The previous owner of the 10,000-square-foot mansion on Capitol Hill had 13 kids.

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THE MANSION is historic, the owners are young and techie, and the architect is one of the most sought-after in the world at the moment. Just think about what could have happened.

Instead, Gay Gilmore, Troy Hakala and architect Tom Kundig melded new and old, kid-friendly and classic, into a family home that looks as stately as it has since Rainier Brewery founder Andrew Hemrich built it in 1908.

When Hakala and Gilmore bought their Capitol Hill home in 2010, they’d been living on Vashon Island for a decade. The couple had sold their successful website,, a few years before. Now, with three small children, they were ready to move back to the city.

Were they intimidated to take on 10,000 square feet built more than a century ago? “The main parts of the house were in good condition, considering the previous owner had 13 kids,” says Gilmore. A doctor, who saw patients in the basement, and his brood had lived in the house for a half-century before the couple bought it.

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Gilmore is a big fan of architect Tom Kundig, who had been designing a remodel of their Vashon home before they decided to move back to the city.

“He knew our family and our needs,” says Hakala of the collaboration that continued with this very different remodel. The couple was deeply involved in the project, but relied heavily on Nancy Burfiend of NB Design for interiors and the craftsmanship of contractor Schuchart/Dow to bring their red-shag-carpeted dowager into the 21st century.

“Tom has tremendous respect for what was here,” says Gilmore, who loves her home’s blend of past and present, blackened steel and stained glass. The original floor plan remains intact, and the English oak paneling, grand staircase, wooden floors, old registers and single-pane windows have been refurbished. “We wanted to retain the bones, identifying the elements to be saved and those we could improve on,” explains project manager Todd Matthes of Olson Kundig Architects.

Major work was done in the heart of the house, where the dismal 1970s remodel of a kitchen was gutted. The kitchen’s dropped-tile ceiling and mustard-colored countertops are long gone, replaced by a limestone-tile floor, a marble-topped island and steel-plate open shelving. Exposed hardware and a sliding steel door on the pantry reflect the modern sensibilities of the owners and their design team. The kitchen now opens to the family room, formerly the servants quarters. Oversized, custom-made steel and glass doors open to decks on each side of the family room, and the Ipe wood decking extends in through the doors to floor interior space, too.

Modernity reigns at the top of the house, where the attic was transformed into an airy office that Hakala and Gilmore share. The ceiling has been raised and skylights installed to brighten the once dark space. An 18-foot steel-clad door slides shut to divide one large work space into two smaller offices. Now these busy parents commute to work up a short flight of stairs.

Down several flights, a warren of little basement rooms is open now for play space, a media room and bar. It’s down here in the cool of the basement that Hakala has built a state-of-the-art brewery to make his own label of beer. He points out the home’s century-old trim, “All these cornices and the casework were designed to hold beer steins, after all … “

Valerie Easton is a Seattle freelance writer. Check out her blog at Benjamin Benschneider is a Pacific NW magazine staff photographer.

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