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New Home with Modern and Traditional Elements

A Seattle architect balances modern and traditional elements for a home where comfort trumps all

Written by Amy Elbert
  • John Granen

    Architects are famous for their freshly pressed white shirts, obsessive attention to detail, and “my way or the highway” personalities. But after more than 25 years as an architect-—and nearly as many as a husband—Stuart Silk knows that a successful home design as well as a happy marriage requires good communication and plenty of give and take.

    “I’m very much a transitional kind of guy. I could live in a flat-roof modern quite comfortably,” Stuart says, adding with a chuckle, “That will never happen in this marriage.”

    His wife, Mary, is a “dyed-in-the-wool traditionalist,” Stuart explains, and is drawn to cozy spaces with wood-burning fireplaces, textured fabrics, and richly hued colors. “I know Stuart would love to build a contemporary house, but they don’t seem comfortable, they don’t envelop me,” Mary says.

    Happily, their seemingly opposite visions blended beautifully when the empty nesters built an environmentally responsible house on a lot overlooking fairways at Seattle’s Broadmoor Golf Club.

    From the start, it was a joint effort, with Stuart wearing his professional hat. “He treated me as a client and asked me what I wanted,” Mary says. For inspiration, the couple collected images from books and magazines. They drove through neighborhoods in Seattle and elsewhere, pointing out houses, landscapes, and architectural details that appealed to them.

    Reaching a consensus on the exterior was easy. “We wanted a lot of glass, but we still wanted the house to have a traditional appearance on the outside,” Stuart says. Influenced by rustic farmhouse styles (“something you’d see in southern Europe or more likely Santa Barbara,” the architect says), the three-level stucco home has a tile roof and wood shutters that were wire-brushed and stained—not painted--—“so they feel like they’re 100 years old,” he says.

    A front courtyard features paving stones set on a gravel base that allows small plants to sprout in the joints. The pavers lead to a stone-look archway made with stucco. “It’s more informal, countrified a little bit,” Stuart says. 

    Photography: John Granen
    Produced by Linda Humphrey

    Architect: Stuart Silk, Stuart Silk Architects, 2400 N. 45th St., Suite 200, Seattle, WA 98103; 206/728-9500,
    Interior designers: Mary Silk with Danielle Krieg, senior designer at Stuart Silk Architects, 2400 N. 45th St., Suite 200, Seattle, WA 98103; 206/728-9500,
    Landscape designers: Carolyn Temple Gardner and Cindi Alsop, Carolyn Temple Gardner, 1404 41st Ave. E., Seattle, WA 98112; 206/325-3191.

  • John Granen

    Open Entry

    While the exterior design choices were made early, Stuart’s approach from the start was to design “from the inside out,” he says. “We built the house to accommodate the way we live, so we were concerned with spatial relationships, adjacencies, views, and light. Those are the things that informed the exterior of the house.”

    The interiors reflect Stuart’s contemporary leanings with walls of windows and French doors and a casual open floor plan, where rooms flow one into another. “We wanted contiguous spaces, so the main living space is quite open to the kitchen, and the kitchen opens to the dining room,” Stuart says.

    Quartzite slabs were cut into large-scale tiles for the foyer floor. Arched openings at the end of the hall lead to the living room. 

    Walls (integral veneer plaster): custom color.
    Flooring (custom cut): quartzite from Turkey.
    Table (Scandinavian); chairs: antique.
    Art on table (by Lauri Chambers): owner’s collection.
    Art in stairwell; art on landing (portraits of the Silks): by Anne Petty,
    Accessories: owner’s collection.
    Art on right wall, lower (by Brian Kershisnik): Brian Kershisnik Studio,
    Art on right wall, over doorway (by William Ivey): Woodside/Braseth Gallery,

  • John Granen

    Traditional Library

    “The only room that is separate on the main floor is the library, and we can close that off with pocket doors,” Stuart says. Not surprisingly, that cozy room with a wood-burning fireplace, painted wood-paneled walls, and furnishings upholstered in textured and patterned fabrics is Mary’s favorite.

    The most traditional room on the main floor also has French doors that open to the front courtyard. 

