Every day on his way to work, John Kucher gets some fresh air by rolling out the front door, down the sidewalk and around to the back door — his office.
The little commercial brick building does nothing to give itself away.
Single story. Nosed up to the sidewalk. Eyelids closed with storefront windows cloaked in blinds.
But the front door, etched glass with three small circles top, middle and bottom, is a tipoff that behind this poker-faced facade lurks a big smirk. This live-work space, the contemporary reinvention of an old building that began life as a drugstore in 1916, is all about the live. The dimples in the door are peepholes for those who live inside: top for Tina Jacobsen, middle for her husband, John Kucher, and, the bottom for their cats, Thor and Kate.
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“I told John that I’d love a kitchen, I’d love a living room, I’d love a bathroom,” said Jacobsen, who married Kucher in 2007.
It was a time of new beginnings. The remodel was on.
Kucher, who served as executive director of a Seattle nonprofit development company and board member of On The Boards theater, was well used to the rabbit warren of office spaces divided by a hallway. He has worked out of this building since the 1980s and lived here with his wife, gallerist extraordinaire Linda Farris, until her death in 2005.
On a trip to Africa in May 2006 Kucher remet Jacobsen. (It’s a long story. Friends talked him into the trip. She was there to celebrate her 50th birthday. Everybody got to talking; turns out Kucher had dated her 35 years earlier, in high school.)
Kucher and Jacobsen have been together ever since. Started the remodel in December 2006. Moved in the following September, two days after they got married.
Kucher called upon architect Tyler Engle of Tyler Engle Architects PS to create an open, loft-like space for living, but maintain work places, too. The result: 1,500 square feet with one bedroom, 2 ½ baths and two offices. Engle did it by reorganizing spaces from public (the open living-dining-kitchen interior “courtyard”) to private (pocket, pivoting and panel doors redefine rooms, conceal media equipment). Her office is in one of those storefront windows, his is in the very back.
Engle calls a bar defined by horizontal spaced ipe boards “the shipping container,” and it houses the service functions of kitchen and powder room. This bar separates the original storefront from the “courtyard.” The master bedroom and bath both draw natural light from the impressive 8-by-12-foot central skylight by way of long clerestory windows.
Talking to Engle about his goal for Kucher and Jacobsen’s home brings up words like simple, efficient, honest and flexible. Polished concrete floors speak to the building’s commercial past. The radiant heat to the comfort of the present. The look is made complete with bottle-green matte-glass tile, blackened-steel plate, precast concrete countertops and off-white walls to showcase the couple’s terrific art collection.
“What we did was pretty much demolish every interior surface,” Engle says.
Now, every day on his way to work, Kucher gets some fresh air by rolling out the front door, down the sidewalk and around to the back door — his office.
“I like to commute,” he says with a grin. It’s funny, but he means it, too. “The sidewalk is my ramp,” he says, thumping his hand on the wheel of the chair he travels in. This is the way Kucher wanted it, the short flight of interior stairs to his office forcing him outside.
“And it really feels like he’s going off to work,” says Jacobsen. She is curled up on the white Minotti sofa, under their piece of the sky, surrounded by world-class art in their great great-room.
Rebecca Teagarden is assistant editor of Pacific Northwest magazine. Benjamin Benschneider is a magazine staff photographer.