Unabashedly Modern

Realtor Confessions: Heidi Ward of 360 Modern

Seattle's queen of modern homes talks powerful feelings, thoughtful design, and cozy blankets.

By Sarah Anne Lloyd December 16, 2021

360 MODERN is the kind of content marketing genius that most agencies dream of— part modern design trove, part real estate agency—and much of it comes from Heidi Ward. In addition to her expertise as an agent, Ward also brings a wealth of architectural knowledge, market analysis, and, most importantly, devotion to home-seekers. She and her husband, Rick, a modern home builder and marketing pro, have been an architectural power duo for a couple of decades, lending their complementary strengths to both 360 Modern and modern home construction and renovation.

While Ward has a particular affinity for midcentury modern (don't we all), she’s also an advocate for thoughtful, present-day, modern design—homes built for people to live in, not just as investments.

“Treating this transactionally just seems so bizarre to me because we're talking about people's domicile,” she says. “This isn't a pair of shoes. There's so many other layers of emotion. I've been in some form of sales my entire adult life, and this isn't anything like any other sort of ‘selling’ I've ever done, because how could it be?”

Over a long phone call—during which she was, apparently, parked outside of Magnolia Garden Center—we talked about thoughtful design, midcentury nostalgia, getting cozy, and our mutual love for pink bathrooms.

Broker Details 

Who: Heidi Ward of 360 Modern and Windermere Real Estate
Years in the business: 21
Elevator pitch: I never lose sight of the fact that it's not a real estate transaction. I'm dealing with human beings who are engaging in the process of buying and/or selling their domicile. It's so important to me to always think about the humans behind the transaction. And that is just so much a part of what drives my interaction with people—and I love pairing up with other folks who appreciate beauty and good design as much as I do. When I can tie that all up in a little bow, that's as good as it gets.

When she fell in love with midcentury modern design

My grandma Winnie was just like a caricature out of a Mad Men episode, with the cigarette pants, smoking a cigarette. I just have such a vision of her with the cat-eye glasses. She was just a force of nature. Out of anybody in my entire extended family, my grandma was the only one that I would think of that had any sort of style. She had all this really kitschy midcentury modern cat art; she had some really cool Danish modern pieces. Her home itself was not architecturally significant, but she just really rocked that vibe. And I have just always been extremely influenced by that look and affected by that aesthetic since I was a very young child.

How climate informed the Pacific Northwest’s unique midcentury style

The really steeply pitched roofs, big overhanging eaves, all of that comes directly out of our climate. A lot of those [local midcentury modern architects] were the original green builders because they were thinking in terms of using passive solar. Those big deep eaves, they serve a purpose in terms of capturing solar. The Palm Springs modern has a very different feel and they use different materials than we do up here for obvious reasons. Stucco, not so good in a really wet environment. Not ideal. Does really, really well in the desert, turns out. So you see a lot more cedar up here, you see a lot more wood. You see a lot more of the materials that are more abundant. That informed the design over time.

On honoring a home’s roots—midcentury or not

I implore people: If they do happen to get their hands on a midcentury home that has some interesting modern attributes, like deep eaves—maybe it's got a really cool fireplace, maybe it's got floor-to-ceiling windows, a cool roof line—and if it hasn't already been unfortunately mucked with along the way, then please try to be thoughtful about what you do to it. That’s my guidance is being aesthetically reverent to the home's roots. Rick and I modernized a Tudor here in Magnolia years ago, and we were very thoughtful about it. We were very surgical in what we did and what we didn't do, because we felt that we had an obligation to honor the original roots of that house. We wanted to put our spin on it, but we didn't just go in and do what we would have otherwise done in a house that looked a different way on the outside. It's the same thing. It's that sense of, I guess, having some appreciation for history and honoring the roots of the house…. What I caution people to do with any house that they buy is just be thoughtful.

Get to know the home's personality a little bit, get to know its quirks. How can you take something that initially looks like something you might think you would wanna just tear out, and how do you look at that and go, Well, how do I lean into that and work around it and maybe turn it into something cool?

When she sees an immaculate, well-loved house

I love me a pink bathroom, especially if it's the softer pink with the soft gray, and it's all in the house that has been so loved by maybe one or only two owners. It's just immaculate and you can just feel the love and care wafting off of it. Sometimes it literally makes me feel like I wanna cry…. When I can feel the love over the years coming off of a home, that hits me every time. 

How midcentury limitations became strengths

[During the midcentury era], you only had so many plumbing and light fixture choices back then. I think that the limit of choices was itself what fed a lot of the creativity, whereas now there's this infinite array of choices, and yet when you look at these cookie-cutter houses, they all are picking the same materials. They're all doing the same thing. So it's just fascinating to me, like now that we have this infinite array of choices, there does seem to be this sort of lack of imagination in design. And when you look at what some of these amazing architects like [Paul] Kirk and Roland Terry, the guys were feeding off each other back in the '50s. A lesser-known one, Ira Cummings, is one of my favorites.

When modern came back in vogue—and how that’s going

It feels like 2006 is when it really kinda caught fire, and then every new construction looked like a flash cube…. It's been well over 10 years that this boxy, modern thing has been going on and clearly there's still an audience, because they're still getting built and they sell. There's a couple of guys out there that I think are really trying to do something a little bit different and that are going more in that modern barn look, just playing around with the rooflines a little bit. I think that’s fun, it feels a bit different. I'm really curious to see what modern feels like to people in 10 years.

That's not to say there aren't some incredibly talented architects out there doing some really cool stuff right now, because there are. I'm talking about the spec stuff, the more mass produced stuff…if you're following the basic design precepts of modern and you really think about them and you care about them, then you're gonna come up with something cool. Because I think anybody, if they're thoughtful about what they're doing—it's gonna be good. You can just tell when something's not very thoughtful.

What buyers are looking for today   

I am finding that as my clientele gets younger and younger, while they like the midcentury genre, they're just as likely to go for a modernized craftsman—I call 'em Pinterest houses…that is gaining momentum to be sure, but it's gotta live in a modern way. It's gotta have that open sensibility…Joanna Gaines has been obviously hugely influential in driving a lot of that sort of modern farmhouse, white-clad exterior with the dark windows.

I find that more and more people just want the house to already look the way that their Pinterest page looks, and they just wanna move in…. Believe me, I don’t blame them, especially now with how everybody knows how hard it is to get contractors and to get materials and how long it can take to get things.

How she decorates her own home

Hygge—that's the jam that I'm always trying to achieve. I shift out my decor seasonally throughout the year, so I take great pleasure in removing all of my little fall decor and transitioning over to my Christmas decor, which is, let's just say I don't even know how many white feather boas I own. I use a lot of white feather boas and fairy lights are all around. I never turn on overhead can lights. They exist in my home, but I never use them, ever. I love lamps and candles. This time of year, I'm really thinking about creating this super cozy environment, because our days are so short. 

My house is obviously very modern, unabashedly modern, and ridiculously cozy—cozy with an exclamation point. I say that because I think a lot of people who aren't into modern automatically equate modern with like, Miami Vice, steel in glass, very cold, and that's not what I think of when I think of modern, not even a little bit.

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