Classic MCM Gets a Warm, Modern Update
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3 key features of updating a fantastic mid-century modern for the 21st century.
BUILD LLC recently wrapped up an interior + exterior remodel to a spectacular mid-century modern home located in West Seattle. The original structure is an excellent MCM example and we thoroughly enjoyed updating the home for a 21st century lifestyle. The siting of the house is strategically positioned to take full advantage of a western view to the Puget Sound. With ferries gliding to and from the dock, Blake and Vashon Islands in the distance, and the Olympic Mountain Range beyond, the view is stunning. All of this framed by exposed beams and large expanses of glazing; signature moves of good MCM design. The house was a pleasure to work on and the project’s success has largely to do with a couple of extraordinary homeowners. Today’s post focuses on 3 specific features: the way-finding, the entry and the kitchen.
The original house was positioned primarily around the view, and subsequently the path to the entry was a bit unclear. Visitors often had a difficult time finding the front door and one of our first tasks was to implement a way-finding strategy to the exterior. In order to provide a clear and pleasant path to the entry area, we first toned down the distractions. Items like the garage door were subdued and painted to match the house.
Key components along the path to the entry were then highlighted; the carport was lined with back-lit translucent panels. A line of minimal MR16 track lights is positioned at the underside of the car decking to make the panels glow at night and guide visitors up the driveway. Site-built, glowing “beacons” then lead visitors to the front door. The beacons are made of simple cedar stock so that the carpenters on site could assemble them with ordinary materials (or even off-cuts) and without much fuss. A panel of textured glass from the original house was used for the panels at each of the four sides of the beacon. The beacons are connected to a light sensor and switch on according to the outdoor light level. The series of beacons, glowing panels, and landscaping lights create a way-finding language that enables visitors to easily find the front door without having to second guess.
In many ways the existing entry demonstrates the best qualities of mid-century modern design. The exposed framing of an existing roof pop-up allows generous amounts of light into the airy entry vestibule. A custom-built light fixture integrates with the room and highlights the ceiling structure above. Functionally, the entry area is well positioned; giving direct access to the kitchen, living room and lower level. The only drawback of the entry was a narrow connection to the kitchen – lending a claustrophobic feel to an otherwise open interior. Because the existing entry area already included a handful of important qualities, we were careful and surgical with the implementations. Several enhancements were made to improve the visual relationship between the entry and kitchen. The first was removing a portion of the wall between the entry and the kitchen hallway; the second involved replacing an opaque wood guardrail with an attenuated steel guardrail to open things up. Additional details included a tile floor to match the hallway and kitchen, and an extension to the custom light. New doors, trim and paint supplemented the modern updates.
The original framing of the structure allowed the design to take advantage of vaulting the ceiling in the kitchen. Unfortunately the existing roof joists were in no condition to be exposed (to match the adjacent living room). Instead, tongue & groove cedar boards were applied to the underside of the existing joists and stained to match the ceiling at the adjacent living room. We think it creates a nice harmonious look without copying the original architecture of the home.
The kitchen is outfitted with a cabinet package from our favorite cabinet shop, Special Projects Division. The cabinets include quartersawn walnut faces with custom milled edge banding and stainless steel facing at banks of stainless steel appliances. Sugatsune 1600 series pulls keep the lines clean and Blum hardware keeps the operation smooth and highly functional. The “Cascade White” PentalQuartz countertops are paired up with custom under-mounted stainless steel sink basins and our favorite sink faucet, the Brizo Solna, is matched up with its little brother, the Brizo Solna bar prep-sink faucet. The typical backsplash is stainless steel with a non-directional orbital finish (continuous from the countertop to the bottom of the upper cabinets) and we had some fun above the large sink which features a custom mural fabricated by Magic Murals. The wheat field photo, taken by the homeowner, was processed with an exterior grade finish and installed over a sheet of masonite.
On the far side of the kitchen, near the windows, SPD got to flex its muscles with a custom breakfast nook and symmetric bookshelves to match. The breakfast nook pieces use the SPD aluminum kerf plate detail and the assembly is kept low as to not interfere with the view.
The lighting package at the kitchen includes Lightolier 5” recessed downlights, ET2 cylinder pendant lights over the island, and Flos S1 Glo-Ball suspension lights over the breakfast nook. Under cabinet puck lights were provided by Hera in a brushed nickel finish.
The early sunsets and somber skies this time of year are always a good reminder of the importance of warm, inviting interiors. Creating enjoyable places to gather, cook, entertain or simply enjoy oneself is essential here in the Pacific Northwest. This project resonated with our design sensibilities on many levels and we hope you enjoyed hearing about it.
Cheers from Team BUILD