LIKE MANY EYE-CATCHING, contemporary Northwest dwellings, Amely Wurmbrand’s Shoreline home thrives on a clean layout and the beauty of its natural surroundings. Considering she is both an artist and interior designer who uses decorative wall tile as a staple of her work, it’s no wonder the place is a visual playground. The kitchen backsplash, to take one dramatic example, is a kaleidoscopic mosaic of glittering tiles in tans, grays, blues, and ivory, with an occasional splash of red. From a distance it suggests a big city at night—random clusters of light bursting here, blue water pockets pooling over there. Up close it’s an indecipherable puzzle of multisize circles and squares. Either way, there’s little to no order or rationality to the canvas. Running your fingers along it feels like caressing the pebbles of a shallow stream.
“I like a lot of texture in my work, and tile can be very artistic and can add interest,” Wurmbrand said, rifling through her crates of tile samples—one slightly kitsch with a glass finish, some raised in the middle, many with busy but perfectly coordinated palettes of color. “Tile is the jewelry of the project.”
In 1997, when Wurmbrand and her husband Craig Rosenberg, a software engineer, purchased the flat-roofed 1962 four-bedroom house, the original, crammed kitchen shared “a double-wide kind of rec room” with the dining area, while the living room hid behind a massive sandstone fireplace barrier that blocked the flow. It just didn’t make sense.
After living in the house for a few years Wurmbrand and Rosenberg began a two-stage renovation project: an interior remodel and the addition of a whole new wing. In her design practice, Wurmbrand asks clients to write an essay detailing what they like and dislike about their home, and also what they hope to get out of a remodel. Had Wurmbrand written one for herself, the midcentury’s floor plan would no doubt top her “dislike” list. She and her husband considered multiple designs and, in the end, made a radical choice. They reversed the layout. The living room became the kitchen. Today, two oblong blocks converge at a 90-degree angle. One rectangle used to be the whole house; the other now contains Wurmbrand’s workspace and Rosenberg’s lower-level studio. Each is flanked by generous windows that take in dense forestry and startling views of Puget Sound.
They kept the big stone fireplace edifice—so Brady Bunch—but trimmed one side considerably (while elongating the other) to accommodate better traffic flow and a growing family. Next they sandblasted that wall’s white paint to reveal the underlying Wilkerson stone, a material from Eastern Washington popular in the 1960s. The view from the main entryway reveals an open floor plan with a seamless flow through kitchen, dining, and living areas.