"I tell my clients, architecture can't make you happy if you're not," says Seattle architect Amy Janof of Janof/Hald Architecure. "But if you are happy, a good house can make you joyous."
THE RIGHT HOUSE can arrive in many ways.
Amy Janof got hers through sheer force of will.
“I had a baby at the time, so I would get up in the middle of the night to nurse and I would look at Windermere.com, because that’s my crack,” says Janof, the front half of Janof/Hald Architecture.
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“But my husband, Tim, he’s financially conservative, and in August 2007 the house was $1.085 million. Plus, he said it looked like a motel or a dentist’s office.
“I thought, OK, OK, I bow to you on this one.
“But I came back a week later, and there was a big sold sign on it. I called my realtor and said, ‘I know this sounds crazy, but could you see how sold it is?’ It was on its way to closing, but I told him, ‘I know this sounds really crazy but could you follow it through?’ I stayed awake all night. I was having a crisis. Ten days later he called and said, ‘Get over here in 30 minutes with a check for $30,000.’ “
Today, much calmer, Janof says, “I needed a place for my ducklings.”
Those ducklings, Thomas, 7, and Helena, 4, live in a Midcentury jewel of a nest near Discovery Park in Magnolia. Their home is an International-style, flat-roofed contemporary designed by Robert Dietz, former dean of the University of Washington architecture school and half of noted architectural firm Waldron and Dietz. He also served on the committee that approved the design for the Seattle Center.
But all of that is just a scholarly way of saying the Janof house, built in 1956, is cool, daddy-o, cool. Frank Sinatra, James Bond, Marilyn Monroe kind of cool. Martinis, big skirts with tiny waists cool. Living-room fireplace shielded with copper, 12 feet to the ceiling. Walls of Alaskan yellow cedar, hemlock or glass (not so easy 55 years ago). Everything built-in. Everything functional.
“This house is bliss,” Janof says. “I tell my clients architecture can’t make you happy if you’re not. But if you are happy, a good house can make you joyous.”
The Janofs are the third owners of their 3,000-square-foot, multilevel contemporary with five bedrooms, 2 ½ baths. “Our method here is restoration, repair and subtle tweaking,” Janof says of the house she describes as an aircraft carrier. “When you see it on Google Earth the flat roof is so big.”
Dietz designed the home for Dr. and Mrs. West McElroy, who lived there 45 years. The greeting is terrazzo at the below-ground front door. Visitors climb laminated-plywood stairs to the wide-open living and dining room.
The kitchen holds more walls of glass. Here the view is onto the backyards. Plural. One for barbecue grills and drinks and grown-ups. Another for children; sandbox built in. Job-specific cabinetry holds places for everything: the ironing board, card table and chairs, baking sheets, serving trays, towels (dispensed warm from a heat vent).
Four bedrooms are small and functional, and include built-in desks.
In the bathroom, laundry bins on casters can be rolled down the hall to stalls near the washer and dryer (placed between den and play yard so Mom can watch the kids).
The master is so hot it’s Vegas cool. Walls of glass in the bedroom. His and hers built-in drawers and closets in the bathroom. A long and lighted rosewood vanity with a lift-top makeup station. Handles are the original Lucite.
The house came with the blueprints. Architect porn. Janof rustles through them. “This is a real housewife’s house,” she says. “The mom brings the garbage down the back stairs to the in-ground containers. There’s even a heated cabinet with a vent for drip-drying clothes inside the house.”
Rebecca Teagarden is assistant editor of Pacific Northwest magazine. Benjamin Benschneider is a magazine staff photographer.