Home was updated with a bright and airy “strategic modern intervention,” while keeping its original look and charm.

Share story

WHO AMONG US could not use a little “strategic modern intervention?”

But some, like this time-forgotten Craftsman (once carved into two apartments) on Magnolia’s northeastern lip, could use more than others.

“When we bought the house (May 2012), I thought we’d just put new siding on and do something about the deck,” says Ira, the homeowner. “I didn’t even know what that meant.

“It was covered in vinyl. Behind that was asbestos. We ripped all that off, and then it looked like a haunted house; discolored, rotten siding.

“It was beginning to dawn on me what I was getting into.”

The “strategic modern intervention” part didn’t come until later, Phase Two, so to speak. It came from designers Thomas Schaer and Alex Hale of SHED Architecture & Design, and that’s Ira’s description of design work to connect the house front to back (the entry is newly opened), install a new and much larger kitchen, remove and remake the downstairs bathroom and funnel in as much natural light as possible. All while maintaining, and celebrating, the home’s original details.

“I have a thing against ‘tasteful contemporary.’ It really bugs me,” says Ira, who required that no matter what happened inside his family’s home, their Craftsman still look like a Craftsman. “But those guys at SHED are dealing with volumes and space.” And function and flow.

This is not one of those “oh-let’s-go-for-it” projects. Money mattered. Spending it hurt. And, being an old house (1914) of consistent neglect, there was much more work to be done, to both home and yard, than Ira originally thought.

The landscaping is varied textures and layers of green, both out front and in the backyard (the whole of it there beneath the muscular arms of a most impressive and aged cedar).

Who did this? “Me,” says Ira. Not at first, though. He had it done. Two years ago. But it annoyed him. Too busy. Too many colors. Plants not thriving. “I knew nothing, but I knew I wanted big, green plants.” And so, Ira, a software developer at F5, researched the world of Northwest plants and redid the whole thing himself.

“I got a copy of Arthur Lee Jacobson’s ‘Trees of Seattle,’ ” he says. It’s scientific and listy. But he read it all, then drove around town hunting down the trees featured there, learning.

The star of SHED’s remodel, finished May 2014, is the kitchen, open and bright, tall ceiling, white walls and cabinets, stainless-steel counter and integrated sink. Says Ira, “Our only input was, we were looking at kitchens and I saw one without pulls on the cabinets, and we said we wanted that. And a window to the backyard. Other than that I let Thomas do what he wanted to do.”

To enlarge the space, the designer folded the laundry area into the kitchen (now hidden inside the room behind tall doors). White laminate cabinets, from Salmon Bay Woodworks, are a quiet backdrop to the room’s functional vertical-grain fir wall (refrigerator, ovens). There are no pulls.

The new bathroom, clad in white ceramic tile, like the kitchen, is unapologetically contemporary. But, also, it sits behind an original five-panel door. On the exterior, the contemporary window configurations (from Lindal) are trimmed out with the old house’s classic white trim and beadboard, blending new openings with the traditional structure. And that’s a good thing: “Not a lot of people realize, when they have an old house, people think everything has to match,” Ira says. “And it doesn’t, that’s boring.”

Then, with all the power of hindsight, he says, “I’m not sure this house deserved all the love we showered on it. But we did it, and we love it.”