The new owners of a hillside home designed in 1923 by architect Paul Thiry kept the best of the old but added several new features, including the home’s central living space, the kitchen.

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SAY YOU’VE GOT this ballroom in your house. A ballroom with an organ loft. And you really like this room; fir paneled, timbered ceiling, brick fireplace, leaded-glass windows with first-rate views of Lake Washington. But you’re really not planning to have any balls or similar such galas anytime soon. Or ever.

Meanwhile, the rest of the house, a rather historic Washington Park Arts & Crafts-style home designed in 1923 by architect Paul Thiry, could also use a new-century boost.

Who ya gonna call?

The Kinsels called architect Carol Sundstrom of röm architecture studio.

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“Carol asked us to create a Pinterest page of rooms we like and of things we liked. The kids even had their own pages,” says homeowner Dawn Kinsel. “It really made it easy.”

“We had a real tight budget and a lot to do, and a short time to do it,” says Dawn, seated at the large farm table of her family’s newly elegant, comfortable, roomy and crisp white kitchen.

The kitchen got the lion’s share of the remodel budget. The island, Brazilian Arabescato quartzite, is bigger than a queen-size bed. “We use every square inch of it,” says Grant. “And typical houses have a gazillion recessed lights pockmarked all over, but Carol put in different kinds of fixtures. She really thought about it.” Cabinets are by Kurt Torkelson of Contour Woodworks. (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)
The kitchen got the lion’s share of the remodel budget. The island, Brazilian Arabescato quartzite, is bigger than a queen-size bed. “We use every square inch of it,” says Grant. “And typical houses have a gazillion recessed lights pockmarked all over, but Carol put in different kinds of fixtures. She really thought about it.” Cabinets are by Kurt Torkelson of Contour Woodworks. (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)

“While we were still in escrow Carol starting working on the plans,” adds Dawn’s husband, Grant.

The Kinsels moved to Seattle from Los Angeles almost three years ago and rented an apartment in Bellevue while they found their Northwest bearings. The family of four hunted for a house during the recession, finding the Thiry after it had sat on the market for much of 2012.

In this home of something old, something new, this is the old: a ballroom. It is now used as the music and family room. “The ballroom is what sold the kids on the house,” says Grant Kinsel. The Arts & Crafts-style home was designed in 1923 by architect Paul Thiry. (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)
In this home of something old, something new, this is the old: a ballroom. It is now used as the music and family room. “The ballroom is what sold the kids on the house,” says Grant Kinsel. The Arts & Crafts-style home was designed in 1923 by architect Paul Thiry. (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)

“I was skeptical,” says Grant. (The house sits upon a steep hillside. There are 59 steps up from the street; it has a cargo tram for transporting goods.)

“I thought it was totally worth it,” says Dawn, “if we could do it with our budget.”

Studying the family’s Pinterest pages, architect Sundstrom grew to know her clients.

The ballroom was retained and put to good use as a music and family room. There among its masculine vibe of rich, dark wood tones is now a grand piano (a Craigslist score) and a projection TV (perfectly disguised by the contractor, Dick Holub of DLH Inc.). Interior designer Tammara Stroud helped pick out furniture and carpeting for the reclaimed dance hall.

The basement now holds a game room and improved laundry center (original and most-handy laundry chutes were kept). Upstairs, the master bedroom now has a walk-in closet and a heavenly (large skylights over each of two pedestal sinks) new bathroom. There also is an additional bedroom, and the kids (Eleanor and Max) each have their own bathrooms.

View windows in the master frame a wide view of Lake Washington, bridge to bridge, with Mount Rainier as an exclamation mark at the end. (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)
View windows in the master frame a wide view of Lake Washington, bridge to bridge, with Mount Rainier as an exclamation mark at the end. (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)

The big kerpow, though, is the home’s central living space, the kitchen. A much smaller room is now large and open, and made for daily gathering (the dining room is now included here). It includes an accessible powder room, wet bar, pet/utility room and closets with shoe cubbies for each Kinsel. Also, the island, Brazilian Arabescato quartzite, is bigger than a queen-size bed.

Sundstrom gave the project much thought. There are dishwashers in both the kitchen and wet-bar area. Both kitchen and wet-bar sinks have garbage disposals. Cass, the enthusiastic family poodle, has a thing for cat food and stuff. To thwart her efforts, Sundstrom designed a cat closet: Hunca Munca enters through an open panel in a cabinet door, climbs a small ramp, then turns left for the litter box, right for food.

The master bathroom is now sky bright with his and hers pedestal sinks set beneath skylights (with built-in storage). Sundstrom placed the shower into the peak of the roof because the old one hit Grant at chest level. (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)
The master bathroom is now sky bright with his and hers pedestal sinks set beneath skylights (with built-in storage). Sundstrom placed the shower into the peak of the roof because the old one hit Grant at chest level. (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)

Sundstrom also helped her clients shop for furnishings and fixtures. Three country-chic hammered copper pendant lights over the dining table are from England, two period-appropriate, oil-rubbed bronze chandeliers over the island are from Rejuvenation.

Grant grew up in a tract house in the San Fernando Valley. Dawn in military-base housing. But now their home is like no other.

“It was a leap of faith,” says Grant.