Prairie Home: The lineage is classic, the feel mostly modern
For his own home, contractor Stu Feldt was inspired by the Prairie and Craftsman styles of architecture, but with a modern twist for an active young family.
Pacific NW associate editor
CONTRACTOR STU Feldt is a student of architecture.
“Lee Copeland designed my parents’ house,” he says of the former dean of the University of Washington College of Architecture and Urban Planning (today known as the College of Built Environments).
“At 12 years old I fell in love with the process and wanted to be an architect. After college, though, I worked with a contractor and realized that I liked the hands on.”
For years Feldt bought neglected houses, fixed, sold and sent them on their way. But, today he’s seated in the living room of the home he (W.S. Feldt General Contractor) built for his own family, 3,600 square feet, open and, well, otherwise a little tricky to describe. But, no matter what you call it, it’s a keeper.
“Prairie style was the influence,” says Feldt, who has roots in Minnesota and admits to having stalked homes designed by George Grant Elmslie and Frank Lloyd Wright.
“Well, Prairie style and Craftsman. The Green and Green house in Pasadena (The Gamble House) really inspired me.
“I wouldn’t really call it Midcentury Modern,” he says of his family’s View Ridge home, “but that’s where it’s going with the interiors.
“Anyway, the idea out front was low to the ground.”
True to the Prairie style of design, the home is banded with windows, the roof is hipped and low-pitched with wide eaves. Concrete porch supports are true to the genre, but in reality, “I took those from a hotel we like in Hawaii. They did theirs in lava rock.”
Inside the cheerful Sunburst Orange front door, the place skews contemporary. Glass (windows and sliders from Lowen), steel, cedar, concrete floors with mahogany cabinetry and paneling, the icy-glass balls of a Bocci chandelier dangling over the dining table. Interior designer Kathleen Glossa stuck to the modern theme with furnishings and finishes at once warm, elegant and family friendly.
Then, just to mix it up, there off the kitchen, is a family-sized nook. Modern in its execution (surrounded by glass), but firmly of Craftsman lineage. It has become the family command center. No matter how many built-in desks and study areas Feldt put into the place, everybody’s always here.
“It turns out that it’s the proverbial kitchen table,” he says.
Feldt called upon architect David Norrie of Sandall Norrie Architects to put the pieces of his thoughts together into a cohesive design. “That’s what’s great about Dave, he studies how you live.”
The home serves its young family well. Coaxing the indoors out is a large, covered patio with a prominent concrete fireplace. “We had a surprise party for Steph (Feldt’s wife) in late December, and people were still sitting out by the fire at 1 a.m. That concrete radiates the heat so well.”
Meanwhile, the boys, Nathan, 11, and Spencer, 9, got themselves a very cool bit of graffiti art on the walls over the beds featuring their names and a familiar-looking seahawk type of bird. There’s a pass-through in the closet connecting the rooms.
Feldt had his boys in mind throughout the project. “They were 2 and 4 when this process started,” he says. “And with two young boys, you’ve gotta have tile in the bathroom; especially important around the toilet.”
Technically, the home was finished in 2009. (“It took about two years to build. Contractor’s house, second priority; paying customers first.”) But almost five years later a few final tweaks (visible only to a professional’s eye) remain.
“The cobbler’s children never have shoes,” Feldt says. “It’s like that.”
Rebecca Teagarden writes about architecture and design for Pacific NW magazine. Benjamin Benschneider is a magazine staff photographer.