When Julie Tall bought the 1928 Tudor in Seattle's Denny Blaine area, she was recently divorced, moving from Mercer Island and contemplating a career change.
INTERIOR DESIGNER Julie Tall knows people have all sorts of reasons for remodeling a home. “Either some rooms are underused, or it’s difficult for entertaining, or they’re missing out on a view, or the traffic plan isn’t working, or no one goes in the living room . . .”
But one of the main reasons Tall’s clients decide to remodel is that they’re going through a life transition. “And their housing, or the way that space feels, needs to change.” Whether the transition is a marriage, a divorce, a new baby or a newly empty nest, “the effects are dramatic, and they start using their space in a new way, or they may be in a new space.”
That’s exactly what happened to Tall in 2007. When she bought the 1928 Tudor in Denny Blaine, she was recently divorced, moving from Mercer Island and contemplating a career change. She’d fallen in love with the neighborhood, and with the spacious, light-filled master bedroom, even though her feelings about the rest of the house were mixed. Still, she waited a year to remodel. “You have to know how you live in a house,” she says, “and what works and what doesn’t.”
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Tall used to be an acupuncturist, so she brings a health and healing perspective to everything she does. She explains that as an acupuncturist, “you go really deeply into the spiritual and emotional health as well as the physical health of the client. Everything is connected, so you look for underlying causes and find solutions; it’s not just fixing things on the surface.”
Now she remodels and decorates the same way. “I think of our house as an extension of ourselves,” she says, “and sometimes when we change the house, we can change things within ourselves.”
After her upheavals, Tall wanted her home to feel comfortable, serene and restorative. She knew she’d bought a cheerful, pretty house with delicate detailing, and she wanted any changes to feel like they were meant to be, “so that the house itself still has its own wonderfully cohesive look.”
She chose paint colors from a soothing sand-and-sea palette, and installed window seats, built-in bookcases and a picture rail below the coved ceilings to make the largest rooms more cozy. By replacing a small green marble fireplace surround with a custom mantel that borrows a detail from the home’s original woodwork, she added warmth and elegance to the formal living room.
Tall made her kitchen more social by demolishing a pantry and incorporating a small back bedroom into the larger space, and fitting it out as a mud room/pantry/seating area. She also enlarged the opening from the dining room to the living room to better connect the front of the house to the back. As a result, not only has the flow improved, but the house is filled with light from both east and west.
About half the furnishings came with her from her old house. She compares furnishing your home to filling your closet: You can buy outfits or you can buy separates and create outfits. “The individual things should be things you love, and each room has its own personality, but you can mix it up. There are ways of making existing objects beautiful, simply by their placement.”
The remodel Tall did for herself is a perfect example of practicing what you preach. Every change served a purpose. And all of it brings her joy.
Leora Y. Bloom writes about beautiful homes in and around Seattle. Benjamin Benschneider is a Pacific NW staff photographer.