Based on realty buzzwords alone, loads of hopeful homebuyers likely picked up on the tempting potential of a midcentury fixer-upper in Bellevue’s classic Killarney Circle.
Anne and Rob Tucker certainly did.
“The view, privacy, community pool; it all seemed really special,” Anne says. “The neighborhood really felt authentic.”
In realty reality, though, there are older homes that could use a little refresher — and then there is the local scourge. “The neighborhood called it the crack house,” she says. “It was so bad. It was a rental in really bad disrepair.”
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At this point, most hopeful home buyers likely would have a) run away screaming, or b) ripped down the whole scary mess.
Anne and Rob did neither.
They bought that potential-filled extreme fixer-upper and, with architect Michelle Linden of Atelier Drome, launched a thoughtfully phased revitalization.
“So many houses around here are being torn down and rebuilt as builder boxes,” Anne says. “They’re nice, but they have the same floor plan. We thought: ‘Let’s see what we can keep and make new.’”
They kept the basic footprint (except for a new garage) and, after “a complete gut and renovation,” filled it with beautiful newness: a renewed basement, main level and exterior; a new second-story addition; and a whole new aesthetic. The former scourge has cleaned up its act spectacularly as a highly functioning, smoothly flowing modern farmhouse with three distinct zones: upstairs for adults, the main floor for everyone and a downstairs “teenage heaven,” Anne says. (The Tuckers have four children: Jack, 17; Kate, 15; Grant, 12; and Ike, 9.)
“The design is eclectic, incorporating inspiration from a farmhouse structure with a modern twist,” Linden says. “We worked to design a new, open floor plan. Wide-open windows ensure each room is filled with natural light, and that the view is accessible from anywhere in the house.”
This is not Anne’s first renovation rodeo; she’s been “doing” houses for 20 years. This time around, she served as general contractor and interior designer.
“Anne is unique,” says Linden. “She has a lot more experience than the average person.”
Still, there are lessons. There are always lessons.
▪ Vacate the premises. The first phase of construction tackled the lower level, which had been “all chopped up and weird,” Anne says. Once that was resolved (spacious suites for kids, a study room, a game room and a mudroom), everyone moved downstairs while the work moved up. “That was a really bad idea — especially when it’s raining,” Anne says. “There were nights when we tried to keep the tarp on; nails were popping, boards were being thrown in the wind from the lake. Don’t live in it!”
▪ Values have value. “Almost 100 percent of the furnishings in this house I got secondhand,” Anne says, including ultra-comfy, swiveling Marge Carson chairs (retail price: $5,000 to $6,000) that she found for $300 (for both!) on Craigslist. “One of my favorite things to do is use reclaimed or salvaged materials. You’re repurposing and reusing character or history. It’s a treasure hunt.”
