Home Life: A Wrinkle in Time
If only this Magnolia home could talk
By Sean Meyers October 17, 2022
The Bacon family had spent six months slogging to unimpressive open houses around Seattle when, in October 2017, they finally stumbled on a hillside gem in Magnolia. It was designed by a prolific architect who loved the home so much that he spent the last 55 years of his life there.
Lisa Bacon knew their budget would allow only a lowball offer for the 4,200-square-foot mid-century modern home, but she sat down to write the estate executors a letter:
“Dear family of the James Paul Jones home: Thank you for giving us the opportunity to visit your beautiful home. Last night, my husband Dave, our 7-year-old son Max and I met, after school and work, and imagined the laughter and memories that we might someday create in the stairwells and rooms of your childhood home.”
The offer was accepted, but by the following January, an ambulance was carefully backed down the narrow dead-end road to retrieve Lisa, whose cancer had returned. She would defiantly spend the last few months of her life pegging Pinterest boards and brainstorming remodeling ideas with Seattle firm Johnston Architects.
“It was the last gift from a mom, a project, a hope and a reminder that there are no beginnings and endings, only the relentless march of the wholeness known as time,” Dave Bacon says.
Left to their own devices, Dave and Max played board games at the dinner table and ate green chile enchiladas. The family pet, Imma Dog (known aliases: Imma Good Dog, Imma Bad Dog), vigorously prosecuted a dispute with the local crow population.
Historical superhero literature mandates that cliffside bachelor fortresses have monikers. Young master Max dubbed the lair “Tesseract,” a multi-layered metaphor. A tesseract is a hypercube, sometimes called an eight-cell octachoron, cubic prism or tetracube.
“The tesseract is the four-dimensional analogue of the cube; the tesseract is to the cube as the cube is to the square,” according to Wikipedia.
Architects around the world, including a few in the Seattle area, have attempted to represent the tesseract in residential construction. It’s an obscure genre that requires considerable abstraction. But the tesseract is also frequently employed less literally as a plot device in science fiction, including the young adult bestseller “A Wrinkle in Time,” a cherished book in the Bacon household.
The novel wrestles with questions of spirituality and purpose. Protagonist Meg Murry and her younger brother journey through space and time to save their father, a gifted scientist, from evil forces.
Dave Bacon fits the role of gifted scientist. A theoretical physicist and software engineer, Bacon is building the next generation of quantum computers for Google. The Cal-Tech alumnus teaches at the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Washington and has written a research paper exploring the hotly debated theory that space, folded on itself, may allow intergalactic time travel.
“We call it ‘closed timelike curve’ so people don’t think we’re crazy,” says Bacon, an easygoing sort who doesn’t take himself too seriously. He lists his primary occupation on LinkedIn as “enabler of joy and builder.” He also has an easy and infectious laugh that attracted the attention of Cindy Wood (now Cindy Wood Bacon), a Deloitte and entertainment/media industry consultant and “ski bum.”
Dave is from small-town Yreka, Calif., and Cindy is East Coast/Southern by way of Aspen, but they share a love of the outdoors, especially alpine environments. Cindy moved to Seattle the very day Lisa and Dave closed on Tesseract.
“It feels like destiny that Dave and I were to be together, even though it happened due to very unfortunate circumstances,” Cindy says.
They also share some architectural sensibilities, including an appreciation of minimalism and the pragmatic absolutism of black and white. Together they pressed forward on the whole-house remodel.
Tesseract’s best feature – then and now – is its panoramic view.
A wide swath of southeast facing windows, unusual in Magnolia architecture, floods the home in natural light and highlights both its breathtaking city view and busy, industrial port, a rawness that appeals to Dave.
“If you have to live in Seattle,” he says, “this house makes you happy.”
Built in 1962, the same year “A Wrinkle in Time” was published and the Space Needle opened, Tesseract rippled with Rat Pack swagger and testosterone, including a three-story basalt rock waterfall feature, a massive shiny bar where Sammy Davis Jr. once drank, a solarium, jet tub, pizza oven, four wood-burning fireplaces (one with a built-in grill), 1962-era kitchen cabinets and oven, a wine room and an in-ground pool.
Known locally as a colorful character, Jones designed and built 300 homes, 50 apartment buildings and numerous condos in the Magnolia-Queen Anne area. Before his death in June 2017, he estimated that he had designed and built more than 150 houses in Magnolia, and in combination with his multifamily projects, accounted for more than 10% of the neighborhood’s residential structures.
“He caught a period in time really well. The floor plan had a few mistakes we had to correct, but for the most part, it still works great, which is crazy after all these years, right?” Bacon says. “And the entryway, even the new architects were like, ‘Wow.’ For the era he did it, Jones was at the top of his game.”
It was certainly cool, but neither environmentally sustainable nor contemporary. “It was a little weird having a pond in the living room,” Bacon says. For the remodel, Dave wanted to bring the outside in, including metal sculptures, but not go full industrial or antiseptic.
“In modern minimalist homes, I think one has to be aware of going too far in the direction of Colombian drug lord all-white,” he says.
The Bacons installed lounge furniture on the deck off the kitchen in a style they call “South Beach Seattle,” complete with campaign well. It was one of the ways they strived to keep the original entertainment vibe of the home.
Dave is shape-savant but color-challenged, so Cindy took over that department. Sparing no detail, she took into account the fur shading of Imma, a Doberman-shepherd mix.
“The house has a very natural, masculine energy to it,” she says. “Because the materials are so bold, what felt right to me was to do a very neutral, gray color palate – not strict, but limited.”
Home Interiors Aspen was among the brick-and-mortar businesses and artisans Cindy used decorating Tesseract.
Johnston Architects, which had previously designed an acclaimed ski cabin in the Methow Valley for the family, was selected for its affability, willingness to take risks, sustainability expertise and commitment to rural economic development.
Ray Johnston calls the style of Tesseract “Northwest Modern.” As a practical business matter, he generally avoids the word “minimalist.”
“Clients say, ‘Oh, I don’t want minimalist!’ But when you ask them to point out a picture of something they like, it’s minimalist.”
Johnston Architects tightened the envelope by replacing the wood-burning fireplaces with gas, eliminating the pizza oven, upgrading insulation to code, downsizing and electronically shading windows, removing the solarium and extending the roofline to increase shade, replacing electric baseboards with mini-split, flush-mounted heat pumps (with AC), installing electric radiant floor heating and prepping the roof for photovoltaics. When solar panels are added, the home will be near net-zero.
Lead designer Shane Leaman used software he developed to maximize energy efficiency and strove to create an art gallery effect, with large white walls, track lighting and low-slung furniture.
Many homeowners swap out rugs and furniture when they feel the need to “churn” their environment. The Bacons intend to achieve that fresh feeling by churning artwork. A Ukrainian artist is among those currently featured.
In adherence to the original master plan, the Bacon family is creating laughter and memories in the stairwells and rooms of Tesseract. Dave is working on what he thinks might be a unique aesthetic concept for a mountain lodge. Cindy has established a Bureau of Finishing Touches. “Dave doesn’t understand monogrammed towels.”
Max, now 12, is a painter, a cellist and also plays the grand piano that belonged to his great-grandmother. “When he plays the piano, you can’t hide from it because it fills the whole house, which I think is kind of nice,” Bacon says.
The Bacons hope James Paul Jones successfully negotiates the closed timelike curve of his choosing.
“The way we like to think about it is that when we opened up the walls, we released him to go on. It very much feels like a new start for the family,” says Dave.
Join The Must List
Seattle's best events delivered to your inbox