This spectacularly renovated Tudor is one of the houses you can visit on Dec. 3.

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BY THE TIME you toddle through this magnificent four-story Tudor (and you can!), the halls will be decked; stockings hung by the chimneys with care; possibly even sleigh bells jingling, ring-ting-ting-a-ling, too.

Architect Howard Miller didn’t want to gut the home — just add modern functionality. On this Elliott Bay-facing side, he created better access to the yard for Rob Williamson, a gardener, and reoriented the unified kitchen toward the fabulous view. (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)
Architect Howard Miller didn’t want to gut the home — just add modern functionality. On this Elliott Bay-facing side, he created better access to the yard for Rob Williamson, a gardener, and reoriented the unified kitchen toward the fabulous view. (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)

But until the Dec. 3 Magnolia Holiday Home Tour, you’ll just have to imagine all that merriment like the rest of us: When we visited homeowners/holiday hosts Rob Williamson and Kim Williams, it was not yet beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

Of course, it was July. And they did have a few other lists to make and check twice. Such as: how we renovated our entire elegant home.

Tour Details

What

The Magnolia Holiday Home Tour, sponsored by the Association for Catholic Childhood

When

10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3

Tickets

$25 presale/$30 day of tour

Note

No children under 12 permitted. No backpacks, umbrellas, cameras or pets allowed in the homes.

More information

206-282-5190 or www.magnoliahometour.com

High on a hill, with its iconic big peaks, half-timbering and breathtaking views of Elliott Bay, “This house is pretty well-known in Magnolia,” says Kim. Renowned architect Roy D. Rogers originally designed the classic stunner for lucky Henry Hilke, superintendent of the Seattle Cedar Lumber Manufacturing Company. At the time, according to an article in the 1923 Seattle Daily Times, the 15-room home cost $16,000 to build and boasted a “large ballroom, occupying virtually the whole ground floor.”

Miller added display shelves for Kim’s “extensive plate collection,” and this built-in breakfast booth near the hallway and service stairs is wired with power and an internet connection so she and Rob “can take care of morning business.”  (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)
Miller added display shelves for Kim’s “extensive plate collection,” and this built-in breakfast booth near the hallway and service stairs is wired with power and an internet connection so she and Rob “can take care of morning business.” (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)

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Rob and Kim, attorneys with five grown children between them, certainly appreciated all the room for family gatherings (and holiday tours!), but not necessarily a ballroom — and not necessarily all the issues associated with all that history.

“We had always wanted to restore an old house,” Kim says. “It was wonderful, but it really needed more than we expected.”

The master bedroom relocated to take advantage of the view, which previously was blocked by a fireplace in what now is an attached sitting room. “It’s a glorious set of windows,” homeowner Kim Williams says. “We lie in bed, and this is what we wake up to and go to sleep to.” (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)
The master bedroom relocated to take advantage of the view, which previously was blocked by a fireplace in what now is an attached sitting room. “It’s a glorious set of windows,” homeowner Kim Williams says. “We lie in bed, and this is what we wake up to and go to sleep to.” (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)

Water issues vexed the roof and foundation, she says; outside, impostor paint had replaced the rotted and fallen half-timbering, and the cracked white stucco also had to go. (In the process, an icky discovery: “just enough asbestos.”) “The whole house was covered with plastic,” Rob says. “Some people thought it was a gigantic meth house.”

Nope. Just a gigantic restoration, with a heaping helping of stewardship — both thanks to architect Howard Miller, of The Johnson Partnership, who specializes in both.

The master bathroom borrowed an original tub from another bathroom and added a lovely touch of custom detailing in the built-in headrest. “It’s the little things that make a difference,” architect Howard Miller says.  (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)
The master bathroom borrowed an original tub from another bathroom and added a lovely touch of custom detailing in the built-in headrest. “It’s the little things that make a difference,” architect Howard Miller says. (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)

“We didn’t want to gut it, just add modern functionality,” Miller says. “So we had a discussion in figuring out what would make the house function better”: easier access to the yard for Rob, a gardener; a consolidated kitchen that embraced the view; a master bedroom without its view blocked by a fireplace. “All needed to be addressed — these things aren’t working, so how do we fix them?”— and all while following what Rob calls “the overarching theme: maintaining the home’s original style.”

