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Originally published October 12, 2012 at 12:00 PM | Page modified October 16, 2012 at 4:03 PM

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A bright idea for a Medina family from architect Geoff Prentiss

Architect and clients worked together to simplify the house.

FELIPE SÁNCHEZ, Maria Gallego and their children moved to Medina from Mexico City five years ago, bringing a houseful of art with them. During Sánchez's tenure with Microsoft, the family lived in Colombia, Africa, the Middle East and London, collecting art from far corners of the globe as they traveled.

Even though Sánchez has since left Microsoft, the family decided to stay put in the Northwest. While they loved the location of their Eastside home, built in 1991, they weren't as keen on the house itself. It was traditional and far too dark inside. They preferred contemporary style and the light, bright interiors they'd left behind in Mexico.

When the couple approached Seattle architect Geoff Prentiss about a remodel, he advised them to tear the house down. "I hated the whole thing, it was like ... really?" says Prentiss. He thought the house was overwrought with far too many details.

But after visiting the Sánchez house in Mexico City to get a better idea of the couple's style and preferences, Prentiss decided to take on the challenge. The trip launched a happy collaboration, and architect and clients worked together to simplify the house. There was one disagreement. When Prentiss suggested the home's exterior be painted charcoal gray, Gallego just couldn't see it. Now she likes the dark color because it sets off the green of the lawn, conifers, magnolias and dogwoods that surround it.

The family of five used every bit of space in the home, but at 5,500 square feet it was large enough to work within the existing footprint. They stripped the place down, removing walls, surfaces, textures, colors and cabinetry. "We pretty much gutted it," says Prentiss, although the windows, swimming pool and exterior walls remained in place. The floor plan changed little, yet the feel of the house is totally different post-remodel.

The formal marble floors are gone, replaced with pale, matte Milestone. The walls are painted white, and the oversized doors are white oak. Light floods the entry from new skylights. "There was lots of engineering involved," says Prentiss of the columns he removed in the entry, which is now an open, art-filled space that sets the tone for the rest of the home. The bathrooms, which looked as cold and commercial as if they'd been designed for an airport, are now bright and contemporary with more Milestone floors and glass tile.

"We used just a few materials, like glass, Milestone and white oak, and repeated them throughout the house," says Prentiss. He left the prow-shaped windows intact because they draw the eye out to the garden. All the windows are dressed in snowy white panels of gauzy drapery to soften the light pouring in.

As a mother of three, Gallego brought plenty of practicality to the collaboration. The laundry room was moved to the center of the house, and a giant whiteboard reigns in the homework area off the kitchen. Here the family writes messages to keep track of each other; last spring a list of potential colleges and their attributes dominated one side of the communications center.

A house so dismal and dark that the architect first suggested tearing it down is now contemporary in feel, international in style, and filled with art, light and the bustle of an active family.

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 NW magazine staff photographer.

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