During the renovation of the Dowell residence, designers were faced with seemingly conflicting directives: honor the iconic architecture and interiors of the Paul Kirk-designed home while updating it to fit the modern lifestyle of its new owner and his young daughter. By carefully refurbishing original materials and respectfully incorporating modern conveniences, Olson Kundig was able to successfully accomplish both.
Built in 1953 in Seattle’s Seward Park neighborhood and named after its first owner, the Dowell residence reflects Kirk’s classic Northwest, Asian-inspired aesthetic. Over the years, subsequent renovations had gradually stripped the character from the home, eroding the features that defined the architectural gem. Olson Kundig consulted historic photos of the well-documented residence, and in many cases were able to find original replacements for damaged or worn items.
Much of the home’s original furnishings remained, including a sectional in the living room and a chaise lounge that had been used on the outside patio. Designers repaired and reupholstered both; and when vintage photos showed the lounge chair had originally been used in the atrium, it was brought back inside.
A collection of Northwest Masters original art pieces, including paintings by Guy Anderson and Paul Horiuchi, complete the period-sensitive renovation.
New and found furnishings with Scandinavian and Japanese undertones were incorporated into the living room, where a television and entertainment system was tucked behind a custom steel cabinet with a pivoting door. A custom-sized table and chair set graces the dining room, designed by the late Northwest woodworker George Nakashima (whose company is now run by his daughter). Original light fixtures — a pendant light in the dining room and conversation-starting “cricket” fixtures in the atrium — remain.
The kitchen received considerable upgrades while retaining the ambiance of the original design. A Wolf range — its exhaust venting hidden by new casework — is surrounded by cabinets and cupboards designed to match the originals.
The Plan Awards, Renovation Honorable Mention
Bradbury, Dominic. Atlas of Mid-Century Modern Houses, London: Phaidon, Nov. 2019, 31, 412, 434, 438. Book.