A remodeling project by SHED Architecture & Design opens and brightens a family’s Bridle Trails home, and transforms its former horse housing into a multifunctional habitat for humans.

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The goal was to leverage as much of the existing framework volume as possible, Schaer says, but the old makeshift breezeway resting on the house had to go (and it did), along with “so many plants, people couldn’t find the front door,” Chris says. (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)
The goal was to leverage as much of the existing framework volume as possible, Schaer says, but the old makeshift breezeway resting on the house had to go (and it did), along with “so many plants, people couldn’t find the front door,” Chris says. (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)

FOR A HORSE PERSON, imagine the equestrian serendipity of moving to a neighborhood named Bridle Trails … to a lot measuring “a horse acre” … to a lovely retro home with its own stable, for Flicka’s sake.

But nay; Chris and Christy are not horse people — don’t have one, don’t want one, can’t make them. But they are house people, and they know potential (if not a prize pony) when they see it.

So, when they were fixing to leave the Midwest, and welcome their first daughter (they now have two little ones), they opted for the big-city diversity, vibrancy and culture of the Seattle area — and a 1967 home on an “OMG” lot.

“We had no yard at all in Chicago, not even a postage-stamp size,” Christy says. “And we loved the house’s midcentury architectural style, but it needed updating.” They loved the detached stable, too — but solely for bipeds: “We have friends and family not from the West Coast, and it was important to have a place for them to stay for a while and not feel like they’re on top of us.”

The kitchen retained its original placement, Schaer says, but was completely reconfigured, with a new Dutch door, cabinets, lights, storage and a big and wide counter that’s “awesome for parties,” Christy says.  (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)
The kitchen retained its original placement, Schaer says, but was completely reconfigured, with a new Dutch door, cabinets, lights, storage and a big and wide counter that’s “awesome for parties,” Christy says. (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)

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Their updating to-do list started simply: Convert that horse housing into a multifunctional human habitat. Finish off the half-finished basement. Open up the segmented, low living room.

They hired Thomas Schaer and Max Mahaffey of SHED Architecture & Design, who noticed a few other specific fixing-upping possibilities — the overgrown site, the outdated kitchen, the compartmentalized bathrooms — and one general trend: The cluttered floor plan and weird walls were kinda convoluting the whole thing.

The list grew into something broader: a more-contemporary take on function-driven elements found in midcentury design that “are as valid now as ever before,” Schaer says, like screens as permeable space dividers, built-in casework and toss-your-keys-here cabinets.

As Lucy looks on, Christy paints in the studio space of the converted stable. The sunny yellow “barn doors” can be rearranged in several combinations for optimal flexibility and privacy … all while alluding to the space’s past life.  (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)
As Lucy looks on, Christy paints in the studio space of the converted stable. The sunny yellow “barn doors” can be rearranged in several combinations for optimal flexibility and privacy … all while alluding to the space’s past life. (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)

“Thomas had really good ideas,” Christy says. “Once somebody shows you how awesome it could be, you’re not going to say, ‘No. Don’t do that.’ ”

Here’s what they did — awesomely:

The stable: No sign of hay-nibblers here. Where once there was a “framed empty space with a collision of roof forms,” Schaer says, there’s now an enclosed, converted and convertible 760-square-foot studio for working and art (he’s in software product design; she paints) and visiting family, thanks to a fully equipped guest suite, mudroom, wood-burning fireplace and utility sink area. Or: furloughs of flexibility. “The program is sort of to adapt over time,” Schaer says. In a particularly fitting nod to the building’s history, two bright-yellow barn doors slide on a 30-foot-long track to create space combinations — and privacy.

Familiar midcentury elements such as slat screens, built-in cabinets, flagstone flooring and concrete brick were used to add function and texture, Schaer says. The wall that separated the living room from the entry was replaced with a wooden screen to allow in filtered afternoon light, and the low, flat living-room ceiling was removed (with support from a new column at the kitchen peninsula) so the vaulted space wraps throughout the primary living spaces and enhances the new open plan.  (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)
Familiar midcentury elements such as slat screens, built-in cabinets, flagstone flooring and concrete brick were used to add function and texture, Schaer says. The wall that separated the living room from the entry was replaced with a wooden screen to allow in filtered afternoon light, and the low, flat living-room ceiling was removed (with support from a new column at the kitchen peninsula) so the vaulted space wraps throughout the primary living spaces and enhances the new open plan. (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)

The living area: The first step to opening things up, it turns out, is to get rid of things. Confining and dividing walls and doors disappeared. So did the “big, chunky, bold, aggressive-looking rocks” around the fireplace. The ceiling rose into vaulting. “We removed more than we added to increase openness, daylight and passive ventilation, and to allow a true open plan with a central hearth,” Schaer says.

Pacific NW Magazine: Oct. 2 Edition

Artist Cory Ench created this mural of the Kalakala along North Laurel Street in Port Angeles as a tribute to the steel, art-deco ferry that served the Puget Sound from 1935 to 1967. It’s one of many murals adorning the walls in the town’s historic central downtown area. (Mike Siegel/The Seattle Times)
Artist Cory Ench created this mural of the Kalakala along North Laurel Street in Port Angeles as a tribute to the steel, art-deco ferry that served the Puget Sound from 1935 to 1967. It’s one of many murals adorning the walls in the town’s historic central downtown area. (Mike Siegel/The Seattle Times)

The kitchen/dining area: What didn’t we do?” Christy says. Excellent point. There’s a new Dutch door. Horizontal windows at the office and the sink. Tons of storage. A giant countertop that’s “awesome for parties.” Display pockets built into cabinets. A new concrete hearth for the flip side of the living-area fireplace. And light. Lots of light.

The basement: The barely framed bedrooms, log-walled family room and “spatially inefficient” mechanical room “had been treated as a bunker — no connection to the outside,” Schaer says. But more walls came down, the corridor shifted and suddenly there’s easy access to the new carport and that OMG lot. Meanwhile, extended masonry, concrete and brick on the family-room fireplace (plus the loss of its ceiling cedar) better balance the “cabin” aura, and the mechanical room is now a “not overtly child-oriented” (but seriously sparkly) bathroom for the girls, with Milestone plaster, Penny Round tiles that “shimmer like candies” and Corian countertops.

The masters: Two upstairs bedrooms merged into one lovely master suite, decorated with Christy’s paintings and brightened by new slot windows and a bigger glass slider. The master bathroom gained 18 inches of ceiling height, and an awesome remote-controlled random-color light strip over the tub “fakes a skylight” — if the skylight were infused with rainbows.

Chris stokes the wood-burning fireplace in the remodeled stable, now a flexible space for storage, guests, work and family. (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)
Chris stokes the wood-burning fireplace in the remodeled stable, now a flexible space for storage, guests, work and family. (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)

If Chris and Christy had horses, they could put ’em out to pasture and stow the saddles.

“We’re not planning on going anywhere, ever,” Chris says.