Clean Slates

Starting Over in a Midcentury House in Seward Park

A modern facelift turns a fixer-upper into a gathering spot—with a stunning home office.

By Karin Vandraiss Photography by Michael Duryea

After her divorce in 2017, corporate strategist Loretta Nelson decided to trade her sprawling Woodinville home and acre of land for real estate in Seattle. She wanted to be closer to her kids and didn’t mind downsizing—that is, as long as she had plenty of room to entertain, a yard for her two Labradors to romp, and a handful of extra bedrooms for friends to stay overnight during holidays.

Five property tours into her search, Nelson walked through the door of the 1940s midcentury house on a quiet Seward Park block and knew it was hers. It had four bedrooms and good bones; the views of Lake Washington and Mount Rainier were more than enough motivation to see beyond the tiny kitchen’s close quarters and dated finishes.

The home had been well cared for but lacked a continuity of style. Nelson had never taken on a remodel, but apart from opening up the floor plan, much of her project would be cosmetic. Quickly realizing she needed a professional to help guide her through the design process, Nelson brought in Alex Childs of White Space Design Group in late February of 2018. “I didn’t know what to do with a blank slate,” says Nelson. “It was the first time I didn’t have to take anyone’s style into consideration but my own.”  

Perfectly Placed
Thanks to some meticulous planning by architect Emily Buchwalter and general contractor Scott Wheeler, Nelson's desk boasts an unobstructed view of the water. 

Given a lead time of barely four months—Nelson planned to host family wedding events in the backyard in summer—Childs worked in parallel with the contractor, with Nelson living onsite during the remodel. She anticipated frequent visitors; livability was a top priority. “This wasn’t a museum space,” says Childs. “We needed to strike a balance between aesthetic and durability.” This meant choices like sofas with outdoor fabric, which are easier to spot clean, and quartz countertops—meaning fewer worries about wine glass rings. She layered linens, wools, and leather throughout, all selected to support guests kicking up their feet and the usual pet-related wear. Even the home office helps support the guest load, with a pullout couch that sleeps two.

Intentional Tie-Ins
A desk and side tables with walnut finishes echo pieces in the living area.

Nelson’s intention to entertain influenced architectural changes—removing walls between the kitchen, dining, and living rooms created a longer vista from the kitchen to the living space, which also capitalized on the view. She chose to forgo window treatments to create a sense of transparency between the interior and exterior spaces. “Being honest about how I was going to use the space allowed the team to get everything right,” says Nelson. “Otherwise, I could have ended up with a beautiful house I wasn’t comfortable living in.”

Childs Calls It the “Tulip House”
The project’s moniker comes from the outsized floral print wallpaper in the powder room; that carved-out marble sink won’t be ignored, either.

The light decor modernizes the home while retaining some of the midcentury feel, with a base of deep grays and warm woods. Childs opted for a softer look in Nelson's office, a focal point of the project, balancing the house’s moodier tones with a palette of ivories and natural linens. Frameless glass sliding doors allow Nelson an unimpeded panorama of the lake from her desk. While her home is carefully crafted to be welcoming to family and friends, that view is all her own.

Social Hour
Lounge chairs swivel to allow for socializing in either direction and are spaced to avoid obstructing the view.

Cleaning Confidential
All area rugs are made with wool or wool-silk blends that are more convenient and less expensive to clean.

Best of Both Worlds
Hung from a top rail and with no pull hardware, the glass doors avoid visual obstruction while providing sound privacy.

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