HOW TO ADAPT A JEWEL OF ARCHITECTURE DATING BACK TO THE EARLY SIXTIES, TO MODERN LIVING NEEDS.

A young couple with two children buys a beautiful home in Seattle, in the residential neighborhood of Laurehurst, an elegant area just a few miles from the downtown, well-known for its charming villas, well-finished greenery and stunning views of Lake Washington and Olympic Mountains.

This home is beautiful yet full of history: it was built in 1961 by Ibsen Nelsen, one of the most renowned Seattle architects ever, authoring, among other things, the Museum of Flight and some parts of the University of Bellingham.

The history and fascination embodied by past architectures, not always, however, are in line with the needs of modern living, especially of a family with children. Which, more than anything, needs open and floating spaces, full of light and warmth.

Hence the design challenge faced by mw works: preserving to the utmost degree the original soul of a 20th century building designed by a great architect, making it ready for another century, and at the same time adapting it to the need of a XXI’s century family.

In brief, the couple presents to the studio a wishlist.

Number One: Promote the dialogue between exteriors and the indoor and the outdoor – between the living room and the courtyard garden in particular – this latter a focus of the Nelsen project. The study works on the openings, replacing old windows with modern glazing systems, thus making the exterior a crucial part not only for the living room, but for the home throughout its perimeter.

Wish number two: a kitchen not only livable, but really lived at different times of the day, also directly connected to the patio and the garden. And so, the original kitchen walled off from the dining area through limited structural changes was united to the other living spaces.

The third inquiry was the most challenging one: to preserve the original hipped roof but at the same time to improve the vertical proportions of the building, thus favoring the view of the enchanting surroundings. Window sills were lowered, and single pane windows were replaced by glazed walls, with a breathtaking final result.

The last works concern the energy efficiency of the building – an unavoidable feature in the XXI century – with expedients that significantly increase thermal insulation, together with a high efficiency radiant floor heat system that drastically reduces energy consumption.

The main roof has since been outfitted with a large solar array.