This ’40s Fixer-Upper Went From “Moldy Walls and Mountains of Garbage” to Spacious and Groovy
A half-gutted house turned out to be full of potential.
Published Sep 8, 2023 1:25 AM
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When Washington-based designer Allison Lind browses Zillow, she’ll scroll right past anything that looks turnkey. It doesn’t grab her attention. “But if it’s crumbling and it looks like it might be haunted, I get so excited,” she says. Her heart started racing back in 2020 when she spotted an overgrown property on Puget Sound that was covered in blackberry bramble and had around 40 chopped-down stumps. Inside, the circa-1940 house had been half-gutted—the studs and the subfloor exposed—and it was layered with debris. “We’re talking moldy walls, mountains of garbage, and spiders galore,” recalls Lind. But three acres on the water was practically unheard of, so she and her husband put an offer in on the vacation home ASAP and rang up Seattle’s top home inspector to come out and do a deep dive. The structure was great, he told them, but it needed love.
Because the home was seemingly deserted for so long, Lind didn’t attempt to bring the space back to its original glory. Instead, she went rogue and brought in graphic tile, glamorous lighting, and black trim paint. “This was going to be our fun family beach house. So why spend all this time and money to turn it into something that wasn’t exactly what we wanted it to be?” she shares. To help fund the renovation, Lind and her family listed their then-current beach house (also located along the Hood Canal) on Airbnb. Ahead, she reveals what went down once she was able to turn her Zillow fantasies into reality.
Follow Your Backsplash Gut
A favorite moment for Lind on any project is when someone (especially the contractor) tells her, “I don’t get it.” In this case, the designer got confused looks when she decided to cover the wall space above the kitchen backsplash tile in tambour wood—and while she was at it, wrap the vent hood in it, too.
The material combo gives the illusion that the extra-low ceilings are much taller than they really are, and it helps the protruding vent hood disappear in the small space.
Don’t Sweat Transitions
With two kids and big dogs in the house, new luxury vinyl plank (LVP) flooring was a must-have. The problem was, by the time Lind got around to covering the entryway and the steps leading into the sunken lounge, she realized they were low on boards, and the maker had discontinued the product. Buying different LVP boards wasn’t an option—they’d never perfectly match. A supergraphic tile was the only reasonable solution, Lind thought. Rather than try to disguise the awkward transition, she fully embraced it and swathed the area in a swirly black and white pattern.
Consider Overlooked Woods
The walls and ceiling in the sunken lounge area are paneled in Iroko wood, a super-durable, rot-resistant species from Africa that is sometimes used as a substitute for genuine (and much more costly) teak. Its natural golden, medium-brown tone plays nicely with the groovy tile choice, giving the space a 1970s vibe.
Bring Back Ceiling Medallions
While salvaging original details from the home was impossible, Lind brought back some of the home’s mid-century charm in small ways, like by adding medallions around the dining room chandelier and breakfast nook pendant lamp. “Although we didn’t want to make this a traditional home, I wanted to blend those worlds,” she says. She stuck to her unique perspective when choosing the fixtures themselves. The one over the main dining table reminded her of a wind chime, which felt fitting to have near the big windows overlooking the water.
Turn Any Awkward Nook Into Storage
One of the biggest updates they made to the house was adding a full bathroom to the second floor. “We’re not climbing the stairs in the middle of the night with two children who are potty training,” she says with a laugh. An unused nook near the top of the landing was the natural spot to build one out. The area was long and narrow, which was great because it fit a 60-inch-long tub-shower, but not ideal when Lind realized there would be an awkward 2-foot gap at the end of the room. Cue a toy cabinet. The small cubby that now holds her kids’ bath-time essentials doesn’t block the view of the window and is waterproof.
Splurge on Dormers So Others Can Sleep Well
By expanding each of the bedrooms by adding dormers, Lind maximized sleeping opportunities for her family and for guests. In the kids’ space, this meant being able to add a twin XL daybed in one corner (“It’s the perfect place to watch the sunset,” she notes) and a house-inspired bunk in the other. “We took the extra time and money to move the footprint around ever so slightly and it made a huge difference,” says the designer.