A thoughtful renovation for a 1940s home

  • Working with associate architect John Geurts, Jennifer and Steve Livingston added a second floor to their 1940s-era brick home, integrating the remodel to fit into their neighborhood. Mike Siegel

  • Georgia the dog strolls across the ba“ck deck off the kitchen, part of the initial remodel. “We added bluestone and built bench seating,” says homeowner Jennifer Livingston. “It had been a cement wall.” Mike Siegel

  • “We always have a live tree in the living room corner, a Nutcracker table, a Christmas village on the bureau and greenery on the mantel,” says Jennifer Livingston, of her holiday decorating plans. Mike Siegel

  • The Livingstons’ kitchen, remodeled and enlarged seven years ago, spills out onto the new back deck. “It’s a terrific yard,” says associate architect John Geurts. Mike Siegel

  • The new second floor master bathroom features a tub at one end and a separate shower room at the other. Mike Siegel

  • The new second floor deck off the new family room overlooks the backyard. “Most of the time, we just have one door open,” says Livingston. Mike Siegel

The Seattle Times
Published: 12/7/2018 9:13:33 AM

When the Livingston family updated its home with a remodel/second-floor addition that honors its history rather than wrecks it, it is cause for neighborly celebration — kind of like the holidays themselves.

"To me, this home really depicts much of what (our Seattle neighborhood) Magnolia is about: taking the not perfect and getting it just right for your family," says Karen O'Donnell.

The Livingstons — Jennifer and Steve, plus sons Owen, 11, and Griffin, 14 (and good-dog Georgia) — lived with imperfection for a while, until the basics of living started to feel a little cramped.

"In this part of Magnolia, a lot of these homes were all built by the same builder in the 1940s. They're almost exactly the same, for soldiers' families at Fort Lawton," says Jennifer. "In the original house, there were just two bedrooms. The boys were getting older and needing more space, and I was tired of sharing a bathroom with two preteen boys. We just had the one bathroom. The kitchen was a typical 1940s galley kitchen."

"It wasn't the smallest kitchen in Magnolia, but it was close," says associate architect John Geurts of McNelis Architects, who started the phased project in 2011 by bumping that room out 5 feet and "adding windows on the front and back to enjoy the yard and focus the view and connection."

Phase One left such a beautiful impact, it extended all the way to the grocery store as Phase Two came into view. "Realistically, we love our spot and our proximity to the village," says Jennifer. "We knew we wanted to stay in our house, and costwise, it made more sense."

"Jennifer had been talking about doubling the size, adding up," says Geurts. "It had been a classic 1940s Magnolia home: simple old Seattle brick, one story, one bathroom. It was in the checkout line at Fred Meyer that we got the calendars out." ("What's on your list today?" Jennifer asks. "Architecture.")

From there, Geurts says, "Steve said, kind of the guiding notion, that he wanted the house to look like a house and not one original and one added on. He really wanted a finished house that looked like it was intended to be two stories tall and not look like a second floor parked on top of a different house — something that consumed the old house and left an unsavory taste in your mouth."

"It was a pretty complicated engineering effort," says Geurts.

And a pretty payoff: about 1,500 square feet of new space upstairs, and a lot more space for the boys down at the other end of the new staircase. "The second floor is designed to take advantage of the view," Geurts says. "There's a series of maneuvers in [Jennifer and Steve's new] bedroom: The bay window morphs out of another bay window to get the downtown view, plus gives them their own private bathroom; a walk-in closet; and, really importantly, an upstairs family room that opens out to an exterior deck, with a small wet bar and a very large TV.

All four are sports freaks, so the second floor also is conceived as a place to host friends, family and neighbors for games." Says Jennifer: "We could've used a lot more space, but we didn't want to do that. We wanted it to look like it was [always] here." It does.

"The effort was to be a good neighbor and show the neighbors on the street we're very concerned, that it could be done in a nice, thoughtful way," says Geurts.

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