A ‘down-to-the-studs’ renovation updates a 1961 Ibsen Nelsen home

A midcentury house in Laurelhurst is modernized, beautifully.

KRISTIN AND HER HUSBAND had no plans at all to move from their first home, a 1911 Queen Anne bungalow they had meticulously remodeled to the period. But the kids were conked out in the car, and the family randomly had driven by an intriguing midcentury-modern open house in picturesque Laurelhurst — and really, what could possibly happen if Kristin just peeked?

The dining-room ceiling used to be higher, but with a lower profile came a direct connection to the kitchen and living area, and giant view-framing sliders that open an entire corner to the extended patio. (Benjamin Benschneider / The Seattle Times)

Wanna guess?

“We pull up, and I run in,” says Kristin, sitting in the impeccably renovated and newly modernized, open house she and her husband now share with their three young children. “I loved the lines. It felt very geared toward nature and outside — very calming, very Pacific Northwest: outdoorsy with a hint of Asian influence. It was set back off the street. (My husband) comes in and goes, ‘That could be it.’ It was cool, but an enormous project.”

Here’s why it was so cool: The home was designed in 1961 by famed local architect Ibsen Nelsen, a dedicated historic preservationist.

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Here’s why it was such an enormous project: For one, it’s 4,800 square feet over three levels. For another, not much had changed since 1961.

The entry used to open to a wall with three windows, and one divided view of the courtyard’s “kidney-bean pond with a fountain,” homeowner Kristin says. “When you entered, you didn’t get, ‘Am I inside, or am I outside?’ ” You do now. Eric Walter says mwworks “reconsidered the openings around the courtyard, reframing it as a tranquil organizing element of the house, central not just to the living room but also to the entry,…

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