This Seattle house high above Lake Washington once belonged to illustrator Irwin Caplan. Now it blends refreshed midcentury character with a seamless addition.
The cliché goes that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover—and the same could be said for the front facade of this 1951 home in the Laurelhurst neighborhood of Seattle. The low-slung street front is mostly defined by a carport—but the interior tells a different story, with a wall of glass overlooking Lake Washington.
The stunning views were a welcome surprise to Prentis Hale and Kyle Griesmeyer of SHED Architecture + Design. It looks like "a very humble, modest home from the street because of the slope—and the door was opaque, with the garage just sort of in your way," says Hale. "Once you walked in, the house really opened up to the landscape."
The house was originally built for illustrator Irwin Caplan, known for the "Famous Last Words" comic strip in the Saturday Evening Post. The residence was recently bought from Caplan’s estate by new owners, who found that it ultimately needed both cosmetic and functional upgrades. A renovation led by SHED lightly reorganized the interior so that the home’s midcentury character can shine.
For starters, a 1958 rear addition had reshaped the main living area in an odd way, forcing the fireplace into a circulation path and removing the hearth from any natural furniture grouping. SHED was reluctant to remove the fireplace, seeing as how it was an original feature, but in addition to being located in an awkward spot, the chimney hemmed in the kitchen behind it. The team removed the hearth to create one fluid living area with a kitchen, dining area, and comfortable seating.
Before: Living Room
After: Living Room
One of the main goals of the remodel "was to liberate the kitchen from its completely closed-off corner of the house and integrate it with the dining and living room," says Hale. Once the hearth was removed, it was replaced with an extensive peninsula edged by a fir-trimmed post.
A support beam installed in the ceiling was painted the same color as the exterior window trim to subtly connect inside and out. A new skylight over the kitchen’s center aisle "creates this one glowing part of the plan throughout the day," says Griesmeyer, and provides a pleasing focal point.
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Before: Dining Room
After: Dining Room
Before: Guest Bathroom
After: Guest Bathroom
After straightening out the rear facade at the living areas, the architects extended the footprint of the master suite at the upper level, which created space for a guest room/office below. They brought this new addition to the available roofline for a seamless look.
"We take stock and form our own opinions about what is strong about the house, and then we try to push it—to amplify it in a way," says Hale of the firm’s approach. "Much of it is to not mess up a very nice house. Our goal is to figure out how to seamlessly integrate our work into the structure."