WE’RE STANDING in the master bathroom upstairs, and Peter says, “This was our kitchen.”
Nearby is a small sitting room: It was once the dining room. And their large, comfortable bedroom? It used to be the living room.
So how did it all get up here, high over Lake Washington in Seattle’s Laurelhurst neighborhood?
“We lifted the house,” says Aimee, Peter’s wife.
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“It was definitely something we’d not heard of before,” he adds.
The couple set out with a desire to add a grown-up master suite to their 76-year-old, 1,600-square-foot Cape Cod bungalow, cut up and closed off. They thought a new second floor was the way to go on that. Tear off the roof, head upward.
But their architect, Amy Janof of Janof Architecture, had a different idea. Keep the roof right where it is and hoist up the house. Insert an entirely new main floor between old house and the foundation. Why? Because, Janof says, “the house was tiny, needed a new kitchen and had such poor connection to the backyard (the two original bedrooms and bathrooms took up that whole end of the house).
“It was a much more ambitious project, but it gave them a much more livable home.” And the opportunity for the couple to rid themselves of worn knob-and-tub wiring, encrusted plumbing and single-pane windows while adding insulation.
“Amy was down-to-earth and honest,” Peter says. “She had never done this before. Joe had never done this before. But it was the best thing to do, and they told us everything all along the way.”
Meanwhile, the company hired to do the lifting, Kunkel Moving and Raising, has done this kind of thing before, since 1911. There is not so much as a crack in the old plaster walls.
The new main floor offers up a living and dining room, spacious and open to the deck and water views beyond with a double set of French doors. Janoff respected the home’s history and the traditional desires of her clients (in moldings, fireplace mantels, floors in white oak), while adding just a touch of contemporary throughout (walls painted in shades of gray, colors from the Restoration Hardware palette, paint from Miller Paints). The country kitchen, across the back of the home, is large (more than twice the size of the old) and classic with white cabinetry from Acorn Custom Cabinets, white subway tiles and counters in honed Absolute Black granite from Architectural StoneWerkes. A small powder room holds large glam with a white marble counter and sparkling chandelier (one of a number that homeowner Aimee had installed throughout their new spaces).
One floor up in the old house, the former kitchen makes for a fine new master bath; white hexagonal tile floors, his-and-hers pedestal sinks. Waving at the soaking tub, Peter says, “This is where the refrigerator and stove were.”
Living room as master bedroom comes with a fireplace, romantic and just plain useful. The former dining room? A sitting room (one with a bay window), a space Peter uses to tie fishing flies.
The house that Peter knew was too small when he bought it (beating out multiple offers the day it hit the market during the recession in 2010) is now perfect at 2,700 square feet, the couple says.
“We wanted to be in Seattle, but this place feels like we’re way out of the city,” Peter says.
Their architect credits the couple for going for it. “Major points for courage,” says Janof.
Rebecca Teagarden writes about architecture and design for Pacific NW magazine. Benjamin Benschneider is a magazine staff photographer.