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Past meets present

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A light-filled addition by architect Nils Finne has transformed this home


The remodel of an older residence brings the opportunity to create an interplay between past and present. Designing crafted elements using contemporary processes is one way to draw yesterday and today together.

As part of this remodel, the homeowners asked architect Nils Finne to replace an existing master bedroom and cramped master bath with a spacious master suite. To achieve this, a two-story addition was added, allowing for the suite upstairs and a study downstairs, says Finne.

"I designed the wood extension with three bay overhangs to break up the mass and create an interesting play between light and shadows.

"Another significant aspect of the project was the introduction of a dramatic, three-story stair hall in the center of the residence. The new stair railing has laser-cut steel vertical supports. While these have an intricate, crafted appeal appropriate to a classic home, they could only have been achieved by laser cutting – a perfect marriage of the 1930s and the present day."

The attic above the stairwell was reframed, optimizing views and natural light penetration through the home – contemporary functionality and comfort were high on the design agenda.


Several sustainability strategies played a part in day-to-day comfort, says Finne.

"All the exterior walls, and the roof, were insulated to the maximum extent. Rigid-board insulation was attached to the masonry and then plastered over – resulting in thick walls and deep sills. Windows were all double glazed."

With energy loss covered, energy creation was also addressed. Ground source wells were drilled to produce strategic heat exchange and minimize heating and cooling energy demand. This reduced gas consumption by about 90%.

A 3.4 kilowatt array of photovoltaic panels was placed on the roof and radiant floor heating introduced – the latter boosted by transferred heat from the steady 50˚F ground source wells.

Other sustainable aspects included the use of low-VOC paint and recycled wood flooring.

"Of course, the very act of renovation is inherently sustainable – reclaiming all the embedded energy in the original 80-year-old residence," says Finne. "This is another winning combination of the old and the new."

First published date: 11 June 2012

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Credit List

Architect and interior designer Finne Architects (Seattle, WA); Nils Finne AIA, design principal, Brad Gassman, project manager
Cabinet company Pete's Cabinets
Builder Schultz Miller
Structural engineer Swenson Say Fagét
Siding Custom-milled tongue-and-groove western red cedar
Doors and windows Customvertical-grain fir by Quantum Windows and Doors
Flooring Quartersawn red oak, recycled VG fir, Seagrass Limestone
Wall coverings Metro glass tile by Ann Sacks
Paints and varnishes Low-VOC paint by Devine Paints
Lighting Bruck, Lightolier; custom fused-glass LED pendant light over stairwell, designed by Nils Finne, fabricated by Finne Architects and Landbridge Lighting
Heating Radiant floor heating
Blinds MechoShade
Features Custom laser-cut stair railing, designed by Nils Finne, fabricated by Five Star Industries
Bathroom tub Happy D by Duravit
Vanity Seagrass limestone
Basin Duravit Architec
Faucets California Faucets
Shower fittings Hansgrohe
Shower enclosure Starphire low-iron glass with custom corner door
Bathroom wallcoverings Glass tile by Ann Sacks
Bathroom lighting Bruck, Lightolier, vanity lighting in custom LED lighting set into steel frame, designed by Nils Finne, fabricated by Landbridge Lighting
Accessories Towel bars, robe hooks and toilet-roll holders all in VRI twisted steel series designed by architect, fabricated by Five Star Industries