The architect told her client, "What's so wonderful about the house is you have the garden on this side and the ocean on the other side. You should be able to see both."
A HOUSE has gotta be what a house has gotta be.
And this house is a woman’s house, in the very best of ways. Comfortable and comforting, strong and open, solid and light, traditional and modern.
It has always been a woman’s house, from the moment it went up next to the beach in West Seattle at the beginning of the previous century.
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But it was not always this way.
“The couple who originally owned the land, their daughter wanted a house here,” says Kristi, sitting at the limestone kitchen bar and forking into a fat slice of carrot cake, whitecaps curling and foaming 20 feet away off the backyard. “It was 1900. They told her, ‘If you can live out here for the winter we’ll give you the land.’ “
She could. And they did.
“She had eight daughters here and was in her 80s when she sold the house to me,” Kristi says. “They kept building up on the house. When I bought it, it had eight little bedrooms: It was a warren of small rooms cobbled together.”
Looking around there is no hint of practically pioneer beach cabin. But it’s there; in the slab beneath the piano room, in the oak floors, in the stone living-room fireplace, in the beams, the windows.
Everywhere else is architectural evolution, first with architect Bob Swain (living room, kitchen/dining, entry, fat and friendly front porch; and most recently with Jill Rerucha of ReruchaStudio (a thorough going-over for upstairs quarters lighter than air, as bright as the sky itself).
Kristi did not need a warren of rooms. She needed comfort and space for herself and her daughter, Rachel. A porch swing; a weathered dining table; gauzy curtains; window seats; a quotation in script on the floor, wainscoting.
Kristi bought the home 17 years ago. She knows this because Rachel, 18, had her first birthday here. They moved in with contemporary art and no furniture, if you don’t count lawn chairs. Kristi found her architect digging in her own garden a few houses up the beach. They bonded over mutual divorces.
“Jill had been here many times. I knew she saw things,” Kristi says. “I said to her, ‘What would you do?’ She said, ‘What’s so wonderful about the house is you have the garden on this side and the ocean on the other side. You should be able to see both.”
And now you can. Rerucha removed 10 doors upstairs and opened the space, creating a master suite warmed by a copper-clad fireplace, a library with a two-reader window seat, two guest rooms and a charming third-floor en suite dormer for Rachel that features white, pickled ceiling beams and a Venus privacy screen. She didn’t stop there, also designing furniture; a campaign desk in the living room and Kristi’s cherry bedroom.
The home is now truly a place that comforts and inspires its next two generations of female dwellers. Four bedrooms, 3 ½ baths in 3,800 square feet. Contemporary art (Etsuko Ichikawa, Galen Hansen, Nancy Mee) and really old furniture (a 1770 George III game table, a French floor lamp).
“How she saw this from all those rabbit-warren rooms,” Kristi marvels. “That’s what’s so great about Jill; you get everything, design and interiors. And it’s not about her. It’s about the house. It’s about the landscaping.
“The house now looks how it wanted to be. When you walk in, it’s exactly how you want it to feel.
“You have to respect a house. A house has a soul.”
Rebecca Teagarden writes about architecture and design for Pacific NW. Benjamin Benschneider is a magazine staff photographer.