Those holiday bells you hear might just be an architect getting his wings: Miller is a fabulous fixer/maintainer. So now, on Dec. 3, you’ll see delightfully modern functionality, seamless cohesion and classic style … and no hint, under the joyful décor, of everything that went into all of this:

A pocket sliding door with translucent glass connects the kitchen and dining room, where the cabinetry and table are by William Walker Woodworking. (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)
A pocket sliding door with translucent glass connects the kitchen and dining room, where the cabinetry and table are by William Walker Woodworking. (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)

A view-capturing, unified kitchen: Before, “The kitchen was a little village,” Miller says, inhabited by three smaller rooms, like a walk-through butler’s pantry, with walkways between them. “It was almost a shame to spend so much time cooking.” Instead of adding to each room, Miller merged them and cantilevered an extension out 3 feet to the north, so it’s now one wonderful bay-facing hub, anchored by a theme-setting Italian marble island; a built-in casual breakfast banquette; a covered door to the driveway for easy unloading; and all-new appliances, finishes and floors.

Better bathrooms: Every bathroom was renovated, Miller says: The main-floor powder room radiates gold-and-black warmth; another bath has classic period finishes, like hex tile floors and subway tile wainscoting; the master bath has a full soaking tub (an original, relocated) with a built-in headrest; the rearranged top-floor bath retains fixtures from a 1950s remodel, with new coordinating tile; and the basement one has a new stained concrete floor and a zero-threshold shower.

The library used to have a door to the entry and a door to the sunroom, architect Howard Miller says, but now it’s happily and cozily contained, with new bookshelves, paneling, a custom mantel and a Craftsman motif frieze. Interior finishes throughout the home are by Jennifer Randall & Associates. (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)
The library used to have a door to the entry and a door to the sunroom, architect Howard Miller says, but now it’s happily and cozily contained, with new bookshelves, paneling, a custom mantel and a Craftsman motif frieze. Interior finishes throughout the home are by Jennifer Randall & Associates. (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)

A new chapter for the library: In this private, feng-shui-friendly room, “rickety white painted bookcases” folded in a reconfiguration that deleted two doors and added a Craftsman-style wallpaper frieze, custom paneling, a custom fireplace mantel and built-in oak bookshelves. “They look like they’ve always been there,” Kim says.

Elsewhere, the master bedroom took over a large chunk of the upper floor and evolved into a true suite, leaving its previous room as a lovely sitting area; top-floor rooms evolved into symmetrical his-and-her offices; a whimsical forced-perspective hallway (“My folly,” Miller says) tricks the eyes the whole length of the third floor; and the sunroom shines with new windows, an integral color concrete tile floor and a new patio.

Radiators in the living room were replaced by new windows and window benches, Miller says; that’s also a new custom mantel. (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)
Radiators in the living room were replaced by new windows and window benches, Miller says; that’s also a new custom mantel. (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)

And all through the house, including in the downstairs potting-shed-turned-studio where it’s created, Rob’s artwork shines: Those are his leaded tulip motif doors on the hutch in the dining room, and his brilliantly bright stained-glass pieces along the stairway to the third floor, in his office, in the sunroom and in the master bedroom.

There’s a lot of work — and a lot of history — on display here.

“We had to replace 80 windows and 119 light fixtures,” Rob says. But not everything was replaced: Original doors and hardware remain, along with the floors in the living room, a coved ceiling and corner protector in the entry, select thick molding and all the Batchelder tile on all the fireplaces.

Speaking of displays: This is a grand home for the holidays, and for a holiday home tour.

“We’ll make more of an effort this year,” Kim says.