Sunday, August 6, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Northwest Living

Knowing Its Place

Tour the Wurmbrand-Rosenberg home

The public is invited to tour the Wurmbrand-Rosenberg home from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Sept. 30, in an event hosted by Docomomo WEWA, a local nonprofit group that shares a passion for Northwest Modernism. The local chapter of Docomomo US is dedicated to the documentation, conservation and awareness of the Modern movement in Western Washington. Tickets are limited and cost $7. They are available online through

Amely Wurmbrand shopped here

Wurmbrand credits the popularity of mid-century Modern architecture to the wide availability of housing stock from the 1950s and '60s. That and nostalgia. The good news is that quality reproductions are readily available: Charles Eames, Isamu Noguchi and Eero Saarinen. She prefers to use vintage furniture, though. "I like furniture with a patina to it, some age to it," she says.

Some of her favorite places to treasure hunt include; Area 51, David Smith, Asian Style, Diva, Collective, Modell's, Driscoll Robbins, Deluxe Junk, Space Oddity and the Trammel-Gagn, Kelly Forslund and Terris Draheim showrooms at the Seattle Design Center.

See her work at

AMELY WURMBRAND SLEPT here. And here. And here.

In fact, in the seven years she's lived in this Richmond Beach waterfront house, she's slept in every room of it. That's how the interior designer knew just what to do to make her 1962 Modern just right for her young family.

"Many people, when they do mid-century Modern, it turns out really cold. My goal was to warm it up, make it homey," she says. "This style of architecture is a blank slate. You have to honor the architecture, but once you do that you can mix it up more."

Mixing it up means making it her own: The old, cold living room is now a warm, award-winning kitchen with clean lines and wide-open spaces. The living and dining rooms are now combined, and expansive. A bedroom is now the media room.

Throughout the house cool blues melt into flashes of red, orange and brown on a neutral background. Natural woods soften hard-metal edges. Just for fun, a Moroccan day bed dressed in reds and plums sits in the corner of her design studio. "I really like warm colors, because the architecture lacks ornament," she says of her fascination with pattern and texture. "I try to bring a little humanity to the architecture."

There is a special place for each member of Wurmbrand's family. Amely has her airy studio upstairs; her husband, Craig Rosenberg, has his professional music studio downstairs; their 3-year-old son, Brandon, his painting corner in mom's studio.

"It's like cooking," she says of bringing her home back to, yet beyond, its low-slung glory. "It's a progression. My work is very site-specific.

"But, like the work done decades past on the old Victorians and Craftsmen, the mid-centuries are getting their due TLC."

Wurmbrand's big remodel began four years ago. She designed and served as the contractor for the 1,400-square-foot addition of design studio, art gallery and music studio to the house that was originally 2,500 square feet. She has already created site renderings for 600 square feet more as a master suite and loft.

That, for her, is the easy part.

"I think people are either designers or decorators. And I'm a designer at heart," says a woman possessed with her craft. She taught herself CAD before even entering the design program at Cornish College of the Arts, remodeled the kitchen as a freshman and graduated cum laude, in 2003, when she was nine months pregnant.

"So, if it's not designing, I'm a little slow to it. Decorating is miles and miles. You buy everything from every single source, trying it out, returning it. Designing is bigger. It's not so much minutia."

For instance, Wurmbrand, the designer, cut four feet from one end of a massive stone fireplace wall to open space between the kitchen and living areas. Wurmbrand, the decorator, found for the living room a big red pouf that had once squatted proudly in the old Seattle Opera House. Oh, and Wurmbrand, the artist, painted the two contemporary oil paintings for the living room.

But remodeling your own home is a challenge — even for a professional. It's the family factor.

"No one's a sage in their own family. So I have to work harder with my husband," says Wurmbrand. She credits Rosenberg, who grew up in a Richard Neutra house in Southern California, with being "a pretty good sport. He pitches in on everything." But she also recalls the "discussions" over where to put his studio desk. He really wanted to face the wall; she really wanted him to look out to a restful green forest. She had him try out each spot.

The desk faces the forest.

Rebecca Teagarden is assistant editor of Pacific Northwest magazine. Barry Wong is a Seattle-based freelance photographer. He can be reached at


Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company


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