A Trio of Seattle Kitchen Remodels

Three families take different ­approaches to updating kitchens in older homes.

By Giselle Smith November 28, 2012 Published in the December 2012 issue of Seattle Met

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The modern kitchen (#2)

Image: Will Austin

In recent decades, the kitchen has shifted from workaday cubbyhole to the appliance-filled center of modern family life. And while bringing a kitchen into the twenty-first century can cost as much as a fully loaded new car, owners usually recoup most of these expenses when they eventually sell their homes. As these local remodels can attest, the results can be stately, streamlined, or striking.

1. The Family-Friendly Kitchen

After purchasing their Capitol Hill home in 2005, Eve and John and their three children coexisted with an ugly kitchen for more than five years before launching a major remodel. The couple didn’t want to make their 3,200-square-foot home much bigger—they just wanted to make it work better for their family. To accomplish this, they hired JAS Design Build and worked with designer Kim Clements. The old kitchen was gutted and expanded to overtake an adjoining bathroom. The remodel also pushed out the house’s footprint five feet to add a family dining area with a kitchen table and storage.

Now light streams through windows on three sides. One of them folds open—John calls it the “hot dog window”—to create a pass-through to the backyard barbecue. A work and study area has three desks so parents can oversee the kids’ computer use and John can help with homework while he cooks. “It keeps us together as a family,” Eve says. 

In melding the 1919 Colonial Revival–style home with the needs of her clients, Clements worried less about being period correct than creating a livable space: “I’m not a historicist.” 

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Doing the Math
Seattle homeowners who undertake a minor kitchen remodel—at an average cost of $20,633—can expect to recoup 89.4% of their expenses when they eventually sell their homes, according to Remodeling magazine’s Cost vs. Value Report for 2011–12. A major remodel runs $62,502 and returns 77.4 percent of its cost.

Image: Will Austin

Details and materials in the new kitchen are a blend of eras. The latch and hinges on the new pantry cupboard came from John’s grandmother’s 1904 icebox, and the lighting fixtures are salvaged and restored pieces from Mary Davis Vintage Lighting in La Conner. The family was so charmed by the old kitchen’s pie safe—a cupboard with vents to help its contents cool—that Clements included a smaller version in the new design. Honed marble flooring will wear and acquire stains as it ages. “We don’t want it to look the same in 10 years, but don’t want it to look worn out,” Clements explains of her choices. “I like not being able to tell what’s old and what’s new.”  

2. The Modern Kitchen

Creating a family space for their two sons was also important to Lena and Maher Saba when they remodeled their Madison Park home, but they had another primary goal.

Lena loves modern design, but in 2009 the Sabas purchased a 1929 Dutch Colonial designed by noted Seattle architect Edwin Ivey. Attracted to the home’s location and view of Lake Washington, the Sabas started working with architect Lane Williams of Coop 15. Tearing it down to build something new crossed the couple’s minds, but they never really considered it an option. Williams observed the solid construction and good bones and advised them to remodel instead. 

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Stately and Streamlined
“The kitchen was so bad, they didn’t even show a picture of it with the listing for the house,” recalls the homeowner of the original kitchen. 

Image: Will Austin

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Cabinets are made of glossy white laminate and Plexwood, a finely laminated plywood from the Netherlands. Countertops are marble and stainless steel.

Image: Will Austin

The old kitchen wasn’t tiny, but it was closed off from the rest of the house. Williams’s design removed interior walls and pushed the west wall out by about four feet, adding floor-to-ceiling windows to the new, thoroughly modern kitchen. Cabinets are glossy white laminate and Plexwood, finely laminated plywood from the Netherlands; countertops are marble and stainless steel. A niche for the espresso machine and a cupboard with cubbyholes for each family member can be concealed behind sleek doors for a cleaner look.

The new kitchen is much better for entertaining and flows seamlessly into the adjacent dining room, which is anchored by a sculptural steel shelving unit designed by metal artist Adam McNae.  

 From the street, the home looks relatively true to Ivey’s 1929 plans (one of which hangs in the new entryway). “We wanted that double take,” Lena says of the contrast between the exterior and the “completely modern” interior. However an updated threshold offers a subtle clue to what awaits within.  

3. The Artist’s Kitchen

Like most 1920s-era homes, Cathy Sarkowsky’s kitchen had been through a few prior remodels, including one that concealed the original crown molding with a dropped ceiling. An artist and collector, Sarkowsky turned to interior designer Janice Viekman in 2010 to update her kitchen and reflect her needs as an avid cook and the mother of a 15-year-old son.

Having collaborated on past projects, the two wanted to combine Viekman’s ability to maximize architectural integrity, interest, and functionality with Sarkowsky’s artful taste and a love of vibrant color. Though the duo took pains to match the look of the original leaded glass windows, oak floors, molding, and painted cabinetry, they made no attempt to hide stainless steel appliances such as a Sub-Zero refrigerator and Wolf range. 

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Cooking in Color
A custom paint job and a seventeenth-century chandelier add color to a previously nondescript kitchen.

In the adjacent dining room, custom paintwork by still-life artist John Rizzotto added bold, vertical stripes in layers of reds and oranges. In the kitchen, he created a subtle, elongated harlequin pattern in shades of chartreuse, yellow, and green.

For more workspace in the kitchen, Viekman installed an 11-foot-long chocolate maker’s table from the early 1900s, made of Belgian bluestone. She added functionality in the form of drawers and electrical outlets wired through the floor.

The dramatic counter cried out for an equally dramatic chandelier—how handy, then, that Sarkowsky collects beautiful and intriguing light fixtures. After an exhaustive search, she found an Italian Baroque chandelier from the seventeenth century, more than three feet tall and 39 inches across. Originally designed to hold candles, it is made of painted wrought iron with elaborate scrolls, flowers, finials, and coils. Glass-fronted cabinets hold Sarkowsky’s collection of colored glass goblets, designed to look original to the 1924 home.

Updating the kitchen was a “life-changing” decision, says Sarkowsky, one that transformed the room into the hub of the house. “Now I think I have the kitchen that should have been in the house in the first place.”  


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