There are many reasons to downsize.
For interior designer Paula Devon Raso it was a bum knee and a Pekingese with a bad back.
So, in 2003 Raso sold her two-story, 1,000-square-foot town house in the 98 Union building in downtown Seattle and took a 750-square-foot one-bedroom, one-floor unit there.
She gutted it and set about doing what interior designers do, carving out space and storage where none seemed possible, disguising ductwork and throwing light into even the deepest passages.
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She painted and primped and made it her own; walls the color of a child’s blush in the bathroom, the rest of it old gold. There are cherubs on those walls and hanging from the bathroom chandelier, candles glimmering from tall holders set on the floor, antique silver trays, cups and bowls out and about, antique mirrors, etchings, drapes that puddle. Whitewashed oak floors cede to the kitchen’s honed limestone, substantial marble counters there adding old-world splendor to that compact space.
Outside, Raso turned the narrow wrap deck into a formal hedge garden, bay trees as green exclamation points. Beyond, in front-row views, lie Puget Sound, Alki Point, the Olympic Mountains, Pike Place Market and much of the city. (She has no need of the Great Wheel. Her view is better.)
When Raso finished, she thought her place was just about perfect, European glamour wrapped in a small gift box.
And then it was 2007. Everything shifted.
“Once I got the bed in here, that was something,” Raso says. And by “in here” she means the living room.
“I brought the office home during the recession. It’s in the bedroom. And the bedroom came out here. It took quite a bit of juggling around.”
Doesn’t show. The double bed (she sold her antique French number and bought this one at Restoration Hardware) next to the antique Italian dresser seems like the most natural thing in the world. “The silk curtains had been on the bedroom windows,” she says of her technique for separating, but not hiding the sleeping space.
“It’s been really tricky,” she says, a little weariness in her voice and Nico, the current house Pekingese, in her lap.
She takes it all in and says, “I wouldn’t call it French. The reason I hesitate is I think my love of European antiques ruins people’s perception of what I do.”
There are a few well-placed modern touches here, too. The dining table. Raso designed it; metal legs, MDF top, all treated to an antiqued golden finish.
She moved a daybed before the windows to serve as the sofa, and it does, while also keeping the view to the water wide open. Shifted, it becomes seating for three at the table.
“The designer Thomas O’Brien has his bed in his studio,” she points out. “And he uses that for his dining chairs.”
You will not find even one coaster in Raso’s home. “Oh, no. Never in this house.” Things are meant to be used and worn in, then worn out.
“With me, it’s all an evolution. What we like to say is that our work shows a timeless quality, and this holds up pretty well. Having storage (along the hallway, in double-sided cabinets in the kitchen, living room) doesn’t hurt. And the view.”
“I never would have dreamed to do this,” she says of her compressed home. “But it does work. And I’m saving at least $1,500 a month.
“I like to think of it as efficient
“A friend of mine says it’s like sleeping in a little Parisian garret.”
Rebecca Teagarden writes about architecture and design for Pacific NW magazine. Benjamin Benschneider is a magazine staff photographer.