After downsizing and remarrying, interior designer Kristine Donovick lets her experience speak through quiet design.

Share story

Donovick’s condominium showcases a collection of Asian antiques and unique period pieces. “All the lighting was redone to feature art,” she says.  (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)
Donovick’s condominium showcases a collection of Asian antiques and unique period pieces. “All the lighting was redone to feature art,” she says. (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)

WITH EXPERIENCE comes empowerment: You know yourself. You know your style (and your baggage). You know you can navigate stormy skies — and land somewhere considerably sunnier: your true place.

Eight years ago, interior designer Kristine Donovick picked up a whole lot of experience. She had gone through a divorce, and it was time to simplify — and maybe shake things up a bit.

Donovick was moving from a stately Georgian in Magnolia and “really wanted a box” this time around. A 1980s-era Capitol Hill condominium checked the box box, all right, and then some: “It didn’t feel like an apartment,” she says. “It had good bones and the greatest floor plan, and a great part of the city: not downtown, just right.” It also was perched right above Interstate 5.

“Everyone said you shouldn’t buy on the freeway,” she says.

Most Read Stories

Unlimited Digital Access. $1 for 4 weeks.

Donovick listened to herself instead. She bought it. She married an architect. And then they totally remodeled the whole condo into a true classic, contemporary sanctuary. By simplifying design and flow, cleaning up lines, straightening soffits and injecting strong architectural elements, they created a lovely urban oasis of serenity.

“The Wake” anchors the dining area, below a piece of timber from Tibet. The oak table is from Jean Williams Antiques, Donovick says; the chairs add a “neat architectural, simple feel. We eat in the dining room every night.”  (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)
“The Wake” anchors the dining area, below a piece of timber from Tibet. The oak table is from Jean Williams Antiques, Donovick says; the chairs add a “neat architectural, simple feel. We eat in the dining room every night.” (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)

“I like the challenge of something new — traditional, transitional; it’s interesting to me,” Donovick says. “There’s definitely a thread of continuity. I love classic; it’s beautiful.”

This “quiet approach” left plenty of room, spatially and aesthetically, for a carefully curated décor of things they love: their eclectic, extensive art collection and, at floor level, pup companions Maddy and Marley.

“We both love primitive, beautiful Japanese pieces. And we enjoy artifacts as special things we found,” she says. “Contemporary is the most beautiful with the mix of antiques and period pieces. To come into a condo, it’s a high priority to display your favorite things. You sift once you downsize. It felt good.”

Donovick and her husband, who have six grown children between them, also own a home on Whidbey Island, with a distinctly different vibe: “big plank floors, lots of fir, very open.”

“It’s the best of both worlds,” she says. “We have our urban/sophisticated space here — symphony and the arts — and we turn into beachcombers there. When we walk out our door (on Whidbey), it’s like a private beach.”

Here, even on the Zen-like outdoor deck looking toward Lake Union, the downtown skyline and that busy freeway, it’s still private, and peaceful, on purpose.

The master bathroom, on the lower level, was “all redone,” Donovick says: simplified soffits, volume- and storage-enhancing wrapped white-oak cabinets, a new stand-alone tub and shelf (with the toilet tucked behind). “Given it’s an inside space, it’s much more open,” she says. (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)
The master bathroom, on the lower level, was “all redone,” Donovick says: simplified soffits, volume- and storage-enhancing wrapped white-oak cabinets, a new stand-alone tub and shelf (with the toilet tucked behind). “Given it’s an inside space, it’s much more open,” she says. (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)

On both levels, the condo’s open, clean outlook subtly frames simple cabinetry, tech lighting and quiet organic finish materials.

In the living room, the custom fireplace facade of wenge wood (typically a mahogany color, Donovick says) has been bleached and softly whitewashed. “I like the interest of the grain, the simple mass,” she says. “That feel travels through here.”

In the completely redone kitchen, custom white oak cabinets hide all the appliances, discreet blackened-steel cabinet pulls gently blend right in, and the black honed soapstone countertops and backsplash whisper tranquillity.

The hallway leads from the rift white oak built-in cabinetry atop the stairway past the black-honed soapstone kitchen island and the sitting area, offering a tour of art and memories along the way. “This is our special spot for those,” Donovick says. “Traveling Man,” a wood-and-bronze find in Paris, stands at one end. “We just loved him. We both went, ‘Ooh.’ We’re into traveling now. That represents another bucket-list item we’re working on. We work hard, and we play hard.”  (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)
The hallway leads from the rift white oak built-in cabinetry atop the stairway past the black-honed soapstone kitchen island and the sitting area, offering a tour of art and memories along the way. “This is our special spot for those,” Donovick says. “Traveling Man,” a wood-and-bronze find in Paris, stands at one end. “We just loved him. We both went, ‘Ooh.’ We’re into traveling now. That represents another bucket-list item we’re working on. We work hard, and we play hard.” (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)

“We kind of live in here; it’s kind of a family room when the kids come,” she says. “The idea is very architectural and quiet. We’re both so busy with careers, we like to come home to quiet.”

Everywhere, everything means something: her husband’s binocular collection on the living-room window sill, the Tibetan timber over the dining table, the hallway’s wood and bronze “Traveling Man” artwork they picked up in Paris.

“We really evaluated: What is really important to us?” Donovick says. “We’re at that point where we don’t need a lot. We’re surrounded by things we really love. To release all this other stuff we had has been really liberating.”

Also liberating, and empowering: designing your own space as an experience of your experience.

The lower-level master bedroom “is pretty palatial for two,” Donovick says. “We live here, you can see. We can retreat down here.”  (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)
The lower-level master bedroom “is pretty palatial for two,” Donovick says. “We live here, you can see. We can retreat down here.” (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)

“Design evolves and reflects your life,” Donovick says. “At this stage, it’s been fairly easy to design — early, it was harder expressing myself to so many, with a full-time career and as a full-time mother. But this time, I had a very strong vision. At this stage in your career, you kind of know what you’re doing. I love what I do. Neither of us is really talking about retirement.

“We have a very full, wonderful life.”