A Perfect Fit
New volumes meld with old forms to make a well-tailored whole
Craig Schafer lived in a little green cottage on Lake Washington for 15 years before undertaking a serious remodel. As developer and owner of Hotel Andra in downtown Seattle, Schafer doesn't shy away from big projects. And it helped that his little, old house sat on a comfortably sized lot, unusual in this neighborhood squeezed in between the lake and the Burke-Gilman Trail. Still, the new house, designed by Johnston Architects, is an all-out show-stopper.
"It's night-and-day difference to live in this new house," says Schafer, who chose Johnston Architects for their contemporary, urban aesthetic. Sure, the space doubled to 2,800 square feet to accommodate family life — wife Lisa, young daughter, two cats and a dog. But it's the home's open elegance, the huge glass sliders and storefront windows that define the indoor/outdoor experience of living in the new house. It's as if the lake laps at your feet from nearly every room. If the cottage was a serviceable Timex, the new house is a posh Rolex.
Still, remnants of the cottage remain. By building on the old foundation, it was possible to site the new house closer to the lake.
The home's proximity to the water is mitigated by native plantings along the shoreline and a fish-friendly deck that allows light to penetrate through to the water.
The spine of the old house, its foundation and gable roofline were preserved, the volume of the new construction slipped in behind the older forms. "I had images of Scandinavian-type roofs, images from other parts of the world," says Schafer. Project architect Sara Imhoff designed the new roof to repeat the pitch of the old gable, yet with a crisp, modern abstraction. This manipulation of roof shapes allowed for a tucked-in yet spacious second-story deck off the guest room.
While the exterior of the house is all cool contemporary, the interior is warmed up with a palette reflective of the water view just outside the glass. Interior designer Julie Petri worked closely with Craig and Lisa to choose sea greens and blues as well as splashes of orange to play off the glass, limestone and metal.
The lake mood is captured in colorInterior materials and colors were chosen to reflect Lake Washington's changeable waters, erasing the line between indoors and out:
• The stainless-steel kitchen countertops mirror the lake's reflective surface. The aqua-colored kitchen cabinets are the same shade of blue as the lake on a sunny day.
• A handmade glass wall by artist Peter David separates the kitchen and living room. It lights up in shades of green and brown to evoke seaweed, moss and rain.
• Some walls are painted a watery blue, and shimmery glass tile in shades of aqua, blue and green sheath the bathrooms.
• The terrazzo floor in the kitchen is pale, inlaid with bits of watery green and blue. Says Schafer, the father of a young daughter, "Know what I like best about it? It doesn't show anything."
A white painted-wood ceiling wraps into various rooms to add a beachy feeling. The floors in most rooms are maple stained dark gray, with heated terrazzo in the kitchen. Stainless steel coats windowsills and adds heft to vanity legs. The open steel staircase, designed by Imhoff and Ray Johnston, serves as a sculptural bridge to connect the upper and lower levels. It was only after the project was completed that Imhoff realized it had taken on Craig Schafer's personality. "The house looks clean and elegant, like a well-tailored suit," says Imhoff.
There's a whole lot of technology behind the polished interiors. A stainless-steel door off the kitchen opens to a humidity- and temperature-controlled wine closet. Lighting is orchestrated by a master control, and Mecho solar shades glide silently up and down at the touch of a button. Windows are a combination of commercial and storefront systems. The oversized glass panel doors in the kitchen and living room use a "lift and glide" technology. Turn a handle and the doors, suspended from an overhead track, glide wide open.
The new and old house fit so comfortably together on their lakeside lot, the interior is so seamless, that it's easy to forget the challenges of the site and the need to blend past and present structures. "What I love about the house," says Imhoff, "is that so much of the design was driven by necessity, yet it all works."
Valerie Easton is a Seattle freelance writer and author of "A Pattern Garden." Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Benjamin Benschneider is a Pacific Northwest magazine staff photographer.