Architect Kathleen McNeely opens and brightens attic space above and the kitchen below for a young Seattle family.
BOWIE IS ONLY 1 ½ but he is most eager to demonstrate how easy it is to open the kitchen drawers. Especially the ones holding the pots and pans. He has a thing for those.
“Here,” he says, sharing the delight of a casserole lid.
“The floor plan was so wonky in this house,” says his dad, Rich Moe.
“We had a deathtrap stairs situation,” says his mom, Ashley Thorner.
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And with that, we’re off on an upstairs/downstairs tour of a 104-year-old bungalow on the north side of Queen Anne. It is both old and new, each in the best of ways.
There in the kitchen is the old breakfast nook. Original many-coats-of-white-painted bench seats surrounding a thoroughly modern table of fin-ply and walnut veneer. It matches the new cabinets Bowie is so crazy about in the otherwise remade kitchen for this young family of three.
“It’s modern without being over-the-top dry, sterile modern,” Moe says of the combination.
Moe and Thorner had a lot of opportunities to mull their remodel. They bought the house in 2001: “I remember thinking, gosh, we couldn’t afford this back then,” Thorner says. “Then two years later prices practically doubled.”
For eight years they lived in the house as it was, avoiding the finished attic at the top of the killer stairs (each had taken a header to the bottom at least once). But they talked about a better day. A time when the tiny kitchen, laundry, back porch and office would not be a jumbled mess. When the attic would be open and usable.
Fortunately, one of those in on the discussion was longtime friend Kathleen McNeely, an architect (Gray Kat Residential Design Studio) who used to work with both of them at Fremont’s Still Life Café and was Moe’s bandmate in 11 Phantoms.
“Kathleen was the big-picture vision. Jason Thomson (Corvid General Contractors), Paula Taht (interior designer) and Ashley were the details,” Moe says.
The big picture is now a light, bright and economical one. McNeely created a fat galley kitchen open both to the office in the back and to the second floor. She used Ikea cabinets, lowers with custom walnut-veneer fronts, uppers in white, and white quartz counters.
The stairs are now a straightforward, easy-to-climb deal in fir, floated 1/4 of an inch off the wall. At the top is an ethereal master suite with a come-hither view of the large, rectangular Wetstyle tub (“That was my splurge,” Thorner says) at the end of the journey through the master bedroom. Walls are the iciest of blue, the shower Milestone beneath a skylight so large it’s like washing up outdoors.
Moe and Thorner refinished ancient tongue-and-groove cedar from the attic closet. The wood was reused at the stairwell and in the master-bath ceiling. Nearly all the casework was from Ikea and crafted to fit by Thomson. The sheet-metal wine-storage bins in the kitchen, for example, solved a space-math problem there. “He was definitely a MacGyver,” Moe says. He also built sliding barn doors in the master suite and guest room, those using clapboard siding from the back of the house.
In the end, the couple agree it paid off to intimately make the acquaintance of the place they would remake. “You figure out what you like and what has to go,” Thorner says. And, thus, everything is now just so, including a new in-floor laundry chute and magnetic office wall.
“We feel so spoiled,” she says.
Rebecca Teagarden writes about design and architecture for Pacific NW magazine. Benjamin Benschneider is a magazine staff photographer.