Views Abound in this Leschi Remodel

A 1960s Leschi home's major re-do includes a brand-new view

By Shannon O'Leary November 6, 2013


This article originally appeared in the November 2013 issue of Seattle Magazine.

It all began simply enough. Marsha Olch longed for a kitchen with a view. The house, which she and her husband, Lee, had purchased in 1997, was appealingly set into a hill overlooking Leschi Park below and Lake Washington beyond. The only problem was that the low-lying house, built in 1960, had an oddly severe, low-pitched roof that essentially blocked out these views, and much of the natural light. “The effect was kind of like walking around with a baseball cap with the brim pulled down to about your mouth, and that was the view,” describes Lee. “When I stood in my kitchen,” says Marsha, “I’d look out and the roof just kept going down. And I knew there was a view out there.” A remodeling effort by the previous owners had done little to improve the home’s outlook. In fact, by pushing out the back of the house, they had brought the roofline (or baseball cap) even lower.

Enter Jed Miller of Seattle’s Casa Architecture and Interior Design. As anyone contemplating a home improvement project fervently wishes, a friend had recommended him. “[The friend] lived in the fancy neighborhood down the hill, Washington Park, where everything is beautiful,” recalls Marsha, “and she said, ‘The nice thing about Jed is that you explain to him what you want and he comes back to you with ideas that look like what you had in mind.’’’ And as the trio started talking about a new roof design, it soon became clear that what the Olchs really wanted was a complete rebuild. Miller’s next step was to ask the couple to pen a pro-and-con list about the existing house. “Typically, how I start each project, and it doesn’t matter if it’s big or small, is we develop what I call a profile,” explains Miller. “I have the client make a primary list—just trying to get the thought process going—then we go through it and organize and prioritize items…I tend to call them ‘hot buttons.’ Everyone has hot buttons, and sometimes her hot button doesn’t match his hot button.” Fortunately, the Olchs’ “buttons” matched exactly. As well as maximizing views and improving daylighting and natural airflow/ventilation in the house, they wanted a new flexible guest room/office space, a master bathroom with direct access to an Endless Pool, and dearly desired to do away with living room’s dated, depressing floor-to-ceiling gray rock fireplace facade.

Miller’s dramatic brow lift raised the roofline and made room for a series of tall window walls, each topped with motorized tilt-open awning windows, which are arrayed across the home’s south side, finally revealing those once occluded pretty lake and park views. He also strategically inserted more windows and skylights throughout the house (ending with a count of 31 openable windows). Along with a major boost in daylight, this window scheme vastly improved the home’s circulation year-round. “I pay a lot of attention to how the house is ventilated and how the air is circulated,” says the architect. “So many houses are not properly ventilated,” and, aside from energy-use and comfort issues, says Miller, “a properly ventilated house will always smell clean.” He adds, “It’s one of the benefits of opting for a whole-house remodel route. You have a great opportunity to examine the mechanical system and how the house actually works.”

To make way for the guest room/office on the top floor, and for Marsha’s grand piano in the living room, Miller simply pushed out the front of the house by 4 feet and removed an unused deck. The new flex space has pocket doors that allow for a swift, tasteful division. “We are really into functionality,” says Lee, “and it just drives me nuts to have space that you can’t use. Jed was really helpful in figuring out how to make this a real multi-functional room. It can be set up as two bedrooms that share a bath, as a second master suite or, as it’s set up now, as a guest room and study.”

Outside, the goal was to reclaim areas of dead space around the house, including extending the deck across the entirety of its back side, and adding that long-desired Endless Pool, which was slotted just steps from the couple’s remade master bathroom. “Jed gets credit for almost everything…it was his idea to pu the pool right up by the house so that you didn’t have to walk out to it in the rain,” says Lee. However, the couple also credits much of their outdoor makeover to deck builder Don Dawson. Not only did he design the new back deck (painstakingly pre-drilling the wood to use hidden fasteners), as well as the vertical and terraced gardens (complete with a 44-foot boardwalk), benches and fences, but he imagined and built the striking surround of trellises and arbors that provide privacy for the pool. (His attention to detail extended to mirroring in his trellises the unique dovetailing that Miller had designed into the house’s overhangs.)

A dramatic reworking also took place on the house’s street side, which finally got a proper entry. “It looked like a back entrance with a blank door,” says Miller of the original entrance. “[The door] was painted the same color as the house, with no windows, no lights really…You didn’t know that was the front door because it didn’t say front door.” Adds Lee, “The first time Jed came over, he walked right by it because he thought it was a garage door.” Miller elegantly re-situated the entry door and re-landscaped the front of the house, creating a formal yet welcoming entrance with privacy cedar screens and a wending rock pathway. Now, from front door to back deck, this house is a brighter and better home.

