ABOUT EVERY three years or so, when the phone rings at architect David Coleman’s office, he will think to himself, “You know, it’s about time for Cindy and Rob to call.”
It is. And here they are, Coleman’s serial remodelers Cindy Chin and Rob Graham. The three of them working together to tweak and improve the couple’s Magnolia bluff Tudor into modern living. Since 1999.
“We lived here 15 years before we started remodeling,” says Graham. “So we knew how the house lived. We never wanted a bigger footprint, but we wanted it to live bigger.”
“We couldn’t figure out how to get modern into a 1929 house,” says Chin. After touring a Coleman-designed home, however, they knew exactly how.
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“I think David has an idea formulated before we even know what we’re going to do.” Chin laughs at the collaboration that, over the years, comes naturally.
Once they commit, Graham and Chin are a pair of troupers. No matter the scope of the work, they’ve never vacated the place, even when, perhaps, they should have. “At one point, if we wanted to come in the back, we had to use a screw gun to take down the plywood,” Graham says.
Work began in the kitchen, opening it, connecting it to the backyard and dining room (achieved on both sides with steel and glass French doors) increasing storage and functionality.
Then it was down to the basement. “David makes us call it the lower level,” corrects Chin. Here’s why: Large windows brighten spaces that are now media room, guest suite, a full bath.
In Phase 3, cabinetry was upgraded to match the new kitchen. (They’re sapele.) Work then headed upstairs, new dormer.
And now, there is this, the front of the home, its public face, remade front door to sidewalk. Born of a desire for a new porch. The couple thought there was no there there. No place to land out of the weather, make the transition indoors.
Coleman, knowing his artist clients (she’s a graphic designer and he, retired from Boeing, designs jewelry) went big and he went bold. His philosophy for all the work on the old house with the beautiful only-in-Magnolia views, is this: “The new, thoroughly modern interventions stand in sharp contrast to the traditional lines of the existing Tudor-style house, yet merge with it in a surprisingly fresh and timeless manner.”
Nowhere more so than in the front yard.
The march from street to door now involves gabion retaining walls, steel, monochromatic plantings and “floating” concrete. Custom LED lighting lends an illusion of lightness, and, most certainly, drama. The journey ends at a steel canopy laser cut in a pattern reminiscent of African Kuba cloth, a request from Chin and Graham. The cutouts cast long and changing shadows. (At times it seems as though a flock of birds has set upon the door.)
A steel planter box steps up the old concrete stairs, a clever way to install a hand railing and trim the wide expanse of old concrete. (A budget consideration.)
The goal was to create a strong sense of arrival (achieved!), “and the resulting outdoor rooms extend the edge of the home outward into the landscape in unexpected ways.” Also, achieved.
“The front yard was a surprise,” Graham says. “But once we looked at it we thought, yeah. A neighbor told us, ‘It’s nice to see somebody shaking up the design aesthetic around here.’ ”
And now, everything is perfect, right? “Oh,” Chin says, “we’d like some sort of sliding doors in the living room. We have the upstairs bathroom, and we need to finish painting . . .”
Rebecca Teagarden writes about architecture and design for Pacific NW magazine. Benjamin Benschneider is a magazine staff photographer.