even the friendly next-door neighbors, who years ago raised their own kids in this house—agrees that the new second floor looks from the outside as if it's always been there. The new dormer, after all, doesn't differ all that much from the original; it's just bigger. You have to step inside to really feel the difference. Unlike the house they bought nearly five years ago, "it's light and airy," says Monica. And when you're talking about a Seattle bungalow built in 1918, that's saying something.
Shown: The living room has original leaded-glass windows, a light-enhancing pale color palette, and dark-stained floors.