    Art over mantel (by Terry Turrell); sculpture on table (by Terry Turrell): Sue Greenwood Fine Art,
    Sofa: owner’s collection.
    Sofa fabric (“Leopard”): discontinued.
    Lounge chair: owner’s collection.
    Lounge-chair fabric (“Madison Velvet”/Espresso #7002-08): Victoria Hagan Home,
    Coffee table; wing chair: antique.
    Wing-chair fabric (“Hair Calf”/Natural): Randolph & Hein,
    Sconces (“Steel Sconce” #0120): Fourteenth Colony Lighting,
    Rug (“Arrowroot,” by Lapchi, Ngari weave): Driscoll Robbins Fine Carpets,
    Drapery: Fabricut,
    Fabrication: Bartlett Blinds,
    Paint: custom.

  • John Granen

    Natural Living Room

    Other interior walls were finished with wheat-colored Venetian plaster for an aged and handmade look. The inspiration for the oak floors and ceilings came from a book showcasing vintage French homes, Mary recalls. To create the subtle warm effect the Silks wanted, the rift and quartered white oak was bleached to remove its yellow tones, and ceilings were hand-finished with a paste wax.

    See another view on the next slide

    Flooring and ceiling: hand-bleached and waxed white oak.
    Dining table (custom, medium distress/golden walnut); chairs (custom, for similar, #DC1207): Alder & Co.,
    Blue-and-white platter: antique.
    Sofa: custom.
    Console: owner’s collection.
    Art with writing: by Dennis Evans, Utopian Heights Studios,
    Art with red bird (by Jay Steensma): Davidson Galleries,
    Art over mantel: by Betsy Eby,
    Piano: Kohler & Campbell,
    Paint (integral veneer plaster): custom color.
    Mirrors flanking mantel: Michael Folks Showroom,
    Drapery: Fabricut,
    Fabrication: Bartlett Blinds,

  • John Granen

    Cozy Sitting Area

    The overall palette and design sensibility are definitely minimal, Stuart says, with no one feature or colorway demanding attention. “Everything conforms and is harmonious—even though there are stone floors, steel railings, Venetian plaster, waxed wood, and painted cabinets. We have a richness, a mosaic of materials, but we made a conscious decision not to have any one thing shout, be boisterous, or stand out. The palette is muted.” 

    Another view of the living room is on the next slide.

    Walls (integral veneer plaster): custom color.
    Sofa: custom.
    Striped pillow on sofa (“Kilim Stripe”/Nougat #7618-009): Mokum,
    Round end table by sofa (“Zoya Table”): Erika Brunson,
    Pair of lounge chairs (“Dante Chairs”): Patricia Edwards,
    Chair fabric (“Couture Silk Melange N.8”/Truffle): Glant,
    Armchair (“Cressant Chair”
     #2490.11): Minton-Spidell,
    Chair fabric (“Tigre”): discontinued.
    Coffee table: antique.
    Area rug (Abaca weave): The Natural Carpet Co.,
    Art over mantel: by Betsy Eby,
    Mirrors: Michael Folks Showroom,
    Drapery: Fabricut,
    Fabrication: Bartlett Blinds,

  • John Granen

    Harmonious Palette

    Differences were amicably resolved with the help of the Silk's stash of inspirational photos. “If we got into trouble or didn’t agree on something, we’d go back to the image book,” Stuart says. “We’d look through those images, talk, and find a way to agree.” Give and take, push and pull—that’s what makes for good design and happy marriages.


  • John Granen

    Sleek Kitchen

    Stuart had a victory in the kitchen, when he eliminated the sink on the island to create a sleek, non-kitchen look. “Mary still gives me a hard time about that,” he says, laughing.

    Stuart limited the number of upper cabinets and eliminated a sink on the island to downplay the utilitarian features of the kitchen because the room is visible from the living and dining areas. The refrigerator, wall ovens, and microwave are partially out of view in a side corridor. In a nice juxtaposition of modern and traditional, the rectilinear stainless-steel hood is flanked by blue and white ginger jars.

    Stools (“Bar Stool Contour”): David Smith & Co., no longer in business.
    Cabinetry: custom.
    Hardware: Sun Valley Bronze,
    Backsplash, countertops: Cottonwood limestone.
    Refrigerator (by Sub-Zero); cooktop (by Wolf): Sub-Zero/Wolf,
    Oven hood: custom.
    Sink: Blanco America,
    Faucet (“Vir Stil,” by Laura Kirar): Kallista,
    Area rug (Ushak): Driscoll Robbins Fine Carpets, Through Michaelian & Kohlberg,
    Small still life: by Donald F. Allan,
    Blue-and-white jars, teapot, plates: Glenn Richards,

  • John Granen

    Casual Dining Room

    Mary worked with interior designer Danielle Krieg to choose fabrics to re-cover existing furnishings and to find new pieces, such as a custom pine plank table suited to the more casual style of their dining room, which opens to the kitchen. A wall of windows and French doors that lead to the back terrace ensure the room receives ample natural light and provide great golf course views. 

