BY THE TIME Liz and John Tinkham moved here from Chicago — and decided to stay — this sumptuous waterfront estate on Yarrow Point had lived through a lot.
Built in the 1940s, “This home had been remodeled and added on to numerous times,” says architect Carrie Anderson, of Stuart Silk Architects. “While each project added value, there was a lack of coherent design for the house as a whole.”
From the outside, she says, “Stuart and I noticed it wasn’t symmetrical coming down the driveway.” Inside, on the main level, Liz says, “The whole area was a warren of rooms. The ceilings were low.” In the disoriented little kitchen, “They basically just built over what had been a solarium,” she says, and nearby, actual peril perched just above the main stairway: “As you came down the stairs … if you were over 6 feet tall, your head would hit a beam.”
In their first meeting, Anderson says, Liz and John requested a unifying update of “symmetry, harmony and simplicity.”
And now, thanks to a series of structural fixes, ingenious transformations, strategic additions and room-to-room switcheroos, the Tinkhams’ home is living its best modern life: as a thoughtfully traditional home with contemporary touches, transported in one coherent form to the 21st century — and, in one sense, to the northern hemisphere.
“[The home] had a whole Balinese theme, very beautifully and expensively done: Pacific Northwest on the outside, Bali on the inside,” says Liz. “For a while, we thought we could live here, but it was really dark. It was beautiful, but when we put all our Midwestern stuff in, it just didn’t work.”
Today, the Tinkhams’ home works magnificently — with the former Stairs Of Danger as the new, centered center of attention in an effortlessly flowing design.
“Initially, we wanted to move the stair; it’s in a weird spot, off-center,” Anderson says. “But it was too structurally complicated. If we could widen it to center it, it’d be more gracious, and resolve the symmetry. The main bearing line was right down the middle of the kitchen; we removed it and put in a large steel beam.”
In that greatly expanded, cleverly rotated kitchen and breakfast/TV area, with a giant island and dazzling bursts of blue, “Basically everything in here is new,” says Liz — except the must-keep lake view from the sink.
Speaking of new:
• Off the kitchen, “An existing breezeway between the garage and house was enclosed as a mudroom and pantry for additional storage,” says Anderson. “My favorite room in the house is the pantry,” says Liz. “It’s like having our own grocery store in here.”
• The family room took over the previous dining space, where, “Every wall was covered with grasscloth, and the room was very dark,” Liz says. “The fireplace had a huge teak Balinese surround.” Now a bright new light, a larger replacement window to the side of the fireplace (now with a warm limestone surround and hearth) and white beams brighten the soaring space, with views across and beyond Lake Washington, and doors to the updated outdoor deck.
• The previous meditation room, which was missing a beam up above (and light inside, since its windows and skylight had been covered), morphed into a bright office for Liz, with an inviting, wider window and a custom built-in designed by Julianne Shaw of Stuart Silk Interiors.
• One wall relocated to create a separate new dining room where there had been an office, with a repurposed Holly Hunt light fixture from the previous dining room. (Nearby, a cheerful new powder room was tucked in, “making the most of a small space,” says Anderson.)
• Up those graceful stairs (now under a striking — and safe — high-clearance arch), a new, bumped-out “little extra room” adds a balancing gable to the front of the home, while creating a special space for the future. “We’re hoping to use it as a nursery someday for a grandchild,” says Liz.
• And decor-wise, Anderson says, “Stuart Silk Interiors replaced the existing carved, dark wood trim with painted white trim more appropriate to the Shingle Style of the home. Repainting the existing and remodeled rooms a warm white color gave a fresh feel and brightened the interiors dramatically. Pewter accents, wallpaper and pops of color added additional sparkle, texture and visual interest throughout.”
In the newly enlivened living room, for example, refreshed floors, paint and trim embrace Liz and John’s Midwestern furniture like a long-awaited friend — while at the same time, elsewhere, previous pieces are meeting all-new fans.
“There had been a Balinese screen over the window,” says Liz. “All of their décor was gorgeous. Instead of throwing it away, we’re recycling it. John called the previous owners’ decorator. She said, ‘Send it back here.’ Every once in a while, we get a check from her when she sells something.”