RUMOR IS that Jenny Richards and Todd Wallar recently doubled the size of their house.
But where? The charming blue Tudor with white trim, 800 square feet and change, sits on its Ravenna street just like it always has. Carpet of lawn, concrete walk out front. Nothing unusual here, folks.
It’s out back.
“We love the house,” says Richards of the place Wallar bought in 2001. “But we needed more room. We contacted a lot of architects and design firms who wanted us to knock the house down, but we couldn’t have two mortgages.
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“We also wanted to be good to our neighbors and not put up this gargantuan thing. Plus,” she says in defense of the Tudor, “we have great curb appeal.”
And that is how Jim Burton of Jim Burton Architects came to attach a large contemporary HardiePanel and cedar box directly onto the back of the Tudor. Ingeniously, says Richards, stepping the addition down the sloped yard instead of building up. Placing the addition in the couple’s otherwise urban farm of a backyard (vegetable garden, fruit trees, bees). And giving the two-bedroom, one-bath home three bedrooms, two baths, a light-filled family room and vastly improved kitchen in a mere 800 additional square feet.
The pivot point of the new box is a clever apple-ply “storage block.” Upstairs it serves as display and storage, and as a stairwell railing. Along the stairs it’s a library wall. Down in the master it becomes a design element, holding display niches.
A large beam between kitchen and family room divides old and new. The remodeled kitchen mediates between them. And mediate it does.
“I used to be a food blogger,” Richards says. “For years I churned out a lot of food out of that (galley) kitchen. We’re both cooks. He’s got a Persian chicken marinating for tonight. I’m more pastry and baking.
“But, you know, bigger kitchen, happier couple.”
Speaking of couples and happiness, friends warned them about the dangers of remodeling. “Everybody told us, ‘You’re going to break up over this,’ ” Richards says. “We got lucky. Our builder was Steve Fradkin (Fradkin Fine Construction). And the guys were funny and young and happy, and they worked hard.” That helped to elevate the mood for two people camped out in the cold, old house with their pit-mix Lucy (metal sign at the front door warns of the enthusiastic and curious “Chien Lunatique” within) and cooking on a hot plate in the living room.
“We lost the dining-room arches, but we gained a lot of light,” says Richards of the process that was always budget first.
“We spent money in the right places. People said to spend money on cabinets. Who cares? These are Ikea, and they match the old ones. But the counters are Paperstone; we spent money there. And we got really good insulation.” And on it went like that; Ikea lights, Dania leather sofa.
The tucked-away master is so cozy, with big windows set into deep sills, that it would be their own personal bed-and-breakfast if only someone else would come over and cook up the morning meal. Outside the windows is orchard and garden. Bees in trees.
“If you’ve got an old house, there’s no reason you shouldn’t try to think creatively,” Richards says.
“We would love for people to do this to older houses. Yeah, it sucked. Yeah, it was expensive.
“But it was so worth it; it’s a happy little existence.”
Rebecca Teagarden writes about architecture and design for Pacific NW magazine. Benjamin Benschneider is a magazine staff photographer.