9 Impressive “Before & After” Remodels of 20th-Century Homes in Seattle

These smart Seattle renovations embrace their sylvan settings to the fullest.

Whether revamping a clumsy addition, emphasizing generous views, or building an expansive deck, these Seattle renovations update historic homes that connect with the Pacific Northwest’s beautiful surroundings.

A French Norman–Style Home Ditches a Clumsy Addition  

From the street, this 1927 French Norman–style home retained a lot of its original character, including the brick-clad facade, turret, and leaded glass windows. But around back it was a different story. "The first impression of the home is striking—it’s beautiful and stately," says architect Lisa Chadbourne, who cofounded the Seattle-based firm Chadbourne + Doss with architect Daren Doss. "Unfortunately, a previous owner had constructed a rear addition that cut the house off from the backyard," she continues. "It had to go."

Before: Backyard access was confined to the mudroom entrance, and the home’s sight lines were segmented.

The Chadbourne + Doss architects replaced the addition with a steel-and-glass structure that acts as a modern counterpoint to the home’s historic features, expands the living spaces, and visually connects the interior to the backyard. 

After: The updated addition houses a kitchen and family room on the main level, with the principal bedroom and an adjacent terrace on the second level. Sliding glass doors now allow generous sight lines to the yard, and also convey a lightness to the new structure that contrasts with the character of the old.

A Seattle Midcentury Shakes Off a Wacky Addition 

Designer Prentis Hale of SHED Architecture + Design has worked on a fair number of midcentury homes in the Seattle area, and he prefers to avoid the gut-and-go approach to remodeling. "We don't view it as a tabula rasa," says Hale. "We view it as, How do we get clever and figure out how to solve multiple problems with as few insertions or deletions as we can?" 

Before: A dividing wall chopped up the floor plan and prevented sight lines to Lake Washington.

Before: The kitchen’s separation from the main living area was typical for houses built during this era.

This 1961 home in the Seward Park neighborhood was originally designed by architect George Lucker, and despite having undergone a strange sunroom addition, there was still much to work with. The team removed an awkward wall sequestering the kitchen and swapped out the sunroom with a deck that was original to Lucker’s design. A streamlined palette was instilled, so as not to detract from the lake views.

After: The long volume of the main living area had previously been chopped in half by a wall that enclosed the kitchen on one side. The designers removed the existing wall to improve the connection between the main living areas. They also exposed the home’s beautiful post-and-beam structure, repainting the ceiling beams a dark color to contrast with the natural wood that was preserved.

After: The kitchen was relocated to the rear wall.

A Seattle Midcentury Sloughs Off Its Unsightly Finishes

For a remodel of a 1958 residence in the View Ridge neighborhood, designers Liza Curtiss and Corey Kingston of the local studio Le Whit say it was all about "stripping back the outdated finishes and opening up the living area to allow for the original midcentury vernacular to come through."

Before: The home, built in 1958, resides in the View Ridge neighborhood of Seattle. It had dated finishes but spectacular views and good bones.

During the renovation process, the designers ditched existing finishes such as patterned carpet, mottled beige brick, and yellow floral wallpaper for a simplified palette that better highlights the home’s prized structural elements.

After: The Le Whit designers created an airy first floor by exposing the framework at the ceiling, "almost like the exoskeleton of the home," says Curtiss. The fluted glass panel replaced a solid wall, adding transparency while still supplying structural support.

Clever Changes Bring Out the Charm in a 1920s Seattle Bungalow

This full-scale remodel of a 1921 bungalow by SHED Architecture + Design was done to ease a convoluted interior layout and turn it into a "bohemian hangout pad," says designer Prentis Hale. 

Before: The dining room had an abundance of windows, but many of them were rotted or painted shut. A series of narrow doorways connected the dining room to the kitchen.

The designer focused on making clever tweaks like lengthening the external staircase for a more gracious entry, downsizing the front porch to give more space to the living room fireplace, and weaving in custom cabinetry throughout—all while maintaining the scale of the surrounding neighborhood.

After: The new windows echo the style of the old ones while providing improved energy efficiency. The wood trim syncs with the new casework elsewhere in the home.

