"It was built in 1908 as a bakery. Then it was a fish shop, upholstery shop and — rumor has it — it was used for selling drugs out the back door," says Lane Williams...

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“IT WAS BUILT in 1908 as a bakery. Then it was a fish shop, upholstery shop and — rumor has it — it was used for selling drugs out the back door,” says Lane Williams of his new architecture office atop Queen Anne Hill.

“This building has a colorful past.”

And, now, a beautiful future.

Lane and Midge Williams, and the COOP 15 architecture firm, have all settled into the contemporary new live/work digs just off Queen Anne Avenue. The old bakery and house next door have become a 5,200-square-foot cooperative complex that allows space for Lane and company to design houses, Midge to paint her large canvases, and a serene, modern place to call home for a couple whose kids have flown the, uh, coop.

Here’s the scoop on COOP: Lane has taken the opportunity of a new office and principal architect, Jill Lewis, to change the name of Lane Williams Architects to COOP 15, as in “a shelter or shed, to escape and to co-op.”

It’s cleaner, simpler, more modern. Just like the Williamses’ new home.

“I love that ability to flow back and forth between the two and not to be confined to an 8-to-5 schedule,” says Lane of the place they moved into in August 2005.

Their previous house was a classic from the 1950s, 4,000-square-foot-big. The new place, tall and sleek, comes in at 2,500 square feet. The next-door architecture office, garage and Midge’s studio are 2,000 square feet.

Lane’s goal was to make more using less with green materials, recycling, space configuration, lighting and landscaping. One of Midge’s oldest and closest friends, Victoria Holland, was their contractor.

“Midge has known Vicki longer than she’s known me,” Lane says of his wife of 28 years. “You really have to put a lot of trust in that kind of relationship. You don’t haggle because you trust that’s the best price. But when you move on that basis, it really frees you up.”

Her friends assigned Holland no easy task. The completely new house had to be built as a remodel of the original. That meant rebuilding it one wall at a time, pouring new concrete over the old. The new home, which cost $300 per square foot, also had to adhere to the original footprint. So, using 1,000 square feet of lot space, Williams designed a home of three stories: master bedroom, bath, media room, laundry and office upstairs; den, kitchen, living and dining rooms on the ground floor; two bedrooms, bath and garage downstairs.

“I like the urban lots,” Lane says. “We’d been looking and looking for a space. And the fact that it’s a block off Queen Anne Avenue, with shops and restaurants just around the corner, sealed the deal.”

“I’m thinking of getting rid of my car, actually,” Midge says.

The Re-Store in Ballard stripped the old house of useful materials, but it was Lane and Midge who scored in that deal. In one lucky Re-Store foray, Lane found the old fir floors of Roosevelt High School. The well-worn wood lends an old-Seattle stateliness to something so otherwise contemporary in steel and stone, cement and cedar.

And while the house is all Lane, he credits the crafts people for bringing a thing so simple yet so new to life. Those credits belong to cabinet maker Mark Meyer; Allied Steel for the structural steel, water feature, planter and railings; Jeff Taylor’s concrete work; Custom Design Masonry’s brick work; Foss Co. for stone work; and Metal Masters Northwest for the soaking tub and the stainless outlet covers.

“A lot of times you’re asking them to do something they’ve never done before. For instance, it took three tries to get the outlets in the kitchen right,” Lane says of the unusual vertically stacked stainless outlets set flush in granite.

This house, this office, this studio and this courtyard have, he says, “all the space I ever want to take care of.”

Rebecca Teagarden is assistant editor of Pacific Northwest magazine. Benjamin Benschneider is a magazine staff photographer.

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