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John DeForest designs home for both books and family
The biggest challenge wasn’t the remodel, which added contemporary touches to structural updates. It was all those books.
Pacific NW associate editor
THERE ARE MANY words to define this newly remade family Tudor, snug on its lot overlooking a long, shimmering stretch of Lake Washington.
Thousands of them. Millions. Many of them carved right into the wall at the stairway near the front door. A trail of words three stories tall, basement to master suite.
“Four score and seven years ago ... (Abraham Lincoln, 1863)
“In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is.” (Yogi Berra)
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free ...” (Emma Lazarus, the Statue of Liberty)
“Mimi and Nana’s French Crepe recipe: 3 eggs, 1 cup milk approx., 1 cup flour. Blend in blender in above order. Make crepes in buttered crepe pan filling with cinnamon sugar or lemon and powdered sugar, syrup or jam.”
“Take it to Mount Crumpit, and dump it.” (Dr. Seuss, “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas”)
“Turns out not where but who you’re with that really matters.” (Dave Matthews Band)
Turns out the wall of words, a residential one and only, was all a ploy.
“The grandkids, especially, were unhappy that we were leaving the waterfront,” says Suzanne, speaking of their previous home of 43 years. “We tried and tried to come up with a way for them to be involved. We came up with the word wall. So? There’s all 17 of us; three generations up there.”
First honors went to granddaughter Nellie. At 5 years old she had memorized the Gettysburg Address.
While the word wall was a challenge, it wasn’t the biggest for architect John DeForest in this total remodel that added contemporary touches to structural updates. Among them: exposed blackened-steel beams and stair railings, a remade sunroom, new garage with studio and landscaping stretching from the street to the east terrace. Closed and dark now open and light.
It was the books.
“He had to work in 378 lineal feet of books,” says Suzanne. “Even in this day of the Kindle, I can’t give up my books.”
And we are surrounded. A Tolstoy on the coffee table. Madeleine Albright’s “Prague Winter” on the shelves dividing the entrance hall from the living room.
“I love the two-sided bookshelves,” Suzanne says. “They let in light, and it’s just so open.”
To be honest, Suzanne is not impartial about one inch of her new 4,000-square-foot home (a place her husband scouted for 10 years before it became available). The fossils in the limestone floor in the sunroom. Where the blackened-steel window frames join at the corners. Her garden-side office lined with photographs of her parents. The window cut into the front gate for Emma and Sherman, the family Jack Russell terriers. She adores it all and the architect who designed it.
“I had the best time,” she says of the entire process. “One of the reasons we stayed married (she winks) is that my husband was totally uninvolved. He said, ‘Wake me when it’s over.’ John and I did it all.
“I would just tell him what I wanted, and he would draw it even better than I was thinking.
“We built this house to stay. There’s an elevator and room for helpers if we need helpers.”
On the way out, there’s time for one more glance at the wall. “Woof! Woof!” it says, way down at the bottom. For Emma and Sherman.
And below that there is this: “Remodeled: 2011. John DeForest Architects.”
Rebecca Teagarden writes about architecture and design for Pacific NW magazine. Benjamin Benschneider is a magazine staff photographer.