Color (and pups) abound in Lauren and Travis Essl's home. Photograph courtesy Michele Equitz / Lauren Essl
The sloped roofline grabbed Lauren Essl’s attention, even from 2,000 miles away. Essl’s husband, Travis, was camped out at a Bothell Residence Inn for a new job while she wrapped up their life back in Fort Worth and surveyed Seattle’s nerve-wracking real estate landscape from afar. The 1953 home, on a corner lot in Madrona, had but one gentle angle to its silhouette. This snippet of midcentury modern geometry stands out in an older neighborhood of bungalows and craftsman homes, much as two newly arrived Texans with a yen for color might stand out in a sea of understated Gore-Tex. To Lauren, the particular architecture even felt like a bridge between their previous life and the one about to begin: “This isn’t classically mid-mod; it’s a Pacific Northwest spin on it.”
Still, the dark, dated rooms needed some love. In 2018, their contractor took the home’s interior down to the studs. The Essls realigned a staircase, moved a few doors and walls, swizzled some windows, turned the garage into a rec room. They wanted the result to be calm and white, a gallery of sorts, says Lauren, “where we can bring in the color with our furniture and our art.”
Now, white paint prevails inside and out, save the occasional splash of bathroom tile (like a corner of the master dubbed “the pink potty nook” thanks to a bold injection of rosy pattern). But the overall palette didn’t stay muted for long.
The Essls’ living room crackles with color. An oversize wood Dairy Queen sundae that Texan artist Camp Bosworth carved by hand sits near Ashley Longshore’s glittering multimedia portrait of Peggy Guggenheim, the prolific art collector and big personality (“my favorite woman in history,” says Lauren). Over the years, the homeowner has made a sport of finding new art or artists, sidestepping trends to find what speaks to her: “The kookier, the weirder, the better.” The Essls made their first significant painting purchase in 2015, a seemingly banal landscape that artist Wayne White emblazoned with a happily unexpected bit of profanity. It hangs over their bed.
Their subsequent finds brighten all 1,500 square feet, from a custom collage of the couple’s three dogs to a large gold moon-shaped encaustic by local artist Jennifer Ament that waxes in the dining nook. More paintings sit, carefully, in a closet, in need of additional wall space. Essl even curates the contents of their unabashedly faux silver Christmas tree, scouring eBay, antique stores, and Chairish for vintage ornaments, especially the brand Shiny Brite.
Outside, they traded stucco for wood siding. It’s white, like the interior, but the Essls decided early on to paint the front door Benjamin Moore’s Sweet 16 Pink—a preview of the art rainbow within. It’s also a conversation piece with neighbors, many of whom stop to express their gratitude that these new owners didn’t go the typical Seattle route: knock this house down to build something bigger.
“I was just so taken by what this place could be,” says Lauren, who finds a particular joy in stewarding an old home into a cool new future. “Hopefully the next owner likes pink.”
Where to Find Art That Moves You
The most visual of the social media platforms is an obvious fit with art.
The online furniture marketplace also has a mix of original art and prints.
The app’s dizzying array of styles, artists, and media can suck you in for hours.
The excellent Seattle Art Fair will return to the Lumen Field Event Center in July 2022.
Their email lists offer a trove of discovery. Lauren Essl likes Zinc Gallery locally. “They’re in line with what’s in the inside of my head.”
“It doesn’t have to be a living artist,” Lauren points out.