Vintage black Pollack chairs face a contemporary sofa in the living room, which is divided from the entry and stairwell by an original suspended bookcase.

When the Barratt family decided to settle down with their kids after several years of traveling and living abroad, they pounced upon a rare Kirk home in the outskirts of Seattle (part 1). Next, it was time to do some much-needed research on the home and architect in order to transform the home into their own midcentury haven.

An iconic Northwest architect from the 1950s, Kirk’s style embodied the true beauty of the midcentury modern aesthetic. The residence was beyond exceptional—perfectly distributed and open and bright, it offered everything distinct to the modernist style.

Something Old, Something New, Something IKEA: The George Nelson reissued swag-leg desk came from Design Within Reach, the Eames side chair is vintage and the glowing bottle lamp is IKEA.

The home’s open plan partitions the kitchen behind an L-shaped pony wall with built-ins on all sides. The house is 2,000 square feet and Kirk managed to do four bedrooms of decent sizes, a playroom for the kids, a laundry and two bathrooms. You feel like the light and the sun is always there, all day long.

It was perfection, or at least, very close. To our delight, the house soon became our home, a home to finally make our very own.

Given our past, our family has a great respect for history as well as design. We longed to stay as true to the original character of the house as possible. Our goal was never to remodel, but rather, to restore. We wanted to begin immediately, but instead decided to take a well-reasoned step back.

We started in perhaps the least obvious place, the local library. It seemed to us the better we knew our past, the better prepared we would be for our future. We spent a great deal of time doing research on midcentury style—from color to materials to form, exhausting the shelves.

We also did research on Kirk and our new neighborhood, Norwood Village. We learned that it had earned a very special place in time: in 1947 the land was earmarked for returning veterans of World War II. Two architects, one of whom was Kirk, designed five house plans that were situated by the architects themselves to preserve the integrity of their vision. What was meant to become low-income housing became one of Seattle’s great planning achievements—recognized as early as 1952 in issues of House and Home and Living for Young Homemakers magazines. Armed with our newfound knowledge, we were at last ready and excited to begin renovations.

The home’s open plan partitions the kitchen behind an L-shaped pony wall with built-ins on all sides. “This house is 2,000 square feet and Kirk managed to do four bedrooms of decent sizes, a playroom for the kids, a laundry and two bathrooms,” says homeowner Laurence Barratt. “You feel like the light and the sun is always there, all day long.” Refinished hardwood floors show off the minimal furnishings, including the modern table and chairs lit by a jumbo Nelson bubble lamp. The artwork is by Anne Simernitski.

Good Research, Great Renovations

With their new knowledge of all things midcentury, the Barrett family slowly started their renovations. Stay tuned for more in part 3.