After an initial ‘humbug’ moment, architect Bernie Baker weaves a story of contemporary redemption.

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IN THIS SEASON of giving: a contemporary home (for the holidays) story of unexpected gifts — and remodeling redemption.

The Home of Christmases Past

Stairs lead from Paul and Cynthia Parker’s home to a lift that carries riders on a 110-foot line to the boat dock below, Cynthia says. “I’ve done a lot of waterfront, and this is unique, with such a high bluff and beach access,” architect Bernie Baker says. The extended roof over the deck (ipe with a cable railing) helps keep the windows dry. (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)
Stairs lead from Paul and Cynthia Parker’s home to a lift that carries riders on a 110-foot line to the boat dock below, Cynthia says. “I’ve done a lot of waterfront, and this is unique, with such a high bluff and beach access,” architect Bernie Baker says. The extended roof over the deck (ipe with a cable railing) helps keep the windows dry. (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)

Paul and Cynthia Parker bought a brand-new, three-story, high-bluff home on Bainbridge Island in 2002. But the fit was a bit off: Its flow was wonky; “privacy” was merely an appealing notion; and nothing even whispered, “Welcome.” Over the years, they did a little work here and there, and finally, they got the kitchen just right.

After their daughters left for college, the Parkers decided to do more just right — and then, almost like a destined apparition, Paul and Cynthia met architect Bernie Baker at spin class.

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First, Baker made a list of Big Questions: Could the Parkers’ home really transform from eclectic suburban to contemporary? On a reasonable budget?

And he checked it twice: yes, and yes.

Then he made a suggestion: The Parkers didn’t necessarily need to remodel the entire home. “I felt the house could be totally transformed if most of the effort were placed on the upper living level, with a complete overhaul of the exterior,” Baker says.

And then he said this: We’ve gotta move that kitchen.

Bah, humbug.

“That was a bit difficult for them,” Baker concedes. “They, however, were willing to trust the process.”

The Home of Christmas Present

Thirteen-foot-high ceilings in the living area create space for a wall of view-capturing windows. “Now there are really big views, and the ceiling’s not in the way,” architect Bernie Baker says. (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)
Thirteen-foot-high ceilings in the living area create space for a wall of view-capturing windows. “Now there are really big views, and the ceiling’s not in the way,” architect Bernie Baker says. (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)

The process proved trustworthy, beautifully delivering the Parkers’ wish list: comfort, privacy, flow, function and extra-awesome floor-to-ceiling windows that stretch along all three levels of floors and ceilings.

Architect Bernie Baker relocated the Parkers’ kitchen, filled it with wood, topped the counters with soapstone and created an island that acts as a “key piece of sculpture” in a cohesively functional layout, he says. “I stressed, ‘I use the kitchen a lot,’ ” says Cynthia. “I want it to look nice but be able to use it.”  (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)
Architect Bernie Baker relocated the Parkers’ kitchen, filled it with wood, topped the counters with soapstone and created an island that acts as a “key piece of sculpture” in a cohesively functional layout, he says. “I stressed, ‘I use the kitchen a lot,’ ” says Cynthia. “I want it to look nice but be able to use it.” (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)

• The kitchen emerged from its corner cocoon and butterflied into a view-facing showpiece of sculptural forms and natural materials, allowing for a reconfigured open living/dining/kitchen area, and a newly popped-out and popped-up music room in the front of the home.

• The newly coppery exterior is, in fact, completely transformed, anchored by a reworked and brightened entry that clearly, but not plainly, announces, “Welcome!” — along with the whole tone of the re-imagined upper level.

• The roof reaches higher (alert, Rudolph!) to allow the sky to play its vital role in the stunning Manzanita Bay view. “The old house had the usual 9-foot ceilings and rather large windows,” Baker says. “In the Northwest, water is a beautiful view, but water responds to the sky. Now there are really big views, and the ceiling is not in the way.”

• New, carefully sited window openings and doors bring blessed privacy to the master suite. “Our bedroom is right off the front door,” Cynthia says. “The powder room door had opened in: ‘Hello, everybody! I’m going to the bathroom!’ Now it’s more of a suite feel, and the bed is more hidden, even with the door ajar.”

The stairs, which had been enclosed on three sides, evolved from carpet to slate, homeowner Cynthia Parker says, and the railings are all new. “I knew when I walked in, we were going to need that stair to open up that room,” architect Bernie Baker says.  (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)
The stairs, which had been enclosed on three sides, evolved from carpet to slate, homeowner Cynthia Parker says, and the railings are all new. “I knew when I walked in, we were going to need that stair to open up that room,” architect Bernie Baker says. (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)

Everything didn’t go exactly as planned, but then, what fun is a holiday story without a plot twist?

That gorgeous living-room fireplace, for example, shape-shifted midway to accommodate a last-minute request for a TV. The basement (updated with new doors, trim and paint) “originally was going to be Paul’s man cave,” Cynthia says, with the home’s only TV. “We don’t watch a ton of TV. Just a group of friends that rotate watching Seahawks games.”

One more TV sounded good.

“I quizzed them about TVs. I always do,” Baker says. “Paul said no TV, just a nice fireplace (upstairs). Then suddenly there was a TV, and trying to get it in there was quite an ordeal. The original fireplace was very simple. But now it’s more like a rock formation: ledge-y.” (And lovely.)

The Home of Christmas Yet to Come

Homeowner Paul Parker selected the “more-masculine, hard” furniture, architect Bernie Baker says. “We had to rein my husband in,” says Cynthia. “You can’t have everything be ‘wow.’ We went for big statements in the light entry, the dining area and the fireplace. For me, the view is a big statement.”  (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)
Homeowner Paul Parker selected the “more-masculine, hard” furniture, architect Bernie Baker says. “We had to rein my husband in,” says Cynthia. “You can’t have everything be ‘wow.’ We went for big statements in the light entry, the dining area and the fireplace. For me, the view is a big statement.” (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)

Still, Baker says, “They really kept to the image and the dream, with the exception of the revised fireplace.”

And dreams, as we know from that one other (perhaps slightly more-famous) holiday story, can lead to real transformation.

Pre-remodel, Baker says, he walked into the Parkers’ L-shaped home and picked up true Scrooge vibes. “It was cantankerous,” he says.

View-framing windows stretch up and down all three levels of the Parkers’ home, including in the master bedroom, which now feels more like a suite, Cynthia says, and a whole lot more private. (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)
View-framing windows stretch up and down all three levels of the Parkers’ home, including in the master bedroom, which now feels more like a suite, Cynthia says, and a whole lot more private. (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)

But these days, flowing like the smoothest nog, soaring like the tallest Tannenbaum, the home’s personality has evolved, Baker says: “Now, I think it’s more of a quiet, confident young man.”

We really should not make a blatant Tiny Tim inference right now, but we will say this: Young Mr. Cratchit’s future was looking significantly brighter at the end of that one other holiday story than at the beginning.