Homeowner Tim Noonan gave creative license for his little house in Montlake over to artist Allan Packer. Packer went for it, and Noonan loves the result.
“I ALWAYS WANTED my house to be different.”
Let’s start there.
“I love to cook for my friends, and everybody knows dinner at my house is an interactive affair. Hey, it’s not the post office!”
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“The Litmus Test for art in my house is this: Does it make people want to touch it, or does it make people afraid to touch it? It’s rivers of Windex here. Rivers.”
And there. This is Tim Noonan speaking, pouring tea from his command-center of a kitchen, sunflower and sage, in his Montlake bungalow that is art piece, stage, grotto and theater all at once.
He calls his charming, description-defying home The Salt Box. Sign over the front door says so. “The term was a slur on these little houses shaped like salt boxes. I thought, OK, I’ll make it the best salt box I can.”
From the front door, embedded with a cast acrylic jet and an unfolded globe: “That was a joke from my friend, Allan. He told me, ‘I built you this great house, and you’re never here.’ So this is, ‘Where In the World is Tim?’ ” To the garage out back, the door of it a riot of graffiti in orange, yellow, purple, pink and turquoise by Anthony Talevich.
And on it goes. Everywhere, everything is an art installation, much of it created by Seattle artist Allan Packer. “I kind of like to use my house as a showroom, a gallery. I like to let it show off friends of mine,” Noonan says.
The wondrous showstopper is Packer’s two-room clock. The mechanics of it are bolted into the kitchen ceiling, taking eight big, colorful resin ravens for a ride with each churn. The remainder is in the media room: a large serpent’s head ratcheting up and down as a pine cone on a gold chain grinds back and forth. (If it sounds like the remnants of a dream, it also looks like one.)
“I grew up in a house outside of Detroit. Our house had an amazing grandfather clock, and I always missed it.”
The living room was designed around another Packer piece, “The Wrinkle Painting.” Also there, a flock of silver glass birds by Joe Rossano heads south across the ceiling. The dining room was designed around a large African mask. The table there recalls a domino: “We played after dinner with the kids.” Kitchen bar stools are padded, hot-red lips. (Don’t ask.) An entire wall in the media room is painted with Stokes’ Theorem: “The electromagnetic spectrum. It’s one of my favorite things. How electricity works or doesn’t work defines our lives.”
A large, open space in the back of the home holds beds and a bathroom for daughters Maddy, 21, and Gigi, 19. Noonan, himself, retires to a free-standing structure across the circular brick courtyard, “the Little House.” The one between the tea house, the outdoor shower and the hot tub in sort of an urban Balinese village.
As an executive at Russell Investments and incoming president of the Pilchuck Glass School board of trustees, Noonan knows the value of a buck. He previously lived in much larger, grander homes. Then he came upon the book “Mini Houses Now” by Agata Losantos. “It’s a tiny little thing designed so you can turn the key and be gone a minute or be gone a month.”
His return on such an unusual investment? “I have no idea what it’s worth. The value is in the relationships that my house helped me produce.
“It’s my oasis in the middle of the city.”
Rebecca Teagarden writes about architecture and design for Pacific NW magazine. Benjamin Benschneider is a magazine staff photographer.