A Queen Anne couple, neighbors who knew the Washington senator, bought his former home from his family and put together a large, collaborative team to build a sparkling new house on the property.

Share story

HERE’S SOMETHING you don’t see every day: Sen. Warren G. Magnuson’s totem pole. Standing in what, for many years, was Sen. Warren G. Magnuson’s front yard.

Windows to the water offer views even while seated. Gerry and Linda purchased the Kenneth Callahan painting for the home. Linda reports that no detail was too small for contractor David Gray: “We called David and said, ‘We want to hang something on the Milestone over the fireplace.’ He said, ‘Oh! I’ll be right over.’ ” (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)
Windows to the water offer views even while seated. Gerry and Linda purchased the Kenneth Callahan painting for the home. Linda reports that no detail was too small for contractor David Gray: “We called David and said, ‘We want to hang something on the Milestone over the fireplace.’ He said, ‘Oh! I’ll be right over.’ ” (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)

“We met working for him,” says Linda, a lawyer, explaining how she met her husband, Gerry, also a lawyer. “The staff got him this for his retirement, his 70th birthday, I think.”

This — the newly restored and freshly painted Lummi artifact — now rises in a place of honor in the front yard at their house, a new and contemporary home along a winding and stately drive atop Queen Anne Hill.

For 31 years, Linda and Gerry lived four blocks from the Magnuson family. They raised their kids in an old house there, built in 1902 and remodeled three times. But the kids grew up. And the couple wanted a house with more light and far fewer stairs, a place for the rest of their lives; one with a quality view of the local waters and where, someday, they could live on just one floor.

When Mrs. Magnuson (Jermaine) died in fall 2011, Gerry and Linda inquired about the home. They bought it from the family.

“We really appreciate that the family has been so gracious and glad that we’re here,” says Linda.

The soft blue backsplash tiles in the kitchen pick up the blue in both sky and Sound seen from almost everyplace in the home. (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)
The soft blue backsplash tiles in the kitchen pick up the blue in both sky and Sound seen from almost everyplace in the home. (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)

Here; let’s talk about here. Architect Andrew Borges of Rohleder Borges Architecture describes the new place, finished in 2014, as East Coast saltbox meet West Coast open plan of Japanese influence. In other words, the living-dining room is an open and horizontal wooden pavilion flanked by long, gabled wings. Everywhere the view is to the west; water, city, mountains. The design provides spaces for privacy (one side the TV room; the other, office, bedrooms) and places to gather at its heart. An added bonus is a backyard and garden open to the main living space (a great contributor of morning light) and the fabulous views, but also shielded by the wings.

Exposed beams in the living/dining room offer a farmhouse feel. The console, made by Dale Nachand, also serves as the subtle but beautiful dividing line between the two spaces. Nachand also made the living-room mantel. (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)
Exposed beams in the living/dining room offer a farmhouse feel. The console, made by Dale Nachand, also serves as the subtle but beautiful dividing line between the two spaces. Nachand also made the living-room mantel. (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)

Linda and Gerry are the kind of people who hire the pros to do what they do and let them do it, with one caveat: “I’m not gonna have attitude,” says Linda. “But I’d like to have a conversation about where I’m going to spend money and where I’m going to be restrained.”

And she did, with the collaborative and large team of Rohleder; interior designer Nancy Ralston of Ralston Design (finishes); Becky Street of Richardson Marsh Interiors and Margaret Mitacek (furnishings); furniture-maker Dale Nachand (mantel and living-room console); lighting designer Yuri Kinoshita (dining-room light); landscape architect Karen Kiest of Karen Kiest Landscape Architects; and builder David Gray of David Gray Construction.

Gerry and Linda wanted a home of few stairs but loaded with light, and here it is, aglow at sundown. The main living space is glass on both sides, sending light even to the courtyard on the home’s interior. (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)
Gerry and Linda wanted a home of few stairs but loaded with light, and here it is, aglow at sundown. The main living space is glass on both sides, sending light even to the courtyard on the home’s interior. (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)

The result? Everything is just so, from the Ann Sacks blue glass backsplash tiles in the kitchen (the exact color of Elliott Bay) to the front-terrace jump ledge for family cat Carlos, to the powder room’s limestone wall using stones from the Magnusons’ fireplace.

“It’s a thoughtful house,” says Linda of the care taken with what was and what is now.

The totem, meanwhile, restored by an original carver, is back where it’s always been. Much to the relief of the neighborhood.

“So many people asked about it when it was gone, we put up a little sign that said, ‘Don’t worry. The totem pole is up at the Lummi Nation. It’ll be back.’

“Then we kept it covered and had an unveiling ceremony.” The Magnuson family joined neighbors for the unveiling.

As life moves forward, Linda reports only one glitch: “The first few days we lived here I kept saying to Gerry, ‘When do you think the owners are going to come back and kick us out?’ ”