Property Watch: A Custom Midcentury Home with Nautical Roots

This naval architect's home just got a refresh.

By Sarah Anne Lloyd February 16, 2022

Everybody loves a Pacific Northwest midcentury modern home, and this basement rambler from 1955 finds a few ways to stand out. A restoration completed this year gave it an extra breath of fresh air—and while it’s not exactly a time capsule, it maintains a cohesive vintage style throughout.

Local naval architect and marine engineer S. Donald Vanek designed this place for himself and his family, and you can feel at least some nautical influence. The tongue-in-groove ceiling on the top floor, a staple of regional midcentury modern, has a much more raw look than most others, with plenty of natural grain variation and thick crossbeams. Tidy square skylights, deep set frames, seem equally suited to bringing in sunlight and watching the rain fall. 

This natural look lends itself well to some departures from the style, like a wood stove set against a brick chimney column in the living room instead of a minimalist fireplace. The original creativity helps updates blend in, like the open kitchen complete with an expansive island, but none of the flashy finishes that could distract from the look.

The west wall of this open-concept area is almost all windows with views through the trees of the Puget Sound and Vashon Island. A deck through glass doors has enough room for a barbecue or a small outdoor lounge area.

Off to one side, another gathering space (which could also, technically, be a bedroom) opens to its own deck that descends down to the yard. On the other, the first of three bedrooms with en suite baths has bright corner windows, original closet doors, and a more heavily updated bathroom, with the same wood ceiling tying it all together.

Downstairs, a wide den—similar to the great room upstairs—has its own stone fireplace and, on one wall, a minibar with cabinetry and a wine fridge. It’s bookended by bedrooms, both with en suite three-quarter bathrooms. In this case, the wall of windows opens up to a vast lawn, part of the nearly half-acre, L-shaped property with just a touch of low-maintenance landscaping.

This isn't the first midcentury modern headline you've seen from Property Watch, and, oddly enough, this isn't even the first home we've featured that was designed by a naval architect for their own family—which perhaps says a lot about the Seattle area in the 1950s. But this shows the breadth of period style in Seattle: Despite their similar backgrounds, these are vastly different homes from top to bottom.

Listing Fast Facts

11660 23rd Ave SW, Burien
Size: 2,890 square feet/0.44 acres, 4 bedroom/4 bath
List Date: 2/8/2022
List Price: $1,250,000
Listing Agents:
Deidre Doyle and Kate Jacobson, Windermere 

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