PHOTOGRAPHED BY BENJAMIN BENSCHNEIDER
The unit had roof rights, never exercised, and a 4-foot gap between the ceiling and the building's roof. This was remodeler's paydirt: extra space to work with and roof access. The two architects took creative advantage of both, giving license to their urbane imaginations and playful intellects. For their own home they had no reason to hold back. "You have the opportunity to experiment, to try ideas you couldn't with most clients," enthuses Chun.
Their first step was getting to the roof. That sounds easy, but in practice they had the challenge of making use of an unused chimney space, and various cables in the way, and getting 75 percent of the condo owners to agree, and lots of do-it-yourselfer's moans.
In the second phase of the remodel, begun in early 2000, they put to use that bonus space overhead. They raised the ceiling height of the living room to 14 feet, creating a room taller than it is wide. It's an unexpected space, formal and extraordinarily refined yet not quite practical, and it makes you smile.
Part of the inspiration for such careful blending came from a trip to Morocco and Spain. In those countries, they discovered a sensibility that valued continuity without disguising changes. "We wanted to show off the layers of history. Our intent was something new, but that fit in to the old place," explains Brevoort.
The bathhouses of Morocco also inspired their small, transporting bathroom. The Moroccan bathhouses were vaulted rooms of white marble, Chun recalls, with small vents that allowed for filtered light.
A shaft to a skylight takes advantage once again of that bonus space between the ceiling and roof. It lets in a moody brush of natural light during the day and artificial light at night.
"This is a fun bathroom," says Brevoort. "It makes bathing much more enjoyable."
"It's surprisingly nice working together," agrees Chun.
Their creative collaboration shows throughout the house. They made the dining-room table in a playful elbow shape, out of stained plywood. In their telling, they essentially designed the table in the aisle of the hardware store from the materials at hand. The house is decorated with abstract paintings by Brevoort's brother-in-law, as well as various industrial and architectural found objects, and vintage Asian clothing.
They remain adamant that a person's home should be a customized castle, tailored precisely to fit.
"You don't realize what a drag it is to live in a space that's not made for you," Brevoort explains. "It's a health issue, to have a good designed environment."
David Berger is a Seattle free-lance writer.
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