SEATTLE — Where we've been always influences where we end up. Once in our new places, we can try to erase the past — or gratefully embrace it.
Darcy Parker opted for a huge hug across decades and disciplines. Turns out her home has its own influential history, and she's worked very hard to preserve both.
Three years ago, Parker, an architectural designer, and her husband, Roy Colven, bought a distinctive 1970 home in Wedgwood designed by noted local architect Paul H. Kirk. Secluded and subdued at the end of a dead-end road, the home abuts a protected watershed and snuggles perfectly naturally into its wildlife-friendly woods.
"We moved here from Ravenna, an old 1925 Dutch Colonial," Parker says. "While this is not a perfect home, it is lovely: Northwest modern style with a midcentury overtone. This house seemed brand-new."
Kirk's original clients were "Northwest artists of note" Fay and Priscilla Chong, Parker says. Their home was built by Kirk's brother, Blair Kirk — "somewhat unusual, I hear" — and Paul Kirk's friend (and internationally recognized artist) George Tsutakawa reportedly designed the garden layout and side-yard fountain.
"We have had to do extensive work, as the home was in disrepair," Parker says. "But I have tried to be respectful to the original ideas within the design — original cabinets, dark stained cedar siding and original flooring. I feel this house shows Kirk at a peak in his career and is also the result of a collaboration between several artists."
Parker designed the restorative remodel herself, along with 165 linear feet of updated cable handrail on the newly reinforced deck. They've also "buttoned up" the roof, replaced rotten windows, spruced up the landscape (with help from Tracy Borgen) and reconfigured and modernized the lower level.
"As we looked around, we spent a fair chunk right at the beginning," she says. "There was so much rot from water leaking through tile; the shower downstairs was saturated in areas. We ended up moving a plumbing wall. All this copper plumbing is a piece of art, but we had to pull out a lot of it."
On the airy upper level, Priscilla Chong's original art studio became an office, with a ladder to the perfect elevated work nook — and a look at Mount Baker. At the end of the hallway is an apartment-like studio (Parker and Colven lived here during the remodel), with updated appliances, a pull-down bed and a whole wall of closets. "It's sort of intended to be a light well," Parker says. "With the sun through the clerestories, it comes down and bounces off the light wall. It's really bright in here in the winter."
And the living room, with original dark wood, a blue-cast-brick fireplace and an inlain rug, is filled with brilliantly appropriate furnishings Parker hunted down on craigslist. "You've got to be vigilant," she says. "I was moving from old furniture to midcentury. You need to have the right search items: teak, midcentury (with and without hyphens), Swedish, Danish, Rosewood. Some people are not savvy with tagging."
Downstairs, an existing kitchen turned sideways, opened up to mingle with the family room and enhanced its profile with teak cabinetry. Parker and Colven's grown-up and moved-out son and daughter each have a room ("We keep the doors closed," Parker says). And more than one wall moved to make way for a glorious master suite. "There had been a little sink, a Motel 6 toilet and closets," Parker says. Now the flowing space shines with a solid wall of windows, a tile-and-glass bathroom filled with "small luxuries" and wonderfully deep closets.
"Coming from an old house, we felt like we struck gold," she says.
Speaking of discoveries: During the respectful remodel of their historic home, Parker says, they found that builder Blair Kirk had signed and dated the subfloor.
They didn't erase that, either.