Before & After: A French Norman–Style Home Ditches a Clumsy Addition

Before & After: A French Norman–Style Home Ditches a Clumsy Addition

By Melissa Dalton
In Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, a stately home with storybook appeal trades a clunky addition for one that’s open and outdoor-oriented.

From the street, this 1927 French Norman–style home looks like something out of a storybook, complete with a brick facade, turret, and leaded glass windows. It sits on a generous lot—over a half-acre in size—in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. However, an ill-conceived addition from the 1990s did more to separate the home from its incredible backyard than meld the two together. 

"The first impression of the home is striking—it’s beautiful and stately. The grounds are parklike," says architect Lisa Chadbourne, one half of the firm Chadbourne + Doss, cofounded with architect Daren Doss. "Unfortunately, a previous owner had constructed an addition at the rear of the home that cut the house off from the backyard. It had to go." 

The French Norman–style home was built in 1927 and sits on over half an acre in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood. The architects preserved much of its original detail in a 2018 remodel.

Before: Rear Addition

Before: The previous addition (denoted by the white siding) held a bedroom on the main floor and a dressing room and roof deck above. A mudroom had been tacked on to the corner as well.

Before: Backyard access was confined to the mudroom entrance, and the sightlines were segmented. 

After: Rear Addition

For the new addition, new brick syncs with the old, while blackened steel provides a modern counterpoint to the historic facade.

The addition houses a kitchen and family room on the main level, and the master bedroom and roof deck above. Sliding glass doors now allow generous sightlines to the yard, and also convey a lightness to the new architecture that contrasts with the character of the old.

The architects started by keeping the entire front of the home intact and preserving important, historic interior details like the turret stair, leaded glass windows, and mahogany trim and casework. "The primary challenge of this project was to marry a new modern addition to the historic home," says Chadbourne. 

To do so, they envisioned the new addition as "a glass-wrapped conservatory." Its materiality takes cues from the original while standing firm in its own era. "The new addition ties into the existing house with brick, concrete, and metal panels that reference the flat-roofed stucco dormers on the existing home," says Chadbourne. "The existing historic craftsmanship was thoroughly refurbished, and the new details represent a modern craftsmanship of our time and place."   

After: Hallway, Living, and Dining Rooms

Much of the original detail throughout the house was retained and refurbished, such as the barrel-vaulted ceilings, metal railing, and woodwork in the front hall. 

In the living room, a new faceted, blackened-steel fireplace surround is juxtaposed with leaded glass windows. "The existing portions of the house offer more formal and internal spaces for cozy entertaining and lounging," says Chadbourne.   

De La Espada Solo dining chairs by Neri & Hu surround a table that was custom-built in Shanghai for the owners.

In the previous floor plan, the dining room was closed off from the kitchen and accessed by swinging doors. Paying special attention to how the old and new spaces meet, the architects widened the opening between the old dining room and new kitchen, and installed a plaster arch that reflects the home’s historic character. 

At the rear of the house, the architects streamlined the floor plan— enlarging the kitchen, cleaning up cramped circulation, and instituting walls of glass that allow the owners to gaze into the extensive backyard. In contrast to the inward-focused front of the house, "The new addition offers wide, open views and openings to the backyard and creates informal spaces that allow for seamless activity indoors and out," says Chadbourne.

Special attention was given to thresholds where old meets new, and a limited palette (including walnut, marble, white plaster, and blackened steel) makes the scheme cohesive throughout. 

Before: Kitchen

Before: The kitchen was a tight space and the views to the exterior were limited.

After: Kitchen and Family Room

The expansive new kitchen has a generous sliding glass door to the yard and cabinetry is outfitted in plain-sawn walnut. "The wood is close in tone to the existing mahogany woodwork, but it has a more expressive grain," says Chadbourne. "We used it at all new cabinetry in flat, flush panels. The walnut’s grain character is the design element rather than the cabinetry construction details."  

The counters and backsplash are Imperial white marble, and the hood vent received a custom metal surround.

The sink wall faces south, and the architects sought to bring in natural light while filtering the view to the driveway. Their solution was to create a "living screen" with solid walnut shelves, suspended with blackened-steel frames, that showcase glassware and plants while allowing space for a solar roll shade. Custom, laser-cut steel glass racks are mounted under the lowest shelf. 

The project team excavated a portion of the backyard to create a sunken patio that seamlessly meets the grade of the interior living spaces. The interior flooring is large-scale honed basalt tile (24" x 48" in size), which becomes 24" x 48" flamed basalt tile at the exterior patio.

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Upstairs, the architects relocated the master bedroom so it now overlooks the backyard. The master bathroom was saved from a jarring layout, and the old master bedroom was converted to a cozy dressing room. The enlarged roof deck can now be shared by two bedrooms.

Now, the home offers varied settings for lots of different activities, whether that's a cozy morning in front of the living room fireplace, or a big gathering with friends at the back of the house. "We were excited about creating environments for different moods," says Chadbourne of the renovation.   

Existing oak flooring was custom stained to match the preserved mahogany woodwork.

Before: Master Bathroom

Before: The architects streamlined the bathroom layout.

After: Master Bathroom

The focal point is a deep soaking tub clad in marble. Abundant walnut cabinetry and a marble counter adhere to the predominant material palette. The flooring is stained oak. 

The wet room has a venetian plaster wall finish and 2" marble hex tile for a backsplash. The floors are also plaster.

Before: Master Bedroom

Before: The former master bedroom became the new dressing room.

After: Dressing Room

The architects removed two small closets (necessitating supports in their place) and added a new fireplace surround that mirrors those downstairs.

After: Master Bedroom

The glass-enclosed master bedroom with views to the backyard. A green roof helps to further merge inside and out.

After: Backyard

The firm worked with landscape design company Alchemie to plan the landscaping and create a variety of seating areas throughout the property. 

A former playhouse is now a guesthouse with a bathroom.

Past Present House existing floor plans

Past Present House new floor plans 

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