SEATTLE — Back in the take-a-number, really-not-that-long-ago era of house-hunting in Seattle, Matt and Sarah Hill walked into this special Windermere possibility one Saturday morning just as another couple walked out.
“They said, ‘It’s not a house for a family,’” Matt recalls.
Even more discouraging, said Sarah, “They were very specific. They said it was a house for a single pilot.”
The Hills — who have two young daughters (and a dog named Maggie) and definitely are not single pilots — had been looking for a while, along with Paul Moon of Paul Moon Design.
They were not discouraged. They all knew.
“There was something about it,” said Sarah. “The windows, all the wood.”
Adds Matt: “And the property itself: All of a sudden, you’re secluded in the woods. There’s a lot of privacy and a full-size lot.”
Moon saw enough potential to — only potentially — cost him a commission.
“I said, ‘Buy it!’ in two seconds,” he says. “I went back to my staff and said, ‘Don’t tell them, but I would have designed this for free.’ It’s a parklike setting. The connection of the house to the outdoors was rooted to the lot, but it was disconnected. The architecture was all there, if we connected the front and backyard. It’s old Northwest contemporary, unique to Seattle. (I thought) ‘Who did this?’”
Turns out, the home had been designed for, and by, a single person in 1951: Hope Foote, the former head of the interior-design department at the University of Washington and a pioneer in Northwest contemporary design, who lived and worked here among her beloved trees. (“She camped out on this lot,” Matt said.)
In researching Foote, Moon learned her home had attracted quite a bit of media attention, including a 1966 article in The Christian Science Monitor in which she said, “Since this is the only house I ever plan to build, I wanted it to have stand-up quality, to be timeless.”
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Working with Moon; general contractor W.S. Feldt; and interior designer Karin DeYoung-Wood, also with Paul Moon Design, the Hills thoughtfully adapted Foote’s timeless design for their family, and for their time.
And now, what had been disconnected and closed off is wide-open, freely flowing and straight-through-see-through front to back, tree to towering tree.
There’s a whole new, stepped-up addition for the girls — “on stilts, to be sensitive to the existing roots of the large conifers,” Moon says, and bright and playful to be pure fun.
On the main level, “We opened up the dining room completely,” Matt says. “We wanted to update everything. Everything on this entire floor was touched and redone.”
Single doors and little windows evolved into walls of folding glass doors and giant views to the new backyard seating area.
A second bedroom and closet transformed into a luxurious master suite, with one of the home’s three indoor fireplaces, a wardrobe instead of a closet and light-welcoming clerestory windows in the bathroom.
Off the living room, a masterfully crafted and supremely cool new bar of forged metal and carved maple acts as “a throwback to when houses put bars in like this,” says Moon.
And the ‘80s-era kitchen lost its low-hanging, connection-blocking cabinets but “kept the galley feel,” Matt says.
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“One thing we love the most is that we use the entire space; that was a goal,” says Sarah. “Formal spaces you use once a year, but this offered something different. To draw people away from the kitchen to the bar and living area is awesome, but I didn’t want to sit there solo. I still feel connected. It’s so open and flows so wonderfully. It just functions perfectly for the way we live.”
A thoughtful remodel will do that. But it will not alter the essence of a stand-up home with a serious legacy, or its timeless mission to connect with nature.
“This is a humble house,” says Moon. “Architects have big egos and want to steal the show. In Seattle now, every project is shouting. The worst thing I can do is have too big of an ego and make my mark. Instead (I thought): ‘If she walked into this house now, what would she do?’”