    Table (custom); side chairs (custom); host chairs (custom): Alder & Co.,
    Chair-seat fabric (Henredon Leather #LE-734-2): Henredon,
    Chair-back fabric (“Gustav”/Travertine, discontinued): Pindler & Pindler,
    Chandelier: antique.
    Area rug (Ushak): Michaelian and Kohlberg,
    Drapery: Fabricut,
    Fabrication: Bartlett Blinds,
    Walls (integral veneer plaster): custom color.
    Art (by Joel Brock): Lisa Harris Gallery,
    Tray table under art: owner’s collection.

  • John Granen

    Dining Room Artwork

    The artwork above the fireplace is by Brian Blackham. 

    Art: by Brian Blackham,

  • John Granen

    Front Terrace

    An east-facing terrace is a delightful spot to sit in the afternoon. 

    Outdoor furniture (“Santa Barbara”); cushions (color, Mocha): Restoration Hardware,
    Dining table (custom, quartzite on metal base); cocktail table (custom limestone table): Stuart Silk Architects,
    Light over patio: Fourteenth Colony Lighting,
    Terra-cotta planter: Wells Medina Nursery,
    Doors and windows: Loewen,

  • John Granen

    Calming Master Bedroom

    After the oak vaulted ceiling was installed, Stuart couldn’t bear to cut  holes for down lights. Instead, the Silks rely on table lamps, sconces, and natural light. “People tend to overlight bedrooms. They should be a place to wind down,” Stuart says. The “Medici” bed from Kreiss is skirted with “Rayure Marionettes” fabric from Clarence House. 

    Bed (“Medici Bed”): Kreiss,
    Bed cover (“Charleston”/Palm Green #10207-04): Donghia,
    Bedskirt and pillows (“Rayure Marionettes” #34097): Clarence House,
    Drapery and bed drapery: Fabricut,
    Fabrication: Bartlett Blinds,
    Area rug (custom): Ramri Rugs,
    Lounge chair (“French Country Chair” #1240.11): ottoman (“French Country Ottoman” #2671.28): Minton-Spidell,
    Fabric (“Couture Boucle N.4”/Taupe): Glant,
    Table beside chair: owner’s collection.
    Table lamp: Frederick Cooper,
    Blue chair; bird prints: owner’s collection.
    Blue chair fabric (“Sutton Stripe”/Blue Spruce #825-68): Perennials,

  • John Granen

    Sitting Pretty

    The French Country Chair and Ottoman from Minton-Spidell in a taupe color is in keeping with the bedroom's calm, restful palette.

    Chair (“French Country Chair” #1240.11); ottoman (“French Country Ottoman” #2671.28): Minton-Spidell,
    Chair and ottoman fabric (“Couture Boucle N.4”/Taupe): Glant,
    Side table: owner’s collection.
    Table lamp: Frederick Cooper,
    Drapery: Fabricut,
    Fabrication: Bartlett Blinds,
    Area rug (custom): Ramri Rugs,

  • John Granen

    Blue Bathroom

    Most of the time, Stuart and Mary were in design sync, but there were a few surprises, such as when Mary announced she wanted a blue bathroom. “I’d been doing a muted color scheme in my mind,” Stuart says. He initially objected but eventually acquiesced.  

    Tub (“Napoli”): Victoria + Albert,
    Tub fixture (“Nostromo” #HS-90-50-9350, by Davide Mercatali for Fantini Rubinetti): Fantini,
    Wall tile (“Blue Celeste” #10045-01): Ann Sacks,
    Window shades: Fabricut,
    Fabricaton: Bartlett Blinds,

  • John Granen

    Rear Exterior

    French doors on the back of the house open to the golf course and views of the Cascade mountain peaks beyond. Stuart considered sets of bifold doors to open the back of the house but decided they looked too modern. “We wanted to keep that old-world feel,” he says.

    Balconies are at the master bedroom windows.

  • John Granen

    Stunning Water Feature

    A narrow course of water centered on the living room wing of the house bisects the backyard, adding a stunning lighted water feature at night—and a fun play spot for grandkids during the day.

  • John Granen

    Homeowner Portrait

    Homeowners Mary and Stuart Silk in their Seattle home. 

  • John Bessler