Douglas Wood and Johanne LeBlanc fell in love with a newly renovated home on North Capitol Hill with stupendous views and a perfect location...

Share story

Douglas Wood and Johanne LeBlanc fell in love with a newly renovated home on North Capitol Hill with stupendous views and a perfect location midway between their two jobs. After a year dating across the border, they had decided to move in together, LeBlanc emigrating from Canada and starting a new job as a radiologist at Group Health.

They had house-hunted for a while, searching for something that was move-in ready. Finally they found it. And then they got cold feet.

“It was too much all at once,” remembers Wood, a surgeon at the University of Washington. “We decided that we should probably rent.”

Unbeknownst to them, the house didn’t sell, and the owners decided to rent it out for a year. Wood and LeBlanc answered a rental ad thinking they were coming to see another house on the block. When they arrived, they didn’t even need to walk through before signing up.

They test-drove the house for a year and purchased it in 1994. They got married, had Sophia and Emily, and the years flew by. Surfaces were no longer fresh, and the list of things that needed fixing was growing. At 2,300 square feet, the house wasn’t small, but they were using every inch of it. They wanted to add a third floor, finish the basement, overhaul the rest. But with two children and two jobs, neither was excited about the disruption and cost involved. Occasionally they found themselves at open houses trying to decide if it was time to move.

But looking at other houses just made them appreciate theirs more. And after their financial adviser reassured them that any improvements would be money well spent, they decided to start planning. First an architect friend of a friend came to look and “quoted us what was a reasonable amount of money, but probably not a realistic amount of money” to actually do the job, LeBlanc says with a laugh. Another year passed before a contractor came over and gave them a “much more appropriate number,” which threw Wood off, and they put the project on hold again.

A couple more years went by. Then one night at an auction for their daughters’ school, they won a three-hour consultation with an architect. Steve Bull came for a walk-through, and by the time he left, Wood and LeBlanc were ready to go.

The renovation touched every floor, and today the house measures 3,700 square feet — the added space from a new third floor and finished basement.

With a corner office for Wood, a comfortable seating area with TV, another area for crafts and homework and a spacious deck, the third-floor addition is family-centric, which surprised a lot of people who thought they should have put their master suite up there. But they were looking for a wide-open, light-filled space that took as much advantage of the views as possible, and they wanted the space to belong to all of them.

Today if the family isn’t upstairs, it is probably downstairs. In the basement, an interior wall was removed and the original wood beam in the ceiling reinforced to create one big media and workout room. A concrete wall was replaced with French doors to the garden, giving them the unusual benefit of a basement with a fabulous view. A small guest suite was added, too.

In the rest of the original house, wiring and lighting were updated, floors were refinished, walls painted and a new deck added off the master bedroom.

Now the house feels fresh and roomy. And Wood and LeBlanc find themselves once again in love with their newly renovated home on North Capitol Hill with stupendous views and a perfect location.

Leora Y. Bloom writes about beautiful homes in and around Seattle. Her e-mail is Benjamin Benschneider is a Pacific Northwest magazine staff photographer.