West Seattle Home Grows Upward, Gets a Modern Makeover

A West Seattle couple starts a second story and a new chapter

It was the wrong house. Or at least Emily Trittschuh wrote down the wrong address to check out on her weekly, Sunday-afternoon house hunt. The 1953 pea-soup green, 2,520-square-foot, ranch-style residence in West Seattle’s Admiral District was over her budget, but, since she had already driven out, she saw no harm in a quick walkthrough.

Within the month, the house was hers. “I knew as soon as I stepped inside,” Trittschuh says from her now sun-filled living room, where 9-foot-tall solar windows open to the south. “It was that feeling of when you’ve been waiting for something and, when you find it, you just jump right in.”

The first floor dining and living room also houses a marble fireplace, built in 1953. Bottom: A floating larch staircase connects the three levels of the home.

Trittschuh and her husband, architect Chris Patano of Patano Studio Architecture, were still newlyweds when they started to take the plunge of redesigning the home two years ago. She would share ideas from sleuthing on Google, and he would map out plans and blueprints to see what could be accomplished within the space and their budget. They found common ground, beginning with a vote to work “within the bones”—reinforced concrete—of the original home. The decision left one clear direction to expand…up.

A current map of Seattle serves as wallpaper in the kitchen and was ordered from UK company, wallpapered.com.

Remodeling your home can be a daunting task, but Patano let the elements, namely the available natural light and prevailing winds (for natural ventilation), guide how he stacked another 750-square-foot story above the first floor, with the goal of creating a clean and modern upper level that channeled 1920s American minimalism.

Natural light filters down the stairs and through slatted walls from the second floor windows and glass doors.

A floating staircase, built with larch harvested from Washington forests, connects each level, creating a breath of openness from the second-floor bedrooms to the basement play area for the couple’s two children. This fluidity is also felt on the first floor, where the couple tore down the walls that once separated the kitchen and dining room, and added sliding pocket doors for the bathrooms and storage cabinets to further enhance the home’s open concept. Designing the home became an exercise in proportion, with the goal being not to squeeze every inch of square footage into a floor plan, but rather, to find ways to work around older fixtures to create an expanded feel throughout.

Patano and Trittschuh spend warm evenings with family on their new deck. The AIA Seattle Home of Distinction award panel praised the project’s attention to detail including the symmetrical layout of the nails in the surrounding larch wall.

Another of Trittschuh and Patano’s key challenges was how to best enjoy the precious sunlight of Seattle. Their solution materialized in a 700-square-foot deck that flanks the second floor. The space, which the family refers to as their second living room, is surrounded by waist-high, black-stained larch siding, so when someone lounges on the couch and chairs, they are hidden from the street.

The master bathroom has an intriguing narrow configuration with light-grabbing clerestory windows.

The southeast side faces the main street, offering an expansive view of Seattle’s skyline and watercolor hues as the sun sets in the west. “We got lucky,” Trittschuh says. “We started building a house and ended up designing our life in the process.”

The master bedroom looks out over the Duwamish, Elliott Bay and the Seattle skyline.

Patano and Trittschuh called the project BLK LAB after their family pet, a black labrador named Macy.

This West Seattle home was selected by a panel of architects for the AIA Seattle (aiaseattle.org) Home of Distinction program in recognition of its compact and thoughtful layout, which supports the owners’ indoor/outdoor lifestyle and reduces the home’s carbon footprint by providing natural ventilation and daylighting. For more images, visit seattlemag.com/home-and-garden.

Patano Studio Architecture, Christopher Patano, AIA, 207.734.3870, patanostudio.com
AJP Engineering Inc., Aaron Pambianco, structural engineer, apambianco@ajpeng.com
Studio AB, Andrea Becker, landscape design, 206.271.9489, designstudioab.com


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