Every day, Audrey McGill hears the bubbling of the creeks and waterfalls that flow alongside her 1958 John Burrows Seattle mid century home encircled by tall pines. She had previously dreamed of owning a Burrows built home — a Seattle modernist treasure, and couldn’t believe her luck when she happened upon one that was in her price range and just a short distance from Seattle.
“As soon as we stepped foot inside this house, we were overtaken by the warm and open aesthetic,” Audrey says.
She explains that Burrows built about 35 homes in Northeast Seattle, endeavoring to construct modern dwellings on heavily-forested lots that many considered too difficult to build on. The gamble was worth it, resulting in homes that are not only modern, even by today’s standards, but also embrace their natural surroundings.
Sharing her home with husband Kevin and children Aidan and Evan, Audrey, a freelance writer, has created spaces that are peaceful, bohemian and true to the midcentury era, in equal parts. She and her husband, both avid DIY-ers, saw an opportunity to refresh the 2,240-square-foot home and make it their own as soon as they moved in.
Inspired by “the simplicity of Japanese and Scandinavian design,” as Audrey says, the two sought to keep the original integrity of the home while elevating it to today’s standards. First, the couple designed and built new upper and lower decks, fitted with horizontal slats that allowed for clear views of the property. The exterior was painted black to pay homage to the Japanese wood preservation technique of charring wood, called Shou Sugi Ban.
Then it came time to update the interior. “We waited a year to see how we used the space before making any design decisions,” Audrey says. The couple renovated the kitchen, striving for a clean, minimal look through IKEA cabinetry and pure white quartz countertops which she says, “reflect light on our gray Seattle days.”
The backyard received a makeover through a pergola that ties into the home’s aesthetic and by incorporating beautiful plantings, such as Northwest ferns, azaleas and rhododendrons. The laundry room and bathrooms were modernized as well.
Japanese design is represented in the home’s clean lines and minimal aesthetic, but the Eastern influences truly shine outdoors. Kevin, a bonsai enthusiast, has a space in the backyard where he cares for the diminutive plants, a look that spills over into the landscaping throughout the property.
Audrey says, “During the 1950s and after World War II, Japanese culture and design became en vogue in the American mainstream, and designers began to explore the Japanese aesthetic and the concept of Zen. We think Japanese-style mirrors the mid century modern style of our home quite well.”
As for those Seattle mid century details, the cedar post and beam ceilings—the very ones that first delighted Audrey when she walked into the home—were kept throughout the renovation process. The brick fireplace is another midcentury element that adds character and also happens to feature a hibachi grill. The oak floors were re-stained, returning them to their former glory.
Audrey, who discovers much of her décor through Craigslist, Target and Revivals resale shops in Palm Springs, was first drawn to midcentury design through a surprising source—The Brady Bunch. “The Brady Bunch is the first TV show that I remember loving, and I guess it shaped my style today,” she says.
Audrey shares, “Because we’ve done almost all of the work ourselves over the past four years, our house now truly feels like a reflection of us. We feel so grateful and proud that we are blessed in owning a Burrows home.”
Looking for another “wow-worthy” Washington house tour? Learn more about a glass box lake house that boasts an eclectic array of mid century influences right here!