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Sunday, January 15, 1995 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Northwest Living

Primary Choices -- There's Nothing Predictable Here; Even The Furniture Doesn't Match

TWO YEARS AGO, A Seattle woman acquired a 50-year-old house bordering Lake Washington just south of Madison Park. A pastiche of Cape Cod and colonial architecture, the home had good bones but lacked personality

Assisted by Seattle designer Dorian Muncey, the owner electrified the interior with a Playskool palette of yellow, red, green and blue finishes. Any potential for cartoonishness was dispelled by the furniture: an impressive array of European antiques handed down through the owner's family and that of her ex-husband. Opulent fabrics and generous helpings of stone and wood make the 3,500-square-foot house formal enough for black-tie affairs, but cozy enough for the owner's two young children.

Before she moved into the house, the woman made about $200,000 worth of improvements to the structure and grounds, altering the exterior as little as possible to control costs and preserve the home's period character. She had Muncey and the general contractor, QPM, inc., rotate the front door and push it out a few feet, creating a foyer. An arbor was added above to accentuate the entry. An overhanging porch that ran along the back of the house was enclosed and incorporated into the interior, brightening the home and providing a place for a breakfast table in the kitchen and French doors in the living room.

The worn wood floors were covered with tongue-in-groove oak planks, laid on the diagonal for a less regimented feel. The homeowner replaced the anemic trim with more substantial moldings and beefed up the fireplaces with antique marble mantels. New wainscoting adorns the central hallway; Muncey set mirrors between some of the panels to lend sparkle to the windowless space.

Before leaving on a trip, the owner selected a pale yellow for the hallway and living-room walls. Upon her return, she found the spaces painted a garish canary color. Unwilling to redo the entire job, she instructed the painter to go over the finish with a coat of diluted white paint, applied with a coarse brush in a single downward stroke. The technique, known as "dragging," lightened the color and added a hint of texture to the surface.

To achieve the same subdued surface in the dining room, she covered the walls with fabric in a pictorial French design. The material was glued to a board, then mounted on the walls. "I think it's a softer look," the homeowner says. "There's always a little sheen to paper, which I'm not crazy about." The wainscoting below was painted forest green and accented with a pair of red stripes. The color is repeated in the tapestry curtains adorning the window.

Many of the furnishings in the house were handed down from the woman's grandmother, an author and broadcaster who raised the homeowner after the death of her mother.

Following her grandmother's lead, few furnishings in the home match. "She had a theory that there should be at least seven types of wood in a room," the homeowner says. "I like that a lot. The thing I hate most is to walk into a house where this matches that. It's just not interesting."

In the long, narrow living room, her grandmother's beech grand piano is paired with not one but two vintage pump organs. An antique walnut sofa upholstered in forest-green wool sits in front of the fireplace alongside a red wing chair and green easy chair. A second seating group overlooking the back yard features a pair of opposing love seats upholstered in red chintz. The color is echoed in the Chinese deco carpet. The windows are adorned with yellow brocade curtains suspended from matching upholstered rods.

The homeowner painted the neighboring den a glossy Chinese red. The color was blended with undertones of black to give it a sophisticated feeling, but was not repeated on any of the furnishings, lest its vibrancy become overwhelming.

A walnut armoire anchors one corner of the room, opposite a chaise lounge upholstered in a faux-leopard fabric. A new sofa covered in yellow brocade is paired with parti-colored slipper chairs and Venetian glass lamps purchased 70 years ago by the owner's great-grandmother.

The den is divided from the rest of the house by a pair of surface-mounted sliding doors. (The solution was less expensive than pocket doors, and didn't require any structural changes.) Mirrors affixed to the doors reflect light into the room like an extra set of windows.

The blue-and-white master bedroom features a four-poster draped with polished cotton, and walls covered with a floral paper that echoes the needlepoint carpet. White plantation shutters adorn the windows. The walnut armoire dates from the 1700s.

The kitchen, designed by Muncey in a French farmhouse style, features a tumbled-marble-tile floor warmed with radiant electric heat. Paint-grade cabinets were treated with a white dragged finish - just like the living-room walls - and paired with charcoal gray counters fabricated from soapstone.

A commercial range rests inside a tiled alcove, which artist Melanie Enderle embellished with a mural depicting elements from the owner's life. A painted-tile tabletop in the breakfast area features mock "place settings" for Josephine and Napoleon, completing the Gallic theme.

Fred Albert reports regularly on home design for Pacific and other regional magazines. Greg Gilbert is a Seattle Times photographer.

Copyright (c) 1995 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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