In 2017, we did a two-part profile on a Gig Harbor couple who were undertaking the renovation of a midcentury modern home, with limitless potential. Part 1 focused on the home as it was when they purchased it, as well as the couple’s dreams for renovation. Part 2 was mid-renovation and covered some of the challenges the couple came up against. It’s been 2 years since we last touched base, but they are thrilled to announce that the project is finally complete, and the results were well worth the wait.
A little background: Janice Rosaire and Brian Best were traveling in Mexico, when Janice, who is always scanning home listings for fun, came across a home that caught her eye. It was in desperate need of renovation, but something special stood out to her even in the photos. Since they were traveling, they had their agent walk the home and provide them a virtual tour. That was more than enough. They put in an offer and got the house in early Spring 2017.
Since then, it has been constant remodeling. In the beginning, the couple kept their home in a midcentury building in Capitol Hill. But after the remodel started taking shape, they were able to move into the home’s newly created guest suite to be closer to the remodel. As can happen when undertaking a renovation, this project turned out to be much bigger than anticipated. But they were undaunted. Janice saw the underlying beauty in the home, which had suffered a few questionable renovations between owners. Although, it still had the bones of a classic midcentury modern home. The biggest question? What would they find behind the walls?
It turned out that what was behind the walls was less surprising than a few other discoveries made throughout the project. The process required taking the home down to the studs to replace the electric, A/C and heating systems, and even the deck and the roof. Still, what they found in the master bathroom was the most surprising.
What was previously an outdoor atrium had been covered and then incorporated into the home. What they didn’t expect was to find a full concrete pool, 12 feet long and 5 feet wide, with a depth of 3-4 feet. It was completely finished with a drain and spanned the current master bath into a room that was now a den. Surprises like this are exciting but finding it so late in the process prevented Janice and Brian from being able to incorporate it back into their design. Looking for the original plans of the home as well as the first owners, has been something of a hobby for Janice and Brian throughout the years.
They have other questions they’d love to ask as well. For example, there is a totem pole in the back yard. What is the story here? It is relatively small in size, and somewhat decimated by ambitious woodpeckers. But the original details are still clear. There are faces at the bottom of the pole, a representation of the family and then the designs traveling up the pole are an ode to the Pacific Northwest as well as the family’s history or values. Who carved or which family it represents is still a mystery.
One day, by chance and perhaps a bit of kismet, Janice and Brian got a clue to the history of the home. While working outside on the landscaping, a car drove up outside their home. It turned out to be not just previous owners, but the original owners and the designers of the home! They had sold the home many years before and moved out of state but happened to be visiting the area.
Surprisingly, the original owners weren’t architects, but rather, unofficial artists, he was a photographer to be exact, with great artistic flair. He designed the home from the ground up and with the help of a builder whose name, unfortunately, cannot be located, the home came to life. The original owners promised Janice and Brian photographs and any other original blueprints or drawings they could dig up. Unfortunately, blueprints and drawings had since been lost, but they were able to find several original photos.
There were several unique elements of the original home. One being the main entrance of the home where they had created an opening in the ceiling. From the ground up, they created a space for their parrots to live. They later had owls living there as well. Ultimately, this element of the home was removed, but it adds just of bit of that mysterious magic that caught the attention of Janice years ago.
The renovation project itself required years of work. Janice and Brian were determined to maintain the bones of the house to keep the architectural integrity of the home and to maintain the feeling of the era in which it was built. The original design of the home was part of the inspiration, along with the wall of glass windows that face the view of stunning Vashon Island, Mt. Rainier, the Puget Sound, and all of nature’s beauty. She wanted to keep the design as timeless and simple as possible and shine the light on the home’s history and its incredible surroundings. Despite trying to keep things simple, Janice cannot think of an area that wasn’t touched by the renovation.
Of the many upgrades and spatial modifications they plan to tackle, a few examples include replacing all the flooring through the home with new wide plank hardwood flooring, removing and relocating closets, adding a media room, re-configuring a master bedroom and bathroom suite, and creating an additional living space for a future tenant to occupy. They ended up moving many of the interior walls around to better suit modern life. Traditionally, homes built in the midcentury were divided into smaller spaces. Today, homes have larger integrated spaces, a feature that also enabled them to highlight the view throughout more of the house.
They didn’t want to completely erase the original design of the home, so were thoughtful about which walls to remove and which to maintain. However, they did need to add two structural beams in the project: one within the home to open up the main floor plan and a second in the new mother-in-law unit. The decision to create a separate living space of about 900square feet complete with an open floor plan, one bedroom, bathroom, and laundry, was made with the idea of housing a tenant throughout most of the year. The original home at 3,400 square feet, is after all, too large for what the couple needs, especially with their busy travel schedule. The tenant’s space also includes a large outdoor area including a deck and yard.
The outdoor spaces also needed a lot of consideration. A strange and unique feature of the landscaping was the original large metal containers that had been repurposed into planters. During the process, they discovered these were originally propane tanks. Today, Janice and Brian have converted them into planters, a fire pit, and a fountain. They’ve even created a large retaining wall that highlights the rusted propane tanks, converting what could be considered garbage into inspiration and art that blends into the design of the home.
When they aren’t traveling, they are entertaining friends in the Seattle area. Family and friends are visiting frequently, often staying over for several nights, especially in the summer. Entertaining spaces were a priority when completing the renovation, so the home is designed to be welcoming and able to accommodate a lot of people. Outdoors they have bocce, a wood firepit in the front and a gas fire pit in the back. They are planning to add a Japanese soaking hot tub just off the master bedroom in time for next summer.
When not outdoors, Janice spends most of her time in her favorite space in the home, the living room. It is no doubt the expansive views of the Puget Sound that provide endless entertainment and calm. She keeps a pair of binoculars handy to watch the local orca whales, playing seals, and peaceful boats. There is always something beautiful and interesting to watch.
Turning just slightly, she sees another view that brings her joy—that of her completed home filled with furniture that is meaningful to her, such as the two antique armchairs that were in the home she grew up in, or the art that Janice and Brian picked out together.
It has been several years, and a lot more work than they thought, but when asked if she believes it was worth it, in the end,, her only response is to smile and say “absolutely.”
Do you have a modern or midcentury modern home you’re remodeling? We’d love to learn more!