Rambler Update -- Gutting The Interior Leads To Wide Open Spaces
When Roger and Lisa Anderson purchased their North Seattle home six years ago, they heard some neighborhood pundits call it "The House That Time Passed By."
Little had been done to the 1957 rambler in the years since it had been built. The home sported a sandstone foundation that ranged in color from orange to pink, and picture windows framed in gleaming aluminum. The interior was hopelessly chopped up, with lots of little rooms connected by an endless door-lined hallway.
Despite the dated look, Roger and Lisa took a fancy to the place. It was solidly built and located on a view lot bordering the ninth tee of a private golf course.
The Andersons hired interior designers Dorian Muncey and the late Marjorie Siegel to modernize this retro relic and open up the rooms to the landscape and each other.
The designers gutted most of the interior, keeping rooms where they were but eliminating walls and doors. Doorways were extended up to the ceiling and fitted with discreet pocket doors to help ease the flow between spaces.
After so many interior walls were removed, posts were needed to carry some of the structural load. The Andersons had admired the way Siegel used telephone poles as columns in her Capitol Hill home, and they decided to try the same approach. The couple drove to the mill outside Olympia which provides poles for the phone company and selected a dozen untreated fir logs at $40 apiece.
Although the poles ended up costing a lot more by the time they arrived at the Andersons' door, their rustic, large-scale presence did wonders to temper the sprawling, 3,000-square-foot living space. And their strong vertical lines helped make the 8-foot ceilings appear taller.
Once the telephone poles were in place, the rest of the decor seemed to follow naturally. Siegel and Muncey covered the patchwork floors with hearty tongue-in-groove fir siding - a material traditionally applied to the exterior of houses.
The wood was placed face-down and milled with a radius bevel which echoes the curves of the telephone poles and produces a pronounced shadow line. The floorboards change direction at junctures between rooms, forming borders which help define living spaces.
"We never like to use hardwood," explains Muncey, "because it does not show any character. It just looks polished and gleamy." The Andersons' floors feature a soft, matte finish which will acquire scuffs and blemishes over time, giving the home a casual, timeworn appearance.
To unify the interior and give it a touch of warmth, the designers painted all the walls a pale Dijon yellow. Although the Andersons were hesitant about the color at first, it matches the value of the wood so closely that it comes across like any other neutral shade.
The Andersons also praise the new lighting scheme, which saw the single ceiling-mounted fixture in each room replaced with rheostat-controlled recessed can lights and wall washers designed to accent seating areas and artwork. "It makes it so warm and feel so good, and it's very versatile," Lisa says.
Between the fir floorboards and the log columns, the house was beginning to look like a vacation home in Sun Valley or Palm Springs. Roger and Lisa encouraged that mood with white upholstered pieces, white carpets and drapes, and Country French furnishings. Antique Asian accessories lend visual variety and a sense of history to the decor.
The Andersons couldn't afford to replace everything in the house. Since the kitchen functioned fairly well the way it was, the couple settled for a cosmetic update, removing the corny scalloped aprons from the kitchen cabinets, adding new pulls and replacing the pink tile countertops with a neutral plastic laminate.
Once the interior was in order, the Andersons set to work on the exterior. They painted the old aluminum window frames white and added a concrete tile roof.
The Wilkeson stone foundation, which looked dated and visually jarring, was treated with an elastomeric undercoating and painted gray-green. The color was repeated on the vertical cedar siding above, diminishing the contrast between the two materials and giving the house a more unified appearance.
The back of the house required more substantial modifications. The designers replaced the puny patio with a larger aggregate terrace, and added three sets of French doors to make access easier. The terrace is bordered by log columns which support a gabled glass canopy, like those found at the bases of commercial office buildings.
Teak furniture, a rustic Mexican chandelier and decorative canvas curtains make the terrace feel like an extension of the interior. Wood trellises bordering the canopy span the back of the house, softening the rear facade and providing an armature for wisteria and climbing roses.
Although the Andersons enjoy having a golf course right outside their back door, it does pose privacy problems. On Saturday mornings, it's not uncommon to find a dozen golfers waiting at the tee behind the house. Whenever Lisa sat in the yard, she felt obliged to exchange pleasantries with the players.
"We were in a big quandary: we didn't want to block out the golf course, but we wanted privacy," she says. The Andersons called on R. David Adams Associates, Inc. Staff landscape architect Richard Pulkrabek beefed up the skimpy planting beds, installing layers of scotch, black and white pine - evergreens which can be pruned as they grow, screening out curious gazes and errant golf balls while still affording glimpses of the greenery beyond. A magnolia tree, a Mount Fuji cherry and a sugar maple provide seasonal color, and are especially dramatic in winter, when uplights highlight their bare branches.
A serpentine wall of Pennsylvania fieldstone borders the planting bed, culminating in a broad staircase leading up to the links. From their bedroom, the Andersons can gaze through the passage at the seemingly endless grounds beyond.
Although it took five years to rejuvenate The House That Time Passed By, the Andersons finally have the home they wanted. And Lisa has a new occupation. She enjoyed working on the house so much she gave up her job in advertising to become an interior designer.
Seattle writer Fred Albert reports regularly on home design for Pacific and is co-author of "American Design: The Northwest," published by Bantam.
Copyright (c) 1992 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.