An English Revival's top floor gets a top-drawer remake
On Seattle's Capitol Hill, the top floor of an English Revival classic is itself revived with a neutral color palette, simple, sturdy furnishings from around the world, and a load of regional art.
FOR TIM PFEIFFER, who had spent years traveling the globe — first wherever his interests and curiosity led him, next in pursuit of his profession — the past year has been a homecoming of sorts.
Born and raised in Tacoma, Pfeiffer went to the University of Washington to get his fine-arts degree, then took his fascination with arts and culture into the corporate world, creating lifestyle identities for Ralph Lauren and, most recently, Starbucks. In his work, he tries to understand the core values of such companies and determine how the design of spaces, color, texture, furniture and furnishings can express these values.
Having made the cross-continental move from New York back to Seattle, he has been doing much the same on a personal level in his new apartment on north Capitol Hill.
"Apartment" is not really the word to describe the entire second floor of a wonderful English Revival residence, which has generous indoor and outdoor living space, including two bathrooms, two fireplaces and a view deck off the living and dining rooms.
The house was designed by Seattle architect David Myers for William Prosser, the city of Seattle treasurer, in 1909.
A clinker-brick ground floor rises to stucco and half-timbered upper floors. The complex roofline has imposing twin gables in front with several smaller dormers. The main entry has a very cozy enclosed vestibule. The originally simple service entrance at the side of the house was expanded early on to be nearly as ornate, with an arched hood and stained-glass windows.
Prosser died in 1911, shortly after the house was completed. During World War II the house was divided into four units.
When the current owner, interior designer Jean Hammond, moved here in 1957, the house was in poor condition, and she spent several years restoring it while maintaining several separate units. The side entrance that originally led directly to the first-floor kitchen and servants' stairs now serves Pfeiffer's second-floor space.
One of Hammond's friends and colleagues was leading interior designer Jean Jongeward. Her neutral color palette, simple choices in furniture and accessories, and promotion of Pacific Northwest regional artists influenced several later generations of designers. Hammond's design decisions for some of the rooms, including Pfeiffer's kitchen, are very much in that tradition.
This design legacy was a perfect match for Pfeiffer's tastes. He had been interested in and collected regional artists since the 1980s, and even searched them out when he lived in New York. The neutral walls of his unit are filled with excellent examples of regional work. The art fits comfortably in rooms with furniture he acquired during his travels to France, Belgium, Germany and the American Southeast. They range from 18th century through the 1940s and from high style to rustic and vernacular. What they all share is substantial solidity of construction, sculptural form, simplicity of line and color, and utility that trumps precious ornament or embellishment.
And the nice thing about leasing rather than owning is that he has the benefit of the owner's gardens — a series of plant-enclosed rooms that he can enjoy even if he doesn't have a green thumb and gardening tools of his own.
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.