A Drab Midcentury Outside Seattle Gets Infused With California Surfer Vibes

The star of this remodeled 1969 Mercer Island home is the kitchen. Before, the stove hood blocked the views, the floor-to-ceiling windows had leaks, and all of the finishes were a dull, brown-gray color. 

Before: "Everything just had a brown-gray feeling to it," Wittman says. "It felt very drab."

Now, a corner of the room opens up to the deck, thanks to a relocated support column and the installation of two large, aluminum LaCantina sliding doors. Marble counters, custom white-oak cabinetry, and terrazzo tile flooring from Ann Sacks offer a brighter palette throughout the space. The views of Lake Washington can now be seen from many vantage points, including from the custom breakfast nook and the kitchen sink.

After: Marble counters, custom white-oak cabinetry, and terrazzo tile flooring brighten up the kitchen. "The light tones offer the right balance of Southern California modernism with the warmer, highly crafted wood carpentry that the Puget Sound region is known for," says Wittman.

A Remodel Brings a Famous Cartoonist’s Former Home Back to Life

When this 1951 Seattle house was built for illustrator Irwin Caplan, it looked like "a very modest home from the street because of the slope," says designer Prentis Hale. "The door was opaque [and] the garage was just sort of in your way," he continues. "But once you walked in, the house really opened up to the landscape."

Before: Floor-to-ceiling windows revealed a stunning view, but the glass was single pane and needed to be replaced.

Hale and Kyle Griesmeyer, both of SHED Architecture + Design, lightly reorganized the interior to better enhance the home’s innate midcentury charm and capture the surrounding views. An expansive glass door trimmed in vertical grain fir now opens the interior to the refreshed deck.

After: The SHED Architecture + Design team made sure to keep the frame around the doors thin, in order to capture views and convey the original midcentury home’s minimal detailing. "All of those details that went into keeping that eastern window wall as open and permeable as possible increased the home’s indoor/outdoor connection and retained the character that we and the owners had responded to in the first place," says Griesmeyer.

A 1950s Midcentury Gem in Seattle Is Revamped Into a Modern Stunner

SHED Architecture + Design worked with the homeowners and interior designer Jennie Gruss to lightly update this 1957 dwelling for modern use. To do so, the team retained original elements from the home—such as the exposed framework and Douglas fir ceiling—then wove in strategic improvements. 

Before: To ensure the midcentury elements within the home were preserved, the team carefully restored the finishes and flow of the property, while also reworking some of the space.

In the kitchen, custom red-laminate cabinets offer a refreshing jolt of color. In the living room, new wall paneling accents the fireplace and extends outside, highlighting the structure.

After: The kitchen now looks out to the big, open deck, which offers forested views.

Two Former Circus Performers Remodel Their Home Like a Refined Big Top

It’s not every day that your clients are former circus performers. SHED Architecture + Design drew from their clients’ unique professional background to modernize a 1975 West Seattle home. After cleaning up the exterior envelope and adding solar panels to achieve zero-energy status, the designers turned to the interior, starting with reimagining the central fireplace as the tent pole around which everything else is organized. 

Before: The remodel of this Seattle home did not change the existing footprint, it just better utilized the existing spaces.

"Figuratively, the centrally located hearth serves as a mast that pushes up a gable-roofed tent to create a large, lofted space," says the firm. "This ‘tent’ shelters the dining room, living room and music room under one big roof."

After: The solid walls that separated the living room from the adjacent dining room were removed, which opens up sight lines between the living room and upper floor.

A Yoga Teacher’s Growing Studio Spurs a Sensational Home Renovation

When yoga teacher Georgina Verza started outgrowing her studio in the basement of her 1967 home in Redmond, Washington, Seattle-based architect Robert Hutchison stepped in to help. 

Before: The lower level featured a small patio near the door to Georgina’s yoga studio.

The ensuing remodel greatly expanded room for Verza’s classes to spill outside onto a sweeping new deck, and also addressed the rest of the living spaces. The team only added 400 square feet to the existing residence, but "you have the feeling that the home is bigger than it actually is," Georgina says.  

After: Stepped decks now run the length of the house, connecting both sides of the building visually and physically.

After: The extended foundation made room for an indoor/outdoor practice space with bifold doors that lead to a new yoga deck.


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