before & after: seattle suburb space gets a posh, polished makeover

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Nothing is as awe inspiring as a before-and-after makeover where you really see the effort involved. Such is true of this home located outside of Seattle, WA, where designer Michelle Dirkse provided plenty of posh, polish, and lively, but not overwhelming color to a family home.

HOW DID THIS PROJECT COME ABOUT? The client, Anna, found my firm online when searching for a designer to help with her remodel.


HOW DID YOU BEGIN PLANNING A PROJECT LIKE THIS? ANY ADVICE FOR A NON-DESIGNER TACKLING THEIR OWN PROJECT AT HOME? With every project, I like to learn a bit about the client so that I can see things from their perspective. After Anna shared a bit about herself and how her family uses the home, she gave me a few inspiration images from online resources and I selected a few of my own. From these, we honed in on the mix of softly modern and rustic finishes and furnishings. Then I started selecting combinations of finishes and furnishings for her to review. The project grew from there and included all new finishes, a new kitchen design and new furnishings and accessories. Once the design was finalized, I forwarded my construction drawings, cabinetry details and product specifications to contractors that Anna asked to request bids from. After selecting a contractor, I checked in on the project until completion and had the finishing touches installed so that it felt like the welcoming family home that we’d envisioned.

For non-designers, I think it’s important to remember that your selections are working together to create a story. How will the items work to complement or contrast with one another? I think that homeowners can get “stuck” when they’re looking at the items out of context. Start with freely selecting images that speak to you by looking online or in magazines. Then let them incubate a bit- take a break! When you come back to your images, note which parts you like: the overall feel, the colors, the layout, contrast, etc. Recurring concepts will quickly reveal themselves and help to inform your selections. As you select potential finishes and furnishings, look at them as groups to make sure that they all work together. It’s not just about picking pretty things, it’s about finding items that speak to you personally and work together to tell your story. Lastly, make sure that you’ve selected every item/finish and that all of the pieces will fit prior to ordering or beginning demolition. If you give the same information to each potential contractor, then you’ll more easily be able to compare bids and their knowledge.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE MEMORY OF THIS PROJECT? The Michael Jordan poster (framed, of course)! Anna let me update her young son’s room. He asked for a Michael Jordan poster and I was happy to oblige with one of my favorites from my childhood. After a long installation day with the team, we had a bit of fun taking photos with a tiny basketball and the classic poster. I think this stands out to me because I had come to know the family over the course of the project and it’s a reminder that we’re able to have a bit of fun while still getting the job done.

AND THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE? Our biggest challenge was making sure that we could get the full project done within the set budget. Anna was on board with our approach in spending less on a few basic finishes/items so that we could spend more on others to make a statement and tie it all together. I feel like we found a great compromise. The space feels friendly and easy going–like the family!


WHAT IS YOUR CLIENT MOST PLEASED WITH IN THIS SPACE? Anna said that she loves how much bigger, brighter, and easy to clean her home is. She said that it’s like walking into a completely different house. I love hearing this! I want my projects to reflect my clients. It’s great to hear that Anna likes both the look and the function of the space that I designed for her and her family.

WHAT IS YOUR PERSONAL FAVORITE DESIGN ELEMENT PRESENT HERE? I love the artwork by Seattle artist, Greg Boudreau. The town of Snoqualmie has old train cars in it which have worn over the years to reveal layers of paint and rust. Greg created a custom painting of one of the train cars for us. The texture of the reclaimed wood “canvas” is great and I love the statement that the large piece makes when you first walk in. I also love that our client has a piece that’s made locally and represents the town that they love.


ARE THERE ANY DESIGN ELEMENTS USED HERE THAT OUR READERS SHOULD TRY FOR THEMSELVES? For a family home, I recommend finishes that will wear well or age well so that the home feels cozy and not too precious. I either want finishes to stay the same, or age into something that looks even better. The sofas are upholstered in a fade and stain resistant outdoor fabric since my hope is to keep them looking the same over time. The flooring is an engineered “brushed” oak. The wear and tear of sports cleats will blend right into its texture and add to the softly rustic character over time.

WHAT IS ONE ITEM IN THIS SPACE YOU’D USE IN YOUR OWN HOME, TOO? I have the dining room chandelier in my design studio. I also have artwork by Greg Boudreau in my home. So I would, and have, used both of those items in my own spaces. I had a great time working on this project. I’m so honored that my clients trust that I will see who they are and design a space that’s specific to them. It keeps work fresh, challenging and rewarding which keeps me excited for my next project!