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Originally published Saturday, August 27, 2011 at 7:05 PM

Seattle builder Jason Legat remodels with family in mind

Once a model who traveled the world, contractor would rather build houses into earth-friendly homes.

HE'S A BUILDER, he's a model. He's a builder, he's a model. For years Jason Legat went back and forth like that. Hammering on houses for contractor Rick Newell on Whidbey Island since junior high school, then traveling the world as a, well, not super, but darned photogenic model.

In the end, after having been there and done that, it was the building, working with his hands, updating and restoring history with 2-by-4s and plaster, that captured his heart.

So he named his company ModelRemodel. ModelRemodel: Get it?

Legat's Seattle firm, which now includes his mentor Newell, focuses on sustainable, mindful building practices with a goal of Built Green certification. Mindful because this is a yoga family. Jason's wife, Tami Hafzalla, is a yoga teacher and doula who has also taught at yoga retreats in India. Their happy boy, Indi, in fact, was made in India. Indi: Get it?

This brings us to Legat's own 1927 Phinney Ridge Tudor. "Worst house in the neighborhood" when they found it in 2007, he says.

"We weren't the highest offer. But our agent wrote the sellers a really nice letter saying we wanted to raise a family in the house. We got it."

What they got, what they fell in love with, was pure potential.

"It sloped 4 inches on one side," says Legat who, like any good yoga student, set an intention. "Right when I walked in I thought it'd be a good place to raise a family." And in comes Indi, wobbling past on a toddler mission. He was born here, on Sept. 30, 2009. The house had just been finished, only the last bits remaining.

Stripped down to the studs, the modest home has been brought back with a new family suite and Green Lake-view roof deck. Legat gutted the kitchen. Dug the basement out another 18 inches to create a comfortable and well-lit family room below ground. There is also a designated yoga room. And — with four bedrooms, two baths and 2,600 square feet — space for an active young family.

The narrow strip of backyard is an urban fantasy designed by Salazar's Landscaping of Des Moines. Paved in flagstone, it features planting beds filled with Northwest favorites (ferns, salal) on either side. Strings of cafe lights overhead lend a romantic, exotic feeling.

Much of this new house is built with castoff or reused materials; cedar siding, fir floors and stair fixtures, doors, bath fixtures, built-ins, interior trim and windows, end-piece Carrara marble for a bathroom counter atop scrap cabinets.

"I come from a long line of energetic and handy men," Legat says, eyeballing the littlest Legat. "My grandpa built the house my dad grew up in. My great grandpa built the house my grandpa grew up in. And my dad built our house."

For his own efforts, Legat received a four-star rating. Four (out of five possible) Built Green stars. The certification awarded by the environmentally friendly nonprofit residential building program of the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties.

But Legat grew up in the forest in Coupeville. And he's only doing now what he has done since he was a kid and his father gave him building scraps to put up treehouses.

Legat talks about putting his heart and soul into a thing. Indi, not even 2 yet, says "Como esta? A bientot! Ciao," in quick order.

Already a traveler.

But, still. There's no place like om.

Rebecca Teagarden writes about architecture and design for Pacific Northwest magazine. Ken Lambert is a Seattle Times staff photographer.

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