Condo makeover

John Granen
Clever storage solutions, color, and materials
give a dated interior personality and warmth

Elegant moldings, a simple layout, and many windows: This top-floor unit, located in an 80-year-old Seattle apartment building newly converted to condominiums, had good bones, but badly needed an update.

Newlyweds Erik Barr, a designer, and Kim Baldwin, a landscape architect, looked past the utilitarian kitchen and layers of old paint - and imagined a remodel featuring rich colors and creative built-ins to form a subtle balance of past and present.

"The home had really good light, and we were as high as we could be in the four-story building," Baldwin says. "There would be winter views to the Space Needle and Puget Sound, and tons of birds ― cedar waxwings, goldfinches."

Baldwin had been eyeing the building from her old apartment down the street; once it went condo, she and Barr knew the time was right.

Next: the kitchen



Kitchen hangout

The makeover began with tearing out old carpeting, restoring the white oak floors, and bathing most rooms in a creamy white that warms Seattle's often gray daylight. Select walls in the entry hall and dining room add punchy modern accents of orange-red and cinnamon brown against the traditional white molding and trim.

The kitchen got a complete overhaul. "It's small, but we located things carefully so we're not backing into the stove or refrigerator," Barr says. Instead of a fixed center island, he set a commercial-grade steel table on casters and "just shoved appliances and work areas to the sides, giving us a big counter space. That's how to make a small kitchen feel much larger."

Above the gas range, a horizontal window creates visual head space and throws light into the hallway. The couple splurged on a solid mahogany wall cabinet of Barr's design to hold utensils, dishware, and their cherished collection of ceramic art.

Next: how to simplify 


Simplified spaces

Barr and Baldwin also had to grapple with a clumsy overlapping of doors, from an earlier era when rooms were closed off and heated individually. Removing a small butler's pantry and a cluster of doors that separated the kitchen from the dining room helped relieve the congestion. A built-in wine cabinet and counter doubles as a buffet. Now, with additional built-ins, the condo is a comfortable home for the couple and their infant son, Sam.

Design tips

A carefully controlled palette of materials and colors unifies the design and makes a compact interior feel more spacious.

Use accent walls. A bright orange-red wall (Aspen Orange by Ralph Lauren Paint, item GH176) near the entry creates a warm welcome while marking a key transition point.

Take your time. The couple waited two years before making major changes. "Patience pays huge dividends," Erik says. "Sometimes the challenge of a remodel is identifying and preserving the character of the space while making it feel more contemporary."

Info: Design, Erik Barr, Urban Wedge, Seattle (206/953-5713).

Resources: Orange and white swirl vases (on sideboard) and Jill Rosenwald bowl (on dining table) from Veritables Décor (206/322-7782). Flos Fucsia 3 pendant lamps (over dining table) from Hive ($780; 866/663-4483). Orange and red Blenko pitchers (on top of cabinet) and orange dot glasses (on shelves) from Veritables Décor (see above). Franke fireclay apron-front single-bowl sink (800/626-5771). Turquoise Italian pitcher and tall purple Blenko bottle from Veritables Décor (see above). Aqua resin vases, throw pillows, and fuzzy blanket from Veritables Décor (see above).

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