Design High in Downtown Seattle
Designer Nancy Burfiend feathers a downtown condo for a pair of empty nesters.
Sure, Kristie and Jim Wasenmiller love the views from their downtown Seattle condo. The unit is 26 stories up after all, with floor-to-ceiling windows that gaze out over the smooth, shimmering expanse of Elliott Bay. Cars below look like Hot Wheels cruising toy-town streets, and West Seattle’s lights wink hello every night from across the water. But it’s what’s inside—a cozy sanctuary of wall-to-wall comfort—that the homeowners love most.
“We call it our nest because you’re up there in a warm, little place,” Kristie says. “It’s very relaxing.”
Rewind to September 2009, when things weren’t quite as serene. The one-bedroom unit in the Fifteen Twenty-One Second Avenue building was barren, and the Wasenmillers—who live most of the year in Salem, Oregon, and have family in the Seattle area—were looking for a designer who could transform the blank slate into a tranquil pied-à-terre.
Then their son, a project manager for Kirkland-based Bender Custom Construction, put them in touch with a friend who just so happened to work for a local designer: Nancy Burfiend. It was kismet. “When I met Nancy, I knew that she was the one,” Kristie says.
The Wasenmillers requested a “simple” and “restful” space, and Burfiend set about filling the empty condo with a balanced blend of natural touches, neutral hues, and low-key furnishings. Every detail, it seems, was carefully considered for the homeowners’ laid-back lifestyle.
“It was meant to be a very easy getaway for the client,” Burfiend says. “A place for them to just be comfortable and visit family.”
A sink-into-me-soft Baker sofa and pair of curved A. Rudin armchairs in the living room create a cozy seating circle perfect for late-evening chats or marathon reading sessions. Burfiend even accounted for the prospect of nighttime ferry gazing, opting for opaque lamp shades that direct light up and down instead of out. Reflections on the glass, she notes, spoil the views.
In the media room, which had originally been set up as a flexible sleeping space with sliding frosted-glass doors, the design team removed a closet and installed custom cabinets in its place. And for the tricky curved wall behind the sofa, a wedge-shaped console helps align the seating arrangement.
The homeowners had a chance to add their own touches too. Burfiend was searching for a craftsman-made tree-stump coffee table for the living room when the Wasenmillers recalled a friend had several black locust trunks buried beneath a tangle of blackberry bushes on his farm in Springfield.
“He went out with a tractor and dug out the logs and sawed them up,” says Kristie. “I took it home twice to detail the staining and so forth, and he did more of the heavy-duty sanding and final lacquering.” Three months later, their one-of-a-kind piece had a prime place high in the sky.
Other rooms also make a statement with organic elements. In the dining area, a majestic live-edge table—where the ragged bark edge of the wood is left intact—anchors a sextet of contemporary steel-and-beechwood chairs. Grass cloth wallpaper layers on the texture. And a custom torched-fir headboard by Meyer Wells pulls double duty, adding drama and helping conceal a shallow recess behind the bed. As
Kristie enthuses: “The interior—the way Nancy has done it using natural materials and colors and everything—we love it.”