You'd expect anyone buying such a spectacular Queen Anne view property to tear down the worn 1930s house and start fresh. But Jim Dow decided otherwise.
You’d expect anyone buying such a spectacular Queen Anne view property to tear down the worn 1930s house and start fresh. But Jim Dow decided otherwise.
“I told the architect we should make it modern inside the old shell . . . I wanted to keep it small, not be wasteful.” To this end, the Mediterranean-style facade, with its archways and tile roof, still stands high above the city — the revelation of a coolly contemporary interior slipped inside.
Dow, managing partner at Schuchart/Dow construction, wasn’t daunted by the home’s warren of dark, little rooms. Nor put off by a site so vertical that materials had to be craned in or carried up steep, serpentine stairs. Dow turned to a longtime friend, architect Brandt Hollinger, to reconfigure the 2,200-square-foot house and open it up to light and vistas.
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Now the kitchen, living and dining room share a view of the Space Needle and Elliott Bay so mind-blowing that it’s well worth navigating the precipitous “dragon-back staircase” to get there.
“My deal is concrete and steel,” says Dow of the home’s limited selection of materials. Countertops, sinks, tubs, fireplaces and most walls are concrete. Floors and cabinets are walnut, repeated in a lustrous slab of a dining room table. The ceilings are fir, stained dark and ribboned with recessed lighting. Oversized steel and glass doors pivot smoothly, walnut and steel pocket doors glide silently open and closed. There’s no trim, no drapes, no frills. Even the stairway is made of blackened steel; the deck floor is stainless-steel mesh. Hardware, windows and doors are all scaled up to a satisfying heft, and the overall effect is decidedly masculine yet serenely Zen.
Despite all the hard-surface edge, this is a comfortable home, softened by Dow’s art collection and interior designer Garret Cord Werner’s selection of textural furniture. The art is eclectic, from a curved sweep of whale jaw bone to a wall-size photo of wild horses. The furniture includes many one-of-a-kind pieces, including a vast, nap-inducing armchair snuggled in softest shearling.
Dow credits landscape architect Bruce Hinckley with the overall scheme for the site. “Bruce had the concept from the beginning,” says Dow. “Luckily, I let him just do it . . . though some things were kind of a gulp.” Like boom-craning dozens of mature Japanese black pines up the hill, and cutting back the main floor so the sight and sound of the water features can be enjoyed from both upstairs and down.
Another gulp was digging down deeply enough to daylight the home’s lower level. Before the remodel, the rockery rose right up to the main floor. Now a dramatic cascade of water pours down a two-story concrete retaining wall into a pool outside the lower-level media room. The terrace at ground level is wrapped in a scrim of pine trees for shade and privacy, pruned to reveal the view as if looking through louvered blinds. From the deck above you look out over the forest of trees as if from a treehouse, their thick, needled green lending a cushion from the hectic city view.
“Bruce is a magician,” says Dow. “Without his landscape it’d just be a house with a big view.”
Valerie Easton is a Seattle freelance writer and author of “A Pattern Garden.” Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Benjamin Benschneider is a Pacific Northwest magazine staff photographer.