Architect Bernie Baker remakes Midcentury
Bainbridge Island architect uses unified materials and motifs to make a Midcentury on Mercer Island feel like new.
DAVID AND Susan welcomed family and friends to their newly remodeled home with a house blessing. In writing her celebratory liturgy, Susan, an Episcopal priest, was inspired by sources as diverse as Paul McCartney's "Let It Be" and a Navajo night chant.
Such eclecticism well suits the couple's Mercer Island home, which marries sleek 1950 lines with a stylish and functional update by architect Bernie Baker. Metal cladding and minimalist landscaping make the house look new, yet the scale remains comfortably Midcentury modern.
Susan and David bought the 3,200-square-foot daylight rambler in 1994. Their pink-and-blue-flowered furniture, better suited to their previous Colonial-era home in Minneapolis, was just one of the many problems they faced.
"The sense of entry was amiss," Baker says with understatement. The front door was so obscured by carport and shrubs that the architect couldn't find it when he first visited. The decks were patched, and the roof leaked. Searching for a new house made the couple realize they didn't want to move. "But we didn't want to be a tear-down in a tear-down neighborhood," says David of their decision to stay put and work with what they had.
The elegant and thoroughly satisfying remodel was achieved on a strict budget. "One of Bernie's gifts is that he uses the best of the past to serve the present," says Susan. The couple also sings the praises of Landmark Construction's Shane Bennett, who finished the project in just three months.
Baker saved money by working within the home's original footprint. He preserved the old siding and windows, updating the exterior with metal panels. He wanted to remove the carport, but instead emphasized the front porch with wide concrete pavers leading to a metal door overhung by a glass canopy. For simplicity, unity and to save money, materials, motifs and colors are repeated throughout the house and garden.
The couple loves looking out the living-room windows into a Japanese maple tree. Baker carefully preserved the view along with the tree itself when a new back deck was built.
"I got hired by proposing we stick with the heart of the house and put money where it was most important," says Baker, who talked the couple into leaving the bedroom wing and lower level alone except for fresh paint, new flooring and wider baseboards to tie new and old areas together visually. Baker's clearly defined scope included a major kitchen update, making the colorful new space the hub of the house. He removed a wall to open the kitchen, and added glossy red and metal cabinetry from Ikea to contrast with the existing wooden floor and ceiling.
A new metal, wood and concrete fireplace is the focal point of the living room, where the old wooden ceiling beams are all that remain of rustic. Sliding double doors on metal tracks provide privacy for the bedroom wing, and the trek downstairs is made more appealing by an opened staircase.
Baker not only created beauty and utility for a home that badly needed both, but met the couple's goal of simplifying interior and exterior spaces. As Susan said to the friends who gathered to bless the remodel: "Make this home a place for fellowship and re-creation of the soul, a place of serenity and joy, of feasting and celebration."
Valerie Easton is a Seattle freelance writer and author of "petal & twig." Check out her blog at www.valeaston.com. Benjamin Benschneider is a Pacific Northwest magazine staff photographer.