A Washington designer puts a Zen twist on retro style.
When Seattle-based designer Garret Werner of Garret Cord Werner, Architects & Interior Designers tackled the remodel of a midcentury rambler in Clyde Hill, Washington, the goal was to celebrate what was working about the streamlined style while making it a fit for his contemporary clients. “They had long loved mid-century architecture and wanted to keep the character of the original structure,” he says. “That said, there were a few things we could do to make this house even better.”
The owners, Valerie Wasserman and Scott Moore, appreciated their home’s clean lines so much they lived in it for three years with their trio of children before embarking on the project. That stint gave them knowledge about what was working—and what wasn’t.
Intuiting their aims, Werner reinvented the layout to open up key rooms to the newly transformed backyard and spectacular vistas of Lake Washington. Pre-remodel, the kitchen was gloomy, dark, and closed off from the living area and the master bedroom was situated at the front of the house, away from the view. Werner removed walls to open up the kitchen to the living space and its scenic outlook; moved the master bedroom to the back of the house, where the landscaped pool is visible through long banks of windows; and installed a stairway with glass railings and open-tread steps to better let light flow from the top of the three-level structure (home to the master suite) to the lowest level (where the family room resides).
You might look at the house and wonder, ‘is it old or is it new?’
In mid-century architecture, efficient galley kitchens were all the rage. The new kitchen is an enlarged galley style but with a low-maintenance mind-set. “Having elegant, easy-care elements was an absolute must for these clients,” Werner says. An example is the Cambria stone used for the kitchen and bathroom countertops, a material selected because of its natural appearance and durability.
Throughout the house, classic finishes and contemporary surfaces mingle. Werner preserved the original cedar ceilings, simply sandblasting them to achieve a fresher, lighter color. But new elements such as a steel-clad fireplace and acid-stained steel framing add distinctive, of-today notes. As does the Zen element that pervades the remodel. Bringing a sense of serenity to the home are the Japanese-inspired gardens at the front of the home, which incorporate maple trees and raked gravel, an ofuro-esque soaking tub in the master bathroom, and a flowing water feature that spills into the lap pool out back.
Wasserman and Moore brought some iconic pieces to the interior—such as an Eames lounge chair, Carl Hansen CH07 chair, and Eero Saarinen table—but in spite of their deep respect for the style, the couple did not want to live in the equivalent of a mid-century museum.
Noting the curvaceous custom sofa in the living room and the art deco styling of the headboard in the master bedroom, Werner says, “They already had a nice collection of mid-century items, but we mixed in a range of styles and eras to keep it interesting. We were after timeless.”
Werner describes the home as an attractive cipher that suits his clients perfectly. “All of the character remains, so much so that it can be difficult to discern where the remodel begins,” he says. “I think that you might look at the house and wonder, ‘Is it old or is it new?’ It’s a delightful mystery.”