Castles in Seattle
WHEN INTERIOR DESIGNER Russell Burton moved last year from a four-story, 6,500-square-foot Capitol Hill house to a space one-third the size, he consolidated by selling furniture and shipping some to a second home. But it was worth it because he had found a gem of a new home - the one that Fred Anhalt designed for himself adjoining one of Seattle's most prestigious residential neighborhoods.
At the turn-of-the-century, the northwest slope of Capitol Hill (now the Harvard / Belmont Landmark District) developed gracious homes and large estates. In the 1920s, distinctive apartment complexes were also built. English Tudor, French Norman and Mediterranean-styled buildings complemented neighboring private homes in size and detailing. Particularly successful were the apartments built by Fred Anhalt and dubbed by him "Castles in Seattle."
These "apartment-homes" were charming and romantic, with individualized floor plans, up-to-date amenities such as parking garages and gracious, home-like touches - separate entrances off semi-private landscaped courtyards - that brought in the renters.
With only six units, Oak Manor is one of Anhalt's smallest buildings, and its appearance from the street is most like that of a country manor. Set on a gently sloping lawn with a fine old oak tree (Anhalt refused to remove it), the building features herringbone brick work, a free-standing concrete spiral staircase, stained glass, inlaid mahogany entry doors, forged brass keyhole lids and copper gutters and downspouts. So pleased was Anhalt that he chose it as his own home.
Burton, of R.W. Burton Design, is the newest owner of what was Anhalt's most personalized design.
"Anhalt took what he normally did and put more of it in here. Every room has an archway and none of the ceilings, except the kitchen, is flat - all are arched or beamed. It is really a little house hooked onto the rest of the building. There is no one above or below, and it has its own private entrance and yard."
The unit is a study in fine craftsmanship, from floors to walls to ceilings. Pegged and doweled 6- and 8-inch-wide white-oak planks are held together with butterfly joints. Planks in the living room are up to 15 feet long. Burton's floor refinishers remarked they had never seen butterfly joints in a hardwood floor or planks that clear and long.
Anhalt was creative in finding closet and storage space in every nook and cranny; Burton has added more in the kitchen, bedroom and living rooms by bringing in Asian tansu. For today's plugged-in world, he managed to add 27 electrical outlets without damaging the architecture.
He has also worked to revive the luster of the 1928 interior finishes. The two-story entrance hall has bluestone flooring with a green cast that Burton has picked up in his choice of wall paint - putty/taupe with a touch of green. The wood newel post and banisters have been refinished in their original dark stain, minus 70 years of wear and tear. Hand-blown glass in a leaded window in the entrance door has been restored, its broken pieces replaced with old glass to match the uneven texture of the original.
Two steps down from the entrance hall is a living room with an 11-foot beamed ceiling. An arched window set deep into one wall emphasizes the castle-like quality Anhalt strove for in his designs. Beneath the window is a wood-storage cabinet that loads from outside.
Stained-glass heraldic shields of a Norse ship and a castle are inset in one band of leaded windows, lest one forget the allusion, "a man's home is his castle."
Two years ago Burton spent a month in China and the living-room decor reflects his new-found interest in Chinese furniture. "Asian furniture with traditional English, if done right, goes well," he said. "The English did it themselves when they first started importing porcelain, statuary and furniture in the 18th century." Burton's sofas are what he calls "classic modern." He designed a contemporary brass coffee table and filled the rest of the room with antique Chinese, Korean and Japanese pieces.
While Anhalt's original breakfast room is largely intact, a powder room and the kitchen had been altered by former owners. The powder room (originally a pantry) had been updated with new fixtures and a marble floor. Lost in the process was the original multicolored ceramic tile floor that can still be seen in the hall between breakfast room and kitchen. The kitchen had also been completely redone with new cabinetry. Burton added new appliances and painted the walls a deep terra cotta that complements the wood of his Japanese kitchen chest and flooring he has laid to duplicate original plank flooring elsewhere in the house.
The most remarkable and uncharacteristic of Anhalt's interior designs is the dining room. The builder learned that a yacht was being dismantled and salvaged; he purchased the old-growth cherry paneling and saved it for a special unit. When he decided to live in this apartment, he reused it for the dining room. Burton's wood specialists tell him the cherry panels have at least 10 hand-rubbed coats of varnish to give them their mirror-like patina. One panel hides the door to the kitchen. Three others disguise storage spaces.
Burton approached this room with care. "All it needed was a dining table and chairs. The paneling was the furniture."
He also respects Anhalt's tradition (as did all previous owners) of not having an electric chandelier above the dining-room table and instead lighting the room with candles. To accent his collection of Chinese ceramics in the built-in display cases and the window sill, Burton has installed discreet cove lighting and halogen down lights.
On the second floor, the master bedroom has more Anhalt touches, such as a leaded-glass window bay with a windmill stained-glass medallion, a fireplace and French doors to a small balcony. Burton has furnished the room with Japanese or Korean tansu. Kilims - rugs and pillows - fill the room. Two other bedrooms became office space for Burton's interior-design business.
"The commute is great," he says.
What Burton loves about his building and the neighborhood is fortunately protected by the city as a designated landmark district, with demolition, alteration and new construction regulated to protect the neighborhood's character.
Lawrence Kreisman is program director for Historic Seattle and director of "Viewpoints," the tour program of the Seattle Architectural Foundation. Steve Ringman is a Seattle Times staff photographer.
Capitol Hill: Past, Present, and Future
Russell Burton's Anhalt unit is one of several interiors that will be open on a guided tour of the Harvard / Belmont Landmark District Saturday, March 18, as part of the lecture series "Capitol Hill: Past, Present, and Future," presented by Historic Seattle.
Paul Dorpat will introduce Capitol Hill in vintage photography, Leonard Garfield will describe the neighborhood's varied residential styles over a century, longtime residents will share memories and a panel will consider challenges and direction in the new century.
Lectures will be at 7 p.m. Tuesdays March 7, 14 and 21 at the Volney Richmond Jr. Auditorium of Virginia Mason Hospital, 12 Terry Ave. Information: 206-622-6952.
The guided tour of Harvard / Belmont Landmark District will be repeated May 6 as the opening tour of the Seattle Architectural Foundation's 10th season of Viewpoints. Information: 206-667-9186.
PUBLISHED CORRECTION DATE: 04/09/2000 - In this article, the dining-room woodwork was credited to builder Fred Anhalt's reuse of cherry paneling from a salvaged yacht. In fact, the paneling was new cherry wood purchased by Raymond Scheetz from O.B. Williams in Seattle and installed in the dining room in the mid-1950s, when he and his family lived there. The room was used as a den and TV room instead of a dining room, recalls son Frederick Scheetz, who grew up there and remembers hiding in the spaces behind the panels.
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