A Pacific Northwest Modern gem gets a smart facelift and a new addition, surpassing high standards to win favor at an exclusive historic enclave.
If the Met Gala were a neighborhood, it would be Hilltop Community in Bellevue, Washington. John Morse, Paul Kirk, Wendell Lovett, Fred Basetti and Roland Terry all designed homes here. The community was founded (by Morse, Basetti and another Seattle architect, Peri Johanson) in 1948 as a collaborative enclave for Washington University professors, engineers and artists, with 40 sites strategically positioned by the architects.
“These structures represent a consistent dedication to the principles and spirit of the site and community,” Morse said about the endeavor. “The founders of the neighborhood created design rules suggesting houses were required to have straightforward contemporary character adapted to the site. Contemporary was defined as functional, designed more for comfort, utility and internal beauty than for display! This type of architecture favors the use of natural materials, such as wood and stone, complemented by the lightness of space…it stands for honest construction and it expresses the richness of simplicity.” Morse designed his own home in Hilltop.
It’s no surprise, then, that when Laurie Dietz came upon a new listing in the neighborhood, she purchased the Pacific Northwest Modern gem without consulting her husband, Robert, who was working in Australia at the time. Rick Chesmore, principal at Chesmore/Buck Architecture, a design studio based in Bellevue, explains, “The homeowners’ children and my children went to school together and we’d done another remodel for [Rob and Laurie] of a home in the same era. They bought the house and they gave my business partner, Dave, and me a call at 8:30 a.m. and we were on the job site by 9 a.m.”
The Deitzes bought the property with a complete remodel and an addition in mind. The house was on the smaller side, built in 1962 and designed by John Lindahl. “The original documents had an addition dotted in on the site plan—it was already approved,” Rick says. “They have a strict HOA on the premises, so knowing that the architect himself had intended the option was in our favor.”
The objective was to modernize the existing two-story house and construct an adjacent two-story addition that would house a new primary bedroom and bathroom and powder room on top and an open-air studio on the bottom that could also function as a classic-car garage for Robert.
Remodeling the Original Pacific Northwest Modern Gem
The couple had lived in Mid Century Modern homes before, are advocates for preservation and were savvy to design elements that are appropriate for the style. They wanted to keep as many original elements as possible, and Laurie herself drove the interior finish choices. She opted for new tile in the kitchen, terrazzo floor tiles in the kitchen and bathrooms, and then opted to keep the carpeted areas but replace them with new carpet. The original ceiling beams got a new coat of paint and the unique plywood ceilings were cleaned and restained.
There were some major changes to the original structure. The team enlarged the kitchen by removing a dividing wall between the dining room and kitchen, which also opened up the kitchen to views outside a full-length deck. They also removed a powder room that was adjacent to the kitchen, which allowed them to add a new small bank of cabinets with additional countertop space and open upper shelves for more kitchen storage.
Another change was to reorient the fireplace to a more centralized spot in the living room. This immensely improved the flow from room to room and created a better focal point for the living room. They were able to build a new fireplace along an existing column of cement block, which was directly under the ceiling’s ridge beam. They matched the cement block to fill out the rest of the fireplace wall.
Lastly, they modified the outdoor deck quite a bit. The original deck ran the length of the home but was only 8 feet deep. The roof overhang also came down quite low—the clearance was just over 6 feet. “So we kicked the roof up and out at a butterfly-roof style angle which makes for a much higher roof line over the new deck and allows more natural light into the space and has a more interesting appearance that the original,” Rick says.
The newly remodeled deck not only has a new roof pitch, which puts the clearance to 10 feet in height, it’s also it 6 feet deeper, allowing for much more usable living space. And for the ultimate wow factor, the team installed a new 20-foot-wide set of sliding doors, which, when opened to one side or the other, allows a 10-foot opening—for the ultimate indoor-outdoor experience. Paired with new wire mesh infill at the railings that replaced the old, dilapidated wood railings, the view over the tree-dotted hills toward Mount Rainier is breathtakingly unencumbered.
Designing the Addition for the Pacific Northwest Modern Gem
“Before we begin designing, our process is to clearly understand the needs for the existing structure and the addition,” Rick explains. “Our process is also very site driven. We review the existing site conditions including where the views are, the slope of the terrain, and locations of any rock outcroppings and trees. We try to work with trees rather than take them out. Being clear and committed to all these answers will lead you into design solutions that really work.”
The Deitzes and the Chesmore/Buck team agreed that the addition needed to seamlessly connect to the original structure. “With any project, when you add on, it should look it look like it was there originally,” Rick says.
For the addition, Rick and his team were able to follow the original architect’s site plan for the additional footprint, which was outlined in the historic documents. “We followed the outline of the addition, but then had to design the functional spaces, the aesthetic and the connection to the existing home,” Rick explains. So what they created was essentially a bridge with glass windows looking out to the new entryway and driveway to one side and toward Mount Rainer on the other. This 8-foot long hallway leads to the newly relocated powder room and primary suite.
“We made a presentation to the HOA and built a physical model to illustrate the plans for approval,” Rick says. “Usually, there are maybe eight or nine people who show up to these approval meetings. For this meeting, there were 32 people who showed up to evaluate. There was a lot of curiosity and they wanted to ensure the architecture was keeping the integrity.”
To blend the two buildings together seamlessly, the crew matched the roof pitch, utilized matching CMU (Concrete Masonry Unit) blocks walls and replicated the plywood ceilings with matching beams. The entire home received new anodized aluminum windows, which further unified the design.“Everything else came together,” Rick says.
Rick and Dave’s firm will celebrate its 30th anniversary in September. Of his fondness for the project, Rick says, “We have a strong connection to the area. The homeowners had an interest in doing the project right and creating something special. They knew they had a MCM jewel to work with and so did we.”
Looking for more Pacific Northwest Modern gems? Check out Zen Meets Mod in This John Burrows Seattle Mid Century. For more on MCM in the Pacific Northwest read on about Northwest Regional Style: The Mid Mod of the Pacific Northwest, A Road Trip in Time: Pacific Northwest MCM Gas Stations and Mod Traveling Through Washington. And of course, don’t forget to follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest for more Mid Century Modern inspiration!