A 1933 Ship Captain’s House in Seattle Gets an Update

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It was built in 1933 by a Norwegian ship captain, Ole E. Nilsen, as a replica of his childhood home in Bergen, Norway. According to public records, the couple paid $2.5 million for it. The house was built by Ole E. Nilsen in 1933, as a replica to his childhood home, which he had in Bergen Norway. According to public records, the couple paid $2.5million for the house. The house was constructed by highly-skilled craftsmen, who carefully paneled its walls and ceilings using Douglas fir. The boards are placed vertically above the wainscoting, and parallel for the walls. The living room has a double-height vaulted ceiling with a balcony loft characteristic of 19th-century Norwegian houses; its railing has carved balusters and its support beam is decorated with colorful scrolls, acanthus leaves and floral motifs, a style of traditional rural Norwegian folk painting called rosemaling, or rose painting.

When she first saw the house, Ms. Schneider, 45, a playwright originally from San Diego, recalled that she immediately recognized its value. She said, “I grew in a 1933 house with similar qualities.” I was brought up to appreciate quality and craftsmanship. (Mr. Nagae is 46 years old, a Japanese American venture-capitalist from Seattle.) )


Over the past few years, with a family that includes two daughters, 14 and 11, the couple integrated into the interior their growing collection of contemporary art (by the photographer Nan Goldin, the Indigenous Oregon artist Marie Watt and the Seattle native Roger Shimomura, among others) and an eclectic mix of midcentury and contemporary furniture.

The result is a fresh mix of time-transcendent design elements. “We’ve got two worlds interacting,” said Ms. Schneider. The old house is delighted to have been covered with contemporary art. We brought color and light into the darkened rooms.” There is a tiny bedroom in the basement.” “There is a tiny bedroom in the basement.”

The couple decided the house deserved a bigger kitchen, though they didn’t pursue any architects until they met one in Rome, six years ago, at a Pearl Jam concert of all places.

Mike Mora, the co-founder of Heliotrope Architects in Seattle, and his wife, Jessica, had come to attend the concert and see their longtime friends Jeff Ament, a member of the Seattle band, and his wife, Pandora Andre-Beatty.

“That night, Pandora introduced me to Sonya and Stuart, and we learned we lived a half-mile away from each other in Seattle,” Mr. Mora recalled. I was familiar with the home as I passed it on my daily commute to work. Schneider invited Mr. Mora over and shared her dreams.

She wanted a new, light-filled kitchen where her family and friends could gather, which afforded movement between the interior and garden spaces.

She was completely open minded: “When we began talking, I said, ‘Let’s go for the wildest scheme and then scale it back; we are drawn to modern architecture.'”

Mr. Mora was delighted. “We were happy we didn’t need to design a replica of a 100-year-old building; we could be influenced by it but make an addition very much of its own time, with contemporary lines and more expansive glass.”

Heliotrope Architects, founded in 1999, has several high-profile institutional clients, including REI, Amazon, Microsoft and Nordstrom. It won the James Beard Award for Outstanding Restaurant Design in 2020. Its residential work, however, tends to be minimalist, sustainable and with a quality, they say, that “weathers.”

Mr. Mora’s plan for the kitchen followed those principles; it is deceptively simple-looking, quiet and elegant.

The 500-square-foot addition is a contemporary post-and-beam construction.

“It’s one story, because we didn’t need any more program,” Mr. Mora said. It is a complement to the house, but also stands alone. Mr. Mora selected black brick walls as a nod to dark gray shingles on the house. The local landmarks board approved his plans with ease. They wanted something that reflected current times, as Ms. Schneider explained. The cabinets are white oak stained, while the columns and beams are Douglas fir stained. Ceiling is cedar. In the kitchen, a counter with a sink is located beneath a glass panel. The space is clean and clutter-free. It has no external hardware. To one side are glass doors that open out to a terrace overlooking Puget Sound. Its glass wall affords a view of the new garden to the south by David Berleth Landscape Architect.

The outdoor terrace to the south, which is shaded by an overhang, has a built-in wood-burning barbecue for grilling, a favorite pastime of Mr. Nagae, but the main action outside is the backyard to the west, with a loggia for private outdoor dining.

The Norwegians have an expression: “Wood is our living archive.” As early as A.D. 800, the Vikings displayed their excellent craftsmanship and knowledge of wood construction techniques in their longships.

Heliotrope Architects honors such craft traditions, which may explain the kitchen’s deep resonance to Ms. Schneider.

“The kitchen really feels like a collaboration; it really did come out as I hoped,” she said. “I now feel connected to this place through this project: It’s an homage to the old house and a nod to my husband’s Japanese, very minimalist sensibility.”