A Sunset Hill Family Chooses Renovation Over Wrecking Ball

The Youngs shrink their living space to be in the neighborhood they love.

By Karin Vandraiss September 24, 2019 Published in the October 2019 issue of Seattle Met

Image: Haris Kenjar

Jen and Brodie Young handed more than 70 envelopes to area homeowners, hoping the letters within—complete with four-by-six photos of their smiling family—would compel someone to consider their offer. The couple had fallen in love with the westernmost point of Sunset Hill, with its sweeping views and taste of sea salt on the breeze. They hoped a personal appeal would help secure a spot in the neighborhood. 

The Youngs had all but given up when they finally found the run-down bungalow selling as a teardown. An architect drew up plans that would give the family of four more room—the home they planned to demolish was nearly half the size of their craftsman in Phinney Ridge. But something held them back.

They deliberated for nearly a year. Then they shelved the rebuild and asked designer Heidi Caillier if she was up for a challenge.   

“Living within a smaller footprint felt more aligned with our values,” says Jen. Downsizing just as their family had grown was intimidating, but so was creating a house from scratch while raising two young children. “We decided to stick with what we had, and stay married,” she says, joking…mostly.

They gutted the house, preserving as many original elements as possible. Caillier, who had given the Youngs’ last home a modern update, helped Jen dig into details. Her personal style had since evolved, and the pair landed on rich neutrals, walnut, and an emphasis on comfort and creative use of limited square footage. “She was still drawn to modern spaces with clean lines, but also to funky layered textiles,” says Caillier.

The designer installed a cozy built-in sectional with storage for the family’s game collection and repurposed furniture where possible, reupholstering two midcentury chairs and installing a striking vintage Serge Mouille swing arm sconce.

“It’s a privilege to only keep things we use and love,” Jen says. “I’m grateful we’re able to do that.”

Tips from the Home That Almost Wasn't

1. Here for the Long Haul: When you can, invest in quality pieces that can be passed along or repurposed rather than discarded.

2. Antiquing 2.0: Etsy is now a hub for antique dealers of all stripes (and price points), but if you’re leaning high-end, online marketplace 1stdibs is worth perusing.

3. Everything in Its Place: If space is tight, consider furniture with built-in storage.

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