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Originally published Saturday, February 5, 2011 at 7:00 PM

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A Seattle 1940s box is reborn for the 21st century

At a scant 930 square feet, with single-pane windows and two bedrooms, the old house was outdated and inefficient. But guts-to-studs remodel expanded the little house to three bedrooms and 2,400 square feet.

In the late 1940s Albert Balch bought a 40-acre tract he named Wedgwood; he built 500 houses on the land and sold each for $5,000.

More than 60 years later, developer Linda Pruitt of The Cottage Company saw the potential in one of Balch's original homes. But at a scant 930 square feet, with single-pane windows and two bedrooms, it was outdated and inefficient. Pruitt worked with architect Charlie Wenzlau of Bainbridge Island on a redesign, then plunged into a guts-to-the-studs remodel that expanded the little house to three bedrooms and 2,400 square feet.

Pruitt's makeover launched the blue box into the 21st century and was quickly rewarded with enthusiastic buyers. New owners Wendy Miner and Scott Ward had been living in a Ravenna Tudor while searching for an in-city home that suited their family. With two young children and a big dog, they needed a fenced yard, bedrooms fairly close together and an open floor plan. Pruitt's remodel offered an essentially new house that fit their requirements. The revamped home qualified as a BuiltGreen 4-Star energy retrofit, with fresh landscaping and new plumbing and wiring. But it was how well the home fit with its surroundings that hooked them. "This house isn't a big, drywall box; it's respectful of the neighborhood," says Miner.

Most of the big changes don't show street-side. "A major aspect of the design was to open up the floor plan and bring more natural light into the house," says Wenzlau. Corner windows plus oversize doors help scoop daylight into the house. The dining room, kitchen and master suite were bumped out into the side and back gardens for more space and windows. Stairs were relocated from the center of the main floor to a new back hallway, and outfitted with an open railing to let more light flow downstairs.

Thoughtful details update the feel and functionality of the house, from a new deck in back to the covered front porch. The original scalloped window trim was left, and new trim milled to match it, as a reminder of the home's age and history.

Both Miner and Ward are cooks who appreciate the expanded kitchen. The island is built as a movable piece of furniture, and the colorful pendant lights above clip onto a track for easy adjustment. Many of the most charming details contributed to the home's high environmental rating. All the original doors and hardware were cleaned up, painted and reused. The marble tiles in the bath are original but with a new slab edge. The new windows and skylight open for ventilation.

The environmental ethos continues outside, where Pruitt worked with Todd Paul of City Gardening Services to select edible, ornamental and native plants that suit site conditions. "The No. 1 polluter of water quality is runoff from gardens and city streets," says Pruitt, who built three rain gardens to channel and absorb water. She added eaves to the house and directed downspout water into a catch basin that then overflows into the rain gardens.

A big fir tree and old quince were saved during construction and three recycled katsura trees were transplanted from Pruitt's friend's garden. Native plants like vine maples, ferns and mahonia mingle with daphnes for fragrance and azaleas for color. "We adore the garden," says Miner. "It was fun discovering all the blueberries, and we're excited to see the rain gardens back in action this winter."

Valerie Easton is a Seattle freelance writer and author of "The New Low-Maintenance Garden." Check out her blog at www.valeaston.com. Mike Siegel is a Seattle Times staff photographer.

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