A beautiful bungalow in Beaux Arts underwent a magical makeover.
IF THE WALLS of Hans and Leah Juhle’s Arts and Crafts bungalow could talk … well, that’d be unnerving for a minute or two, but then those glorious logs, posts and beams would launch into a multilayered tale covering more than a century of history, change and even fame. Their home, which easily could stunt-double for a national park lodge, certainly is no stranger to the spotlight:
• It has been the star of a car commercial and an Eddie Bauer catalog;
• been featured in Sunset magazine and the book “American Bungalow Style”; and
• among other honors, won the Great American Home Award from the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 1994.
Fitting its celebrity status, it also has had a bit of work done: a restoration in 1989, an addition in 1992 and major renovations in 2015 that required some rather artful engineering.
So now those talking walls would add: We know some secrets.
The Juhles discovered their historic home in Beaux Arts, an eclectic village on the fringe of Bellevue, two years ago, after living in San Francisco and in Seattle’s Green Lake neighborhood.
“Basically, we were trying to find a way to move to the suburbs without it feeling too suburban — no cookie-cutters,” Leah says. “The main thing about this house was its rustic charm. It had a big story and longtime presence.”
Its story also had a dark subplot: a claustrophobic kitchen saddled with 1980s cherry cabinets, low ceilings, gloomy granite, not-exactly-functional appliances and a somewhat threatening loft overlooking the dining area from the second-floor master bedroom.
“That lack of privacy was not terribly appealing,” Leah says — and not particularly safe, given that the Juhles have two young, and age-appropriately agile, daughters.
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Cue Amy Janof of Janof Architecture. After just five minutes, she envisioned a brightness that meshed with the home’s grand history and its previously painted woodwork.
“The main goal for the kitchen was to open it up. We wanted a modern functioning kitchen that didn’t look Moderne,” she says. “That was the balance.”
That also was the challenge.
Turns out the home has no cavities in its floor structure — the finish flooring above the kitchen sat directly on top of the exposed log beams, so there was nowhere to hide the essential innards of the project.
Janof pulled together a team of modernizing magicians — Joseph McKinstry Construction Company, Cornerstone Fine Woodworking, Harriott Valentine Engineers and Creasey Log Homes — tasked with renovating the open kitchen and dining area; adding a window-seat bump-out to the master bedroom; enclosing the gaping balcony; and, while they were at it, widening a not-made-for-real-humans 18-inch-wide set of stairs to the third floor. (“We called them the Smurf stairs,” Leah says.)
“It was ridiculously difficult,” Janof says. “I kept getting panicked calls that things weren’t going to fit, but we eventually squeezed everything in.”
“Squeezed” being the operative word.
The renovators reframed much of the kitchen, replacing an awkward but structurally critical log column with steel beams above the Sheetrock (the beams are now concealed by “trick” hollowed logs); dropped the kitchen ceiling 4 inches to create room for steel purlins and “the world’s smallest LED light fixtures”; and wormed the ductwork for a nearly flush kitchen hood through an existing platform under the claw-foot tub in the master bathroom above it.
In the dining area, framed on one side by a towering stone fireplace lighted for special occasions, indirect lighting is tucked behind bits of trim, complementing the hanging Rejuvenation fixtures Leah selected and the warm, natural light gushing through the home’s original paned windows.
Upstairs, the balcony’s scary-low wrought-iron rail and its wacky little step-down to the master bath are gone, replaced with level fir flooring that flows into the original. Between the master bedroom and its bath, a new closet hides even more ductwork.
Just looking, you’d see none of this squeezing-in ingenuity — only openness, light and whole-home cohesion, all bathed in soothing ocean greens, grays and blues, a welcome gift from previous owners who built the addition.
But those walls. Those walls know the back story.
“There was a lot about this project that involved what you don’t see,” Janof says. “The reason it looks so pure is because you can’t see the magic of what we did.”