Pacific Northwest | September 14, 2003Pacific Northwest MagazineSeptember 14, home
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A Revelation in Leschi
Specially commissioned eucalyptus leaves in green tile by Heath, a Sausalito, Calif., pottery company, form the backsplash for soapstone counters and cherry cabinetry in the new kitchen. Linoleum covers the floors.
A fine old form is found, followed and revived

Walter Smith was a Microsoft commuter, stacking up frequent-flyer miles shuttling back and forth from Palo Alto each week. He did this for several years before he and his wife, attorney Mary-Alice Pomputius, decided to seriously consider a move.

They started house-hunting largely by reading about various neighborhoods in Seattle guidebooks. But it was challenging picking through neighborhoods they weren't familiar with, and only after they told realtors they wanted to be within walking distance of a grocery and restaurants did they narrow their search to Madrona, Leschi, Mount Baker and Wallingford. They considered one Dutch Colonial, but decided it needed too much work. When their realtor showed them a decrepit 3,900-square-foot, four-bedroom house in Leschi, Mary-Alice suspected it was just to shock them with the comparison.
With landscape advice from Tom Zachary and Francine Day, the rockery was rebuilt to accommodate a level place for a formal herb garden. The porch was also rebuilt to put in appropriately scaled balusters and posts.
If so, the plan backfired.

"A lot of our demands flew out the window once we saw the view and sat in the window seat and felt the space of this welcoming house," Mary-Alice remembers. "We walked in the door and fell in love. We didn't realize how much of a wreck it was. The mortar was purple, previous owners had boxed in the pillars with plastic shelving . . . Bathroom tile was not attached to the floor. At least the cabinets still had original glass doors." Only one original lighting fixture remained (now in the main-floor bathroom).

Undeterred, they bought it and planned to start the rehabilitation in April 1998. They already had O'Downing McKay, the contractor, ready to start demolition when they realized the job was too complicated to do without architectural guidance.
The family cat enjoys the window seat that helped convince the couple to buy the house.
Once again, the couple consulted books for leads. Paul Duchscherer's book "Bungalow Interiors" had pictures of architect Larry Johnson's Ravenna living room, and they instinctively thought his passion for Arts & Crafts would benefit their project. Mary-Alice describes Johnson's unforgettable entrance:

"The very first meeting, Larry came charging in the front door — I'm not even sure if he shook our hands — charged through the dining room, yanked up the grating to check the depth of the floor, and we were won over. He was so keenly interested in the details." He and associate Howard Miller guided a number of key decisions that returned the exterior back to its 1910 appearance while making the inside safe, comfortable and efficient.

During the ensuing year, the couple did all the obvious things — new plumbing, roofing, siding and the like.

The two dormers at the front of the house had been altered; instead of the gentle shed roofs depicted in the 1938 tax assessor's photograph, they were taller with pitched roofs. But the old structure and window placements were still there, so there wasn't more space. The rehab lowered the sills to increase the window size without appearing larger from the street and put in window seating so the couple could enjoy the view.
The dining room's built-in sideboard with original leaded glass inspired cabinetry in the remodeled kitchen. Table and chairs were commissioned from Berkeley Mills.
The assessor's photo also revealed the original configuration of paired porch posts and wide balusters that had disappeared years back, as well as windows with 12 lights in the upper sash. For the owners, the photo "was such a revelation. We knew there was something wrong with the front of the house, the dormers and the columns, and when the picture arrived we said, 'Oh, obviously.'

The only addition they made was in the kitchen, where the west wall was pushed out 2 feet to form a bay off the back of the house and let in more light. The north wall also went out 2 feet, taking space from the guest bedroom.

All the wall-moving created a vestibule for the guest bedroom and bathroom that can now be closed off with pocket doors to form its own suite. A closet has been transformed into a bookshelf-walled sitting area with a window looking out to the lake.
The warm glow of a mica shade sets the tone of the Arts & Crafts period interior.
With that work completed, the woodwork refinished and new windows installed in 1999, it was time to seriously think about finishes inside. Laurie Taylor of Ivy Hill Interiors helped choose paint in tones of green and gold that complement the dark-stained woodwork. William Morris Willow-pattern wallpaper is in the small library off the main hall. For window treatments, textile historian Dianne Ayres applied stencils by Helen Foster to linen curtains. Rejuvenation Lighting and House Parts in Portland supplied new lighting.

For this transplanted couple, their lakeside neighborhood has many attractions, not the least of which is that it is edged by native parkland. They appreciate what made this and other streetcar suburbs so attractive a century ago — a trolley route that drops them off downtown in a matter of minutes. Mary-Alice says it all: "It's a comfortable, nestled community on the edge of the hill. It's delightful."
The Western-themed guest room has a pop-out niche with seating that is a favorite reading place.
Educate yourself

The sixth annual Bungalow & Craftsman Home Fair presented by Historic Seattle offers homeowners the opportunity to learn about restoring and renovating these popular building types. Antiques as well as the work of artisans inspired by this design movement are also on sale. Lectures are by: Tommy McPherson, executive director of the Stickley Museum at Craftsman Farms; Beth Ann McPherson, curator of interpretations, and Paul Duchscherer, author of popular books on bungalows. A basic Arts & Crafts embroidery workshop by Ann Chaves precedes the fair days.

The workshop is 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 26, at Good Shepherd Center, 4649 Sunnyside Ave. N. The fair is 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 27, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m Sept. 28. Lectures are 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturday; 11 a.m. Sunday. The fair and lectures are at Town Hall Seattle, 1119 Eighth Ave. For ticket information and pre-registration call 206-622-6952, ext. 234, or go to

Lawrence Kreisman is program director for Historic Seattle. Steve Ringman is a Seattle Times staff photographer.

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