How a Denny-Blaine Craftsman Became a Colorful Pet Project

A photographer’s home makeover brings an eclectic vision to her childhood stomping grounds.

By Karin Vandraiss November 5, 2020 Published in the Winter 2020 issue of Seattle Met

It’s All Relative The scale and context of a space are important considerations when choosing a light fixture; save the giant lamp for the biggest room.

Jessica Cantlin, whose wardrobe is as bright as her home.

Jessica Cantlin hadn’t been inside her childhood neighbor’s house since she was in middle school. But when her mother mentioned that the family two doors down was moving, Cantlin found herself touring the three-story, pitched-roof craftsman, looking past the all-taupe interior and carpeted bathroom to a nearly perfect structural footprint. They were under contract within the week, and in 2011 Cantlin and her husband, Alan, moved their family of three (soon to be four) to her old neighborhood of Denny-Blaine, a sliver wedged between Washington Park, Madrona, and Madison Park. They made do with a fresh coat of paint back then, and saved major updates for down the road. 

Eight years later, the range abruptly stopped working, the dishwasher failed, and the sinks in the master bathroom followed suit. Cantlin knew it was time for a face-lift. The focus would be the master bedroom, bathroom, and closet, plus the kitchen; Cantlin, a landscape photographer and occasional travel writer, tapped interior designer Leah Steen to help.

The two share a workspace in Madrona and a convention-defying aesthetic, favoring vibrant palettes and brazen patterns. “I push the limits of color and don’t commit to a particular style—if I like it, I’ll find a way to weave it in,” says Cantlin. “Leah and I are kindred spirits in that way.”

Steen embraced the chance to bring her friend’s vision to life. “I don’t often have the luxury of knowing the client outside of the project,” she says, “let alone being able to walk over to their desk and show them the amazing thing I just found.”

The result is a quirky space bedecked in jewel tones, with splashes of red, pink, navy, and teal throughout. They upgraded appliances and cabinetry, replaced light and bath fixtures, and, in the kitchen, installed a custom white oak island countertop beneath vintage acrylic pendant lights. The more esoteric the furnishings, the better, from a papier-mache closet ceiling light handcrafted in Mexico to teal and peach cement tiles in the master bathroom made in Marrakesh.

Updates crept into adjacent areas along the way, like the pink and orange giant tiger wallpaper in the family room, not to be outdone by the baboons and iguanas perched in tropical foliage in the bedroom. In January of last year, the pair put on the final touches—at least for now.

“The sky was the limit, in terms of inspiration,” says Cantlin. “But I can always come up with something new to wallpaper.”

Filed under
Show Comments