With classic details, a disjointed Lake Washington house is made whole
Above Lake Washington, a disjointed older home is remade into a harmonious whole, thanks to a team that paid attention to its classic details.
Two designers, one house
"With all renovations, the challenge is to meet the client's desires and to do something sympathetic with the house. When you have a house this disjointed, you can choose, and yet you have to be honest to the house. We were drawn more to the classical detailing, particularly because of the strength of the carriage house, and we tried to swing it in that direction."
— Marvin Anderson, Sullivan Conard Architects
ON MAY 24, 1902, Seattle's Daily Bulletin carried the notice that "Boone and Corner have recently let to Shannon, White and Middleton the contract for erecting a residence for Judge Stratton in the Denny-Blaine addition. This house, which will have 10 rooms, will cost $7,000. In design it is one of the most attractive in the city. It is expected that the building will be finished in four months."
Sitting prominently on a hillside with views of Lake Washington and the Cascade Mountains, the Stratton house may still merit the promotional accolades of 1902. But a century of homeowners, several remodels and additions, many layers of paint over the original shingles, and years of deferred maintenance had taken away some of its allure by the time its newest owners, Stephen and Kristie Ratzlaff, bought it.
Fortunately, they were undeterred. While the Stratton house had more space than they needed, Kristie says, "We loved the fact that it was a big old house that had been lived in, it had a big yard, and we could make it a place for our family. It felt like a family house."
The couple went to Sullivan Conard Architects, which has a reputation for its sensitivity to older homes that need upgrading. They found a passionate advocate in Marvin Anderson, whose interests in late-19th- and early-20th-century architectural design led to creative problem-solving and attractive solutions that have brought the house to a new level.
Anderson interprets this house as a reflection of two quite differently trained men. William Boone was a builder; James Corner came out of Boston and was East Coast-trained, Anderson noted. "I see a rather disjointed collaboration between two people; the overall massing is almost Victorian, with steep gables and heavy details. The delicate front entrance porch, the fireplace details, the Colonial and Classical Revival elements — I see Corner's hand in that."
To return the facades to something like they might have been, the team at Sullivan Conard (including principal Peter Conard and architect Fred Johnson) had to address a number of problems. A covered porch had been incorporated into the living room and filled in with plate-glass windows. An original center tower was still evident, but the front entrance, with a small canopy over the door, provided very little shelter. And the facade's shingles had been painted so many times it was almost impossible to tell they were flared.
Additions to the house and a two-story garage by Seattle architect Sherwood Ford in the early 1930s reinforced the classical elements of the house and directed the owners and architects in their approach to details and finishes.
For example, the entrance hall was scaled back by adding a powder room and a seating area. Classical columns were added to visually separate the space into a small vestibule with a bench (that conveniently hides a radiator) and the stair hall itself.
Originally, there were pocket doors on either side of the hall into the dining and living rooms. These had disappeared years before. Now there are again pocket doors on at least one side of the stair hall; they decided to leave open the entrance to the living room.
The project has been all-involving for the couple, who have brought their own particular interests to it. Kristie spent many hours looking for antique light fixtures. Stephen poured over hardware catalogs trying to find appropriate new pieces, along with antique fixtures.
Anderson finds working with such clients inspiring. "It's much more meaningful when you move in because everyone participates." He also has taken pleasure in doing what he does best, "integrating new with the old." The reward is obvious: a house has been brought back to life.
Lawrence Kreisman is program director of Historic Seattle and author of "The Arts and Crafts Movement in the Pacific Northwest." Benjamin Benschneider is a Pacific Northwest magazine staff photographer.
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