$500K Showdown

Price Point: Warehouse Loft or Cabin Loft?

Two small homes, one $500,000 budget.

By Sarah Anne Lloyd August 25, 2022

Welcome back to Price Point, our real estate column that explores two similarly priced homes that each bring something different to the table. This month, we’re looking at a couple of classic but very different takes on the loft. For $500,000, are you opting for urban or woodsy?

Home 1: A Warehouse Loft in Belltown

Image: Lensit Studio

Located in northwest Belltown near the waterfront, this condo in a former factory has a few different elevated lofts. One is a classic sleeping loft, located up an actual stable staircase. Just off the sleeping loft, a more unfinished area provides some extra storage. Then there’s the cutest one: a small platform nestled among bookshelves, accessible via staircase, for a little quiet reading time. It has its own little windows—but it might be wise to add a small railing.

Image: Lensit Studio

The industrial building, completed in 1914, was originally a factory, best known as the Frayn Printing and Publishing Company, which operated at the location from the 1930s to the early 1990s; according to archived classifieds from The Seattle Times and Seattle Post-Intelligencer, it was also previously home to a paper box factory, a calendar factory, and a large-scale bakery. It was renovated into a mixed-use condo building in 1995 by Geise Architects, which moved into one of the commercial spaces after it was completed. The stunning brick architectural details you’d expect from the era have been largely preserved, including arches and corbels.

Image: Lensit Studio

This lower-level corner unit has all the industrial loft trappings, including one exposed brick wall along the living room with the original large, arched windows facing north  and positioned above the street toward some of the building’s lush sidewalk plantings. Looking east on the opposite corner, an even larger, modern window faces the very edge of an alley, but does bring in an extra angle of light.

The loft, which hangs over the open kitchen, bisects the home. The front door is up a partial floor at the edge of another open area, this one with that tiny reading loft in the corner. Down the hallway, there’s a full bathroom and some clever storage, including a cabinet with a stacked washer and dryer. The sleeping loft is relatively narrow, but has better headroom than many of its peers.

Image: Lensit Studio

Secured parking is onsite, although the unit doesn’t come with a spot. Part of this place’s appeal is that it’s close to everything, though: It’s an easy walk to anywhere downtown, and a bus to almost anywhere in the metro area is just a few blocks away. The building also has unique environmental features as part of the Growing Vine Street project, with functional downspouts and an artist-designed cistern just outside the unit’s window.

Listing Fast Facts

List price: $529,000 ($457/month HOA)
Location: Belltown/81 Vine St
Size: 857 square feet, 1 bedroom/1 bath
Year built: 1914/1995
Listing agent: Erick Hazelton, Windermere

Home 2: A Private Vashon Island Cabin

Image: Shelley Hanna

This secluded home is located in the community of Burton, a small, bulbous peninsula off the lower left leg of Vashon Island. It’s the second busiest community on the island, which isn’t saying much—just that it has its own coffee stand and general store. The property is a 15-minute walk from this itty-bitty business district, although it’s nearly invisible from the street. (Burton Acres Park, a 64-acre nature preserve, is much closer at just about 200 feet away.)

The property is nearly a third of an acre, but the home itself is a modest 760-square-foot, A-frame-inspired cabin. In the great room, a wall of windows reaches up into the ceiling’s peak bow forward at the center; according to the listing, once the trees lose their leaves it reveals a massive view of the harbor. An iron wood-burning stove on a brick hearth anchors the far wall, and in one corner a modest kitchen provides all the basics. Exposed grain is everywhere: in the ceiling beams, in the hardwood floors, in the structure and railing of the open loft above. 

Image: Shelley Hanna

The loft, a perfect triangle of exposed grain looking out over the living room, serves as one of the two bedrooms. While it’s the less private of the two, it benefits from that giant wall of windows in addition to its own tiny one at the back. The second is down a hall behind the kitchen and has its own rustic look from exposed ceiling beams. Also down the hall is a full bathroom and, in the back, an underutilized utility room, presently just stacked laundry, a fridge, and, at least in the virtual tour, a small framed photo of the Vashon Bike in a Tree.

Image: Shelley Hanna

The place is kind of a cosmetic fixer (and hopefully just that), with chipped paint, scuffed tile, and appliances that could very well be from when it was first built in 1980; the listing notes that it “needs some modernizing.” But there’s plenty of space to work with on the property, including two unspecified outbuildings. 

Image: Shelley Hanna

As homes toward the middle of the island go, this one is on the less car-dependent side; very small errands are possible on foot, and it’s less than a 20-minute walk to a bus that can take you to either the Tacoma or Seattle ferry dock—although you could drive the whole way in 10 or 20 minutes, respectively. There’s even a water taxi that bypasses West Seattle and heads straight downtown if you don’t need to take your vehicle on the whole journey.

Listing Fast Facts

List price: $499,000
Location: Vashon Island/9425 SW Harbor Dr
Size: 760 square feet/.32 acres, 2 bedroom/1 bath
Year built: 1980
Listing agent: Beth de Groen, Windermere

Final Thoughts

One big difference between these two lofted homes is public exposure—one is positioned away from the street, blocking out even the scant nearby neighbors, while the other is in one of the city’s densest neighborhoods with a giant ground-floor window. The flip side is that you’re probably not going to have a whole lot of parties at the comparably remote Vashon place, whereas small gatherings at the loft, which is central and easy to find, are more of a breeze.

This is partially (but not entirely) a side effect of the wildly different locations. For the most part, it’s much easier to get to Belltown than an island that’s only accessible via ferry, which introduces a lot more flexibility into your life outside the home.

Speaking of flexibility: How much work do you want to put in? How much do you want to be possible? The Belltown place is turnkey; while the Vashon place is livable, it needs a little work. The tradeoff there is that the city loft is what it is as opposed to the extremely customizable rural one—and the cabin comes with all that land around it. Sure, you can almost always do a little redecorating or remodeling in your condo—but can you build an addition, a treehouse, or even some raised garden beds?

After you've weighed all the pros and cons, which loft captured your heart?

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