Architect and ‘dream team’ transform family house

THE HIGHLANDS, Wash. — The conservatory started it. There it stood, in all its York-imported glory, so tantalizingly close, yet stranded all alone at the far end of an open-air breezeway.

In the mornings, armed with coffee and The Wall Street Journal, Tim Kirley trekked outside to the see-through room with a front-page view.

But … that “outside” part. So the original plan was simple: Connect that conservatory to the kitchen.

Except … the kitchen had its own issues. Like, it actually was four rooms: family, breakfast, dining and the “tiny little E-shaped” kitchen itself, Megan Kirley says. And it had a much larger role to fill.

“Like any normal family, we’re always in the kitchen,” says Megan.

So … they needed a bigger, better, lighter kitchen, too.

The Kirley family (Tim; Megan; and their 12-, 16- and 18-year-old children) lived in London before moving to this expansive European-inspired home on a bluff in The Highlands. When they were shopping for Seattle-area houses, they couldn’t help but notice all their favorite kitchens had one common fixture: Stuart Silk Architects.

Certainly Silk was the man for the job.

“Our Realtor said he’d be busy,” Megan says. “But I thought, ‘You know what? I’m just going to call him.’ And he answered and said, ‘When do you want me to come out?’”

Silk was the man for the job — even, and especially, as the original idea evolved into a new whole-house vision (innovative design and detailing, traditional/contemporary combo, warmth, minimalism, light). In two parts.

Phase One covered the conservatory, now beautifully connected, electrically updated and a “very useful room” for family dinners and breakfasts; the kitchen, now large enough for the Kirleys and the caterers, filled with light and wide open to Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains; and the family room, mud room and detached guesthouse.

That was Phase One, level one. Upstairs, the entire north end of the home was demolished to reconfigure the kids’ bedrooms. (The two girls drew designs for their own rooms, Megan says: The 18-year-old now has a bright, white suite, with asymmetrical shelves and an archway, while the two younger children share a bathroom.)

“It was great,” Megan says. “It was so great, we decided to do the rest of the house. It turned into sort of a joke: How many walls can we knock down?”

Oh, lots.

In fact, Megan says, only the original exterior walls remain.

“Every square foot of the nearly 10,000-square-foot home was remodeled,” Silk says — even the terrace. “All of it was radically reconfigured. We took it even beyond the studs. There’s not one wall upstairs in its original location, and only one room in the same place: Tim’s office, which had been three rooms.”

Phase Two!

More “rabbit-warren rooms” vanished. Marble columns tumbled. Black-and-white tile: exiled. Dysfunction: cured. A transitional theme emerged.

The master bedroom, which had been seven separate but interconnected rooms, was completely remodeled, reoriented and re-imagined within its existing space. There had been nine bedrooms; now there are five. There had been 11 fireplaces; now there are five (though the one in the basement is sealed off), Megan says, including a new one carved into the formal living room (itself relocated to the south end of the home).

Outside, on the covered terrace off the living room, Silk divided the floor pattern into three “chunks,” designed a cozy firepit and created a true outdoor-living space the Kirleys use all the time, thanks to powerful heaters imported from New Zealand. (So hot that the first time they were plugged in, they blew the whole system, Megan says.)

The towering entry, art-filled gallery, formal dining room, first-level powder room and once-mirrored music room — all transformed.

All over, innovative steel details — on fireplaces, columns, stairs, bookshelves, light fixtures — merge with historical settings. A cohesive blend of white painted walls and bleached quarter-sawn white-oak paneling connects it all.

And that once-aloof conservatory? It’s come home, just like part of the family.

“It’s normal now,” Megan says. “It’s warm, and getting warmer. It’s a happy home.”