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Pacific Northwest | October 10, 2004Pacific Northwest MagazineMONTH, DAY, home Home delivery

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Taste To Spare
Classical Modern
Uptown Downtown
Suburban Zen
Up and Over
New Meaning


Suburban Zen

In earthy colors, arching beams and burnished wood, calm reigns
Metal trellises and the curve of the new deck break up the relentlessly horizontal lines of the old rambler. Upholstered chairs and chaises, a teak dining table and a copper-clad gas fireplace further the indoor-outdoor feel when the glass doors are wide open.
Architect Bernie Baker saw possibilities in the '50s suburban rambler, which had been extensively remodeled but was showing its age. The classic form of the low-slung house had potential, but the front door opened directly into the living room, offering no sense of entry, and the windows failed to take advantage of the view to Lake Washington and Mount Rainier.

He had, however, only been called in to consult by the interior design team of Jerry Earls and Patricia Schlapp. Owner Alison Danz wanted to find space for a new soaking tub. "Patricia said very innocently she'd like to work with Bernie for some advice," laughs Danz, "and now I have a whole new house."

Danz, after months of house-hunting, had recently decided to stay put and enlarge the master bath. But she was so captivated by Baker's belief in the home's potential that she gave him full reign to transform the main living spaces. Inspired by her love of Hawaii, Danz wanted to capture that casual indoor/outdoor feel as well as open up the master bedroom. She hoped for more privacy from nearby neighbors, and for a relaxed place for her children and grandchildren to gather. She ended up with serene spaces of rich color and warm wood, a much larger and more dramatic view of the lake, and a kitchen she describes as "like a piece of cabinetry."
The bar separating the kitchen from the dining room is crafted from a slab of madrona wood. Its unplaned edge reflects the exterior shape of the tree, adding to the handcrafted feel of the pavilion-like kitchen. In the living room, the oversized glass doors by Quantum can be slid away into the study beyond, opening the living room up to the deck and lake view.
Rather than go up a floor in a neighborhood of ramblers, Baker chose to enlarge the view and inject some architectural interest with an elegantly vaulted ceiling. The arching beams and widely curving deck break up the house's brittle horizontal lines while framing a more dynamic lake view. "There was a fairly substantial effort on my part to break down the barriers between in and out," says Baker of the oversized new glass doors that slide away into the study, leaving the living room open to the deck, view and copper-clad outdoor fireplace.

Baker describes the trellis-like metal forms outside the windows as "skidding right into the house" and forming a pavilion-like ceiling over the kitchen. Fir and cherry, copper trim and walls in shades of green and blue distinguish the house outside and in. A 5-foot bump off the dining room, the only new square footage, acts like a view-finder for the spectacular vista of Mount Rainier rising over the south end of the lake. Danz's privacy is maintained with glass-block walls on one side of the house and, on the other, a master suite that opens to a courtyard and hedged, secret garden.
Architect Bernie Baker was struck by the original home’s lack of a gracious entry, remedied by the new stone courtyard with a sophisticated network of ponds, waterfalls and runnels of water shimmering with underwater lighting. The master bedroom is to the left, a window seat overlooks the raised pond, and the front door, which pivots open, is straight ahead.
All parties involved credit the project's success to a team approach. Danz, Baker, the interior designers, builder Shane Bennett of Landmark Construction, and landscape architect Linda Adaway met weekly, bringing in artisans such as Arcadia Woodworking for the cherry cabinetry and Steve Johnson of Paracelsus Inc. for the copper work in entry fence, gutters and fireplace-cladding.

Earls and Schlapp chose furniture to enhance the home's connection with the outdoors. An angled couch floats in the living room so as not to hamper access to the deck. Conceived as an integrated part of the living area, the deck is as well-furnished as the interior, with a generous round of teak table, pillowed chaises, and chairs upholstered in an inviting fabric that happens to be acrylic and waterproof, though you'd never guess it. The apricot-colored couch is set off by a rug, woven in six subtle gradations of green and blue to evoke the rippling lake outside the windows.
Electrified beeswax candles light the chandelier over the custom "self-storing" dining table designed by Jerry Earls. Its leaves unfold from a perfect square into a larger circular table. The apricot couch floats in the room on a sea-green rug.
Some of the inside and outside wall surfaces are coated with Milestone, a decorative finish similar in technique to Venetian plaster. Unlike plaster, however, it holds up well to the weather. The boldest dose of color, which Danz calls paprika and Earls describes as roasted-tomato red, brightens the kitchen ceiling and the back of the bookshelves. "We can use such a strong color because it's pocketed between the beams, you can't see it elsewhere," Earls explains. He designed a "self-storing" square dining-room table with leaves that open to form a large circle for family dinners. Over the table is a chandelier with a halo of warmly glowing, electrified beeswax candles.

A difference of opinion between architect and client arose over the window seat in the entry. The revamped space is defined by a floating wall, backed with the living-room fireplace. Danz didn't think she'd use a pillowed bench tucked into the entry overlooking the front courtyard. Why would she want to look out toward the street? Baker suggested she trust him, and now it's one of her favorite spots in the house. And no wonder: It looks out onto a copper wall that splashes water down into ponds and waterfall, all lit into shimmery magic at nightfall.
The entry courtyard is framed by a Japanese maple, carefully protected during the extensive remodel, and a copper gate crafted by Steve Johnson of Paracelsus Inc. in Port Townsend. The home’s new profile fits seamlessly into its 1950s neighborhood, while the new entry, with lighting built into the walls and a view through the house to the lake beyond, give the old rambler an entirely new ambience.
"We kept it simple, with a minimum of furniture for real effect," is how Danz describes her predominantly mossy green, apricot and warm wood interior. Although she never expected to be sheathed in earth tones, she finds the palette nearly Zen in the ambience cast by the reflection of light on water, burnish of copper, richness of cherry.

"You don't need a big space, if you have the right spaces," says Danz of the transformed home that started out with the simple desire for a bigger bathtub.

Valerie Easton is a Seattle free-lance writer and contributing editor for Horticulture magazine. Her e-mail address is

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