esigner Amy Baker and her clients were in lockstep from day one as she began renovating the couple’s 1928 Mediterranean-style Seattle home. “These were experienced clients,” says the designer. “They came to the table as people who are informed about, and really enjoy, the design process.” With their experience also came a clear vision–“graceful, resonant, sensible and clean,” says the wife of her desires for the residence.
Achieving the owners’ goals within a vintage framework (it helped that the structure included a graceful floor plan and lovely bones) took some ingenuity on Baker’s part. “How do you create a bridge between 2018 Seattle urban and 1920s Mediterranean style?” she wondered. The answer turned out to be by paying due respect to both, capturing and spotlighting the charm of the architecture while incorporating furnishings and finishes in calming hues that feel contemporary yet appropriate.
A case in point is the kitchen. “We wanted to create something that functions well, but that has the warmth and the romance of the original architecture,” Baker says. To that end, for the island and the adjacent family room’s bar, she conceived solid white-oak cabinets with a cerused finish to bring out the wood and opted for hand-glazed cabinetry for the range area and pantry wall. But, instead of sticking to basic Shaker-style cabinets, she customized them with such details as exterior beading and narrow stiles and rails. In fact, the clients inspired Baker to double down on those meticulous moments. “There were numerous points in the project where they said, ‘We need to significantly increase the design statement.’ I accepted that challenge with pleasure,” she says. Notably, even the bar’s glass-tiled backsplash is unique–it’s backed with rose gold, “for a bit of a surprise factor,” says the designer, who contrasted the glamour of the surface with simple honed Taj Mahal quartzite for the counters, noting, “It performs like granite, but it looks like a marble.”
Perhaps the element that unifies it all is Baker’s neutral, yet multidimensional palette of grays, creams and whites, which lends the home a cohesive tranquility. To create that look, she built upon the living area’s original creamy colored walls and ceiling by painting the windows and door frames and beams an inky brown-black. “I like to compare it to women’s eyeliner; it just sets up the view,” she says. “When you go with dark hues, you look beyond the window, to the outside.”
The designer’s subtle mastery of color extends to her fabric choices, too. “It’s important to have solids, texture, and small- and large-scale patterns all layered within a room,” says Baker, who advocates the use of prints in prime places, such as sofas and beds. Take the two existing living room sofas, which she reupholstered in a geometric design to add dimension. Her choice of pillows there is similarly well considered. Not only does their damask pattern contrast nicely, but they’re purposefully sized for the extra deep sofas. “They act as secondary back cushions,” Baker notes. “If you’re wearing a dress and heels at a dinner party, you want to sit a little bit more upright. Those cushions change the seat depth, so that it’s comfortable for entertaining.”
For their part, the homeowners were delighted by Baker’s approach. “She was an active listener, incorporating many of our ideas,” says the wife, adding, “I especially liked that Amy wasn’t offering us cookie-cutter style.” She points to the leather Ted Boerner chair in the living room that shares the space with their existing antique cocktail table. Although she admits to initial skepticism about bringing in brown seating amidst all the creamy and gray tones, the wife says, “It made the room less perfect looking and so much more interesting.” Other furnishing choices are equally compelling. For instance, a custom metal-and-leather dining table base made by Paul Reimer is inventively paired with chairs with buckles at the back. “The buckle detailing feels right in a house like this,” the designer says.
When Baker’s clients are ready to call it a night, they have the pleasure of retiring to their updated oasis of a master suite. Once again, she smartly kept what worked, such as the existing draperies, and added new lighting, a larger fireplace and bespoke furnishings, including the new bed. “I like to do custom, upholstered beds because I appreciate closed corners where the side rail and the foot rail meet. It makes for a more finished look,” she says.
After Baker’s ministrations, the wife says, “Today, there’s a warmth and sophistication to the house that was not there before.” And the designer did it all while staying true to her self-imposed mandate. “I wasn’t trying to be a historic preservationist,” Baker says. “I was aiming to create harmony in the home.”
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