On Seattle's Capitol Hill, an aging Tudor is transformed without ruining its classic bones, thanks to the patience of the family that lived in it before remodeling it.
Jennifer Emrich, Andrew Kwatinetz and their daughters moved into their home on Capitol Hill near Volunteer Park and lived in it for a year and a half before embarking on its remodel.
“I really think that’s a good idea,” says Emrich, who remodeled the family’s two previous homes and has an undergraduate degree in architecture and studied interior design. “Because you might see it and think, ‘I’ve got to do all this,’ but there are lots of decisions that you’d make differently after living in a house.”
Emrich then translated her observations and experiences into ways to make the old house work for them, hand-drawing all the architectural plans and elevations herself. The idiosyncrasies of the 1906 Tudor that could have driven her crazy were incorporated into her designs in ways that respect the original structure, but still work for her family.
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For example, while the kitchen had been renovated a number of times, previous owners had maintained its floor plan. Originally designed to be used by household staff, it was cramped, stuck between a back staircase and a narrow butler’s pantry. Before the renovation, the couple put a small table in the pantry and used it as a breakfast room. They found it claustrophobic and unpleasant.
Emrich’s solution was to combine the kitchen and pantry spaces, and steal a few feet from the powder room. Because she knew exactly how she was using the kitchen, her elevations laid out every detail — so the knives are next to the cutting boards, there’s an outlet hidden in a cupboard for a mounted handheld vacuum, and shelves are set low so the children can get their own dishes and cutlery.
Another major project involved incorporating the servants’ quarters into the master suite. In Emrich’s reconfiguration there is an airy walk-in closet and a new master bath accessed from the closet so that whoever wakes first won’t disturb the sleeper. There are two sinks with large, well-lit mirrors, and the drawers and cupboards hide outlets for charging razors, toothbrushes and another handheld vacuum. A soaking tub is mostly used by the children now, but its size was restricted in order to build a roomy shower stall.
Other projects may not have been as complicated, but every one of them has improved the family’s quality of life. For example, Emrich retained the old laundry chute and included it in the design of the master closet. It also has an opening in the main-floor powder room — perfect for dropping down table linens and kitchen towels. Pregnant with their third daughter during the planning, she made sure the baby’s bedroom, fashioned from a dressing room, would feel as spacious as the others.
Understanding that her older daughters needed a place to play that wasn’t underfoot, she opened up the old nanny quarters in the daylight basement and replaced it with a large, well-organized playroom. And for Kwatinetz, a 6-foot-6 veteran techie, Emrich installed Internet connections and built a comfortable media room. She even cut out a small arch on the way to the basement so he could stop ducking.
With more than 6,000 square feet of living space, it could have been easy to waste. But Emrich’s keen understanding of how she and her family would use the house means that they use every room.
Kwatinetz says it’s his forever house. But the serial renovator in Emrich just says, “maybe.”
Leora Y. Bloom writes about beautiful homes in and around Seattle. Her e-mail is email@example.com. Benjamin Benschneider is a Pacific Northwest magazine staff photographer.