The goal was ‘sunlight morning to evening,’ and the happy result is: ‘Whoa.’

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AT LONG LAST, after a five-year quest, one special house stepped up and checked off Thomas Fahrig and Michaela Spaeth’s wish-list boxes: a Redmond address, a quick skip to the Burke-Gilman Trail, a sprawling view, an affordable price, a bit more lived-in than new.

Naturally, finally, literally the day they got their new keys, they invited architect Peter Greaves inside — and then moved somewhere else for seven months while he checked their last, biggest wish-list box:

“We knew we’d do a renovation,” Fahrig says.

“We wanted to brighten it up,” Spaeth says. “I remember Peter asking what we wanted most, and we said, ‘sunlight morning to evening.’ ”

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Then, while he was at it, please: straight lines, an inside-outside connection, a little more privacy and a little less oak.

The entry stairs had been enclosed with solid sides but now are open and airy, with room for storage underneath and maple treads stained to match the ash floor. (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)
The entry stairs had been enclosed with solid sides but now are open and airy, with room for storage underneath and maple treads stained to match the ash floor. (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)

“My first impression was that the house (built in 1985) had good bones and pretty good scale,” says Greaves, of Chris Pardo Design: Elemental Architecture. “But everything — doors, cabinets, floors — was brownish-yellow oak. It was a very traditional house.”

Now, it is not.

With the exception of the first-level bathroom, the mudroom and the living-room ceiling, the entire home underwent a modernizing renovation: It’s now space-efficient; distinctly designed; and shining white-bright, brighter, brightest.

Thirteen-year-old Fynn perches on the sofa while Vera plays in the sunshine pouring into the bright new addition (the only change to the home’s original footprint). “Now we live in here,” Spaeth says. “We enjoy the view and the privacy from the sitting area. Even when you’re looking outside, you never feel like you’re in a subdivision. I love our neighbors, but it’s so enjoyable.” The dining chairs in the foreground are Eames; the light, George Nelson.  (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)
Thirteen-year-old Fynn perches on the sofa while Vera plays in the sunshine pouring into the bright new addition (the only change to the home’s original footprint). “Now we live in here,” Spaeth says. “We enjoy the view and the privacy from the sitting area. Even when you’re looking outside, you never feel like you’re in a subdivision. I love our neighbors, but it’s so enjoyable.” The dining chairs in the foreground are Eames; the light, George Nelson. (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)

“There is now no dark space in the house,” Spaeth says. “That’s what makes it so comfortable. Everybody who comes in says, ‘Whoa.’ It’s the light and the feeling.”

It starts first thing in the door, where the open, waterjet-cut painted steel-plate staircase beckons underneath a see-through, light-spreading glass walkway that freaks out only some visitors.

So of course you want more:

• The new front-facing office, with new skylights, fills the old living room’s space but not its purpose. “There’s no reason guests should walk in and find a living room,” Greaves says.

Emil, 15, and Vera, 4, relax in the living room. Brother Fynn’s room, above left, overlooks the space through a wall of glass. (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)
Emil, 15, and Vera, 4, relax in the living room. Brother Fynn’s room, above left, overlooks the space through a wall of glass. (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)

• Greaves created a sweet glassed-in addition that adds 287 square feet to the home’s original 2,500, along with a wall of bookcases and two walls of windows (perfect for keeping an eye out for deer, coyote and bobcat neighbors). “For me, it was always important to have my wall of books,” says Spaeth, a stay-at-home mom to the couple’s 4-, 13- and 15-year-old children. (Fahrig is a software engineer.) “With five people, you accumulate a lot, and it makes the room lively.”

• Big neighbor-facing windows in the dining room are now smaller and higher, adding privacy and retaining light.

Pacific Northwest Living feature. Redmond house.
Pacific Northwest Living feature. Redmond house.

• The old kitchen was a walled-off teensy L-shaped room with a “pokey little island,” a small bay window over the sink and nowhere near enough storage. “The kitchen was my big thing,” says Spaeth. “I knew what I wanted”: gleaming white, German-made Siematic cabinets; a giant island with cabinetry underneath; and two custom appliance-hiding cabinets backed with cheery yellow.

There was “a lot of debate” over whether to make the master-bathroom window clear or not-so-clear, Fahrig says. Clearly, clear won. “If I’m in the bathtub, I want to look outside,” Spaeth says. “Nobody sees you.” (The tub is from Ethos, with fittings from Hansgrohe and Benevento.) (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)
There was “a lot of debate” over whether to make the master-bathroom window clear or not-so-clear, Fahrig says. Clearly, clear won. “If I’m in the bathtub, I want to look outside,” Spaeth says. “Nobody sees you.” (The tub is from Ethos, with fittings from Hansgrohe and Benevento.) (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)

• Upstairs, the dark master bedroom had to come apart before it could come together all enlightened. Now morning light tiptoes through translucent glass, a future rooftop garden (the top of the living-room addition) awaits just outside and the master bathroom shifted to face the view through purposely clear glass. (“If I’m in the bathtub, I want to look outside,” Spaeth says. “Nobody sees you.”)

• Two of the kids’ bedrooms underwent only moderate changes, but 13-year-old Fynn landed in somewhat of a showpiece: One wall of his bedroom has transformed into glass, two 4-by-8-foot sheets, set in a channel in the ceiling, that abut another giant pane in the hall, all hanging right over the family room. “He loves this room,” Spaeth says. “He just lowers the blinds for privacy, and there’s no more noise than a wall.”

• Outside, the brick veneer fell for a decidedly modern contrasting color scheme of white HardiePanel siding (a rectangle reaching from the front office to the living-room addition, and a square for the side storage area) and smooth-side-out black shiplap cedar — which means, Spaeth says, that in a neighborhood of traditional houses that check lots of boxes, folks tend to drive by and peek at modern boxes on houses.

Greaves really, really didn’t want to replace the original wood ceiling in the living room. “At the beginning, we totally wanted to,” Fahrig says. “Now we’re super happy.” (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)
Greaves really, really didn’t want to replace the original wood ceiling in the living room. “At the beginning, we totally wanted to,” Fahrig says. “Now we’re super happy.” (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)

“A lot of people are amazed at what you can do with a house,” she says.