This project was selected by a panel of judges from AIA Seattle 


Architect: Jed Miller; Casa Architecture, 206.533.8733;

General contractor: Mark Schilperoort, Schilperoort  Brooks Inc., SBI Construction; 425.672.0789;

Deck, trellis, arbor, fences design/build: Don Dawson, The Siding Company, 4206 192nd St. SW, Lynnwood; 425.771.3455. 

Structural engineer: Swenson Say Fagét, 2124 Third Ave., Suite 100; 206.443.6212

Hardwood floors: Garry Craig, American Hardwood Floors, 20324 19th Ave. NE, Suite D, Shoreline; 206.363.2832

Hardwood stairs: Troy Schmidt, Custom Wood Design, 18638 NE 189th St., Woodinville; 206.276.2970.

Cabinetmaker (kitchen, dining, great room, bath): Handcraft Fine Cabinetry, 44133 SE Tanner Road, North Bend; 425.888.0109

Roofing: Mark Gobble, Loberg Roofing, 5800 188th St. SW, Suite A, Lynnwood; 425.775.2276

Plumbing: Jeff Bain, Bain Plumbing Heating, 17214 Valley Circle Drive, Bothell; 206.459.9275.

HVAC: Bob Sivik, Air Care Systems, 24905 55th Ave. NE, Arlington; 425.328.0162.

Electric: Rick Mitchell, Elliott Bay Electric, 14331 19th Ave. NE; 206.362.5777.

Windows/slider doors: Douglas fir, motorized upper-awning windows with rain sensors, Loewen

Skylights: Velux motorized opening skylights with motorized blinds and rain sensors, Windows Doors and More, Georgetown, 5961 Corson Ave. S, Suite 100; 206.782.1011

Motorized exterior sun shades: Tom Jones, Awnings by Design, 815 Kirkland Way, Kirkland; 425.766.2838

Light fixtures: James R. Moder “Broadway Bar” (dining chandelier), Louis Poulsen “Enigma 425” (master bath pendant), Ferguson Bath Kitchen and Lighting, 13020 NE 20th St., Bellevue; 425.869.9007; Bruck “Rainbow Down” (kitchen pendants), Hubbardton Forge (exterior sconces), Ginger “Kubic” (master bath), North Coast Lighting, 2424 Eighth Ave. S; 206.436.4444

Countertops: “Costa Esmeralda” (kitchen/dining slab granite);“Seagrass” (living room fireplace surround/baths slab limestone), Pental Granite Marble, Georgetown, 713 S Fidalgo St.; 206.768.3200;

Tile: Porcelain ColorBody “Harbour Mist” (kitchen), Caspian Shellstone (bath limestone), AKDO Seagrass basketweave (bath limestone), Daltile, SoDo, 6020 Sixth Ave. S; 206.763.3004

Appliances: Miele (oven, dishwasher), Dacor (cooktop), Arnold’s Appliance, 1034 116th Ave NE, Bellevue; 425.454.7929

Plumbing fixtures: Grohe, satin nickel; Todo toilets, Kohler Ladena vanity sinks, Keller Supply, Interbay, 3209 17th Ave. W; 206.270.4724

Interior door, cabinet, bath hardware: Sugatsune stainless steel cabinet pulls, Motiv satin nickel bath accessories, Robern mirrored medicine cabinets, Seattle Interiors, Wallingford, 3822 Stone Way N; 206.633.2900

Custom front door: Douglas fir and Read glass, Frank Lumber, 17727 15th Ave. NE, Shoreline; 206.362.031

Rugs (great room, dining, master bedroom): Driscoll Robbins Fine Carpets, Downtown, 997 Western Ave.; 206.292.1115

Fireplaces: Valor gas insert (study, exercise room), Ovation fireplace satin nickel doors (great room), Sutter Hearth and Home, Ballard, 920 NW Leary Way; 206.783.9115

Stair/catwalk railing: Stainless steel balustrades, railing system glass, “Barok” tempered art glass, Herzog Glass, 4344-A S 104th Place; 206.322.8444

Handrail millwork: O.B. Williams Co., Georgetown, 1939 First Ave. S; 206.623.249

Floors/stair treads: Cumaru. Stone, paver paths, patio: Glacier Green flagstone (front entry path; designed/built by owners), pavers (back yard path), Pavingstone Supply, 4401 11th Ave. NW; 206.783.2811; Pavers (front yard path), architectural pavers (patio), Mutual Materials, 605 119th Ave. NE, Bellevue; 425.452.2300; Dimensional lilac Pennsylvania stone (living room garden stepping stones), Lakeview Stone Garden, 916 N 143rd St.; 206.525.5270

Endless pool: EPI Direct Inc.; 866.558.7694

Landscape/container plants, deck furniture: City People’s Garden Store, Madison Park, 2939 E Madison St; 206.324.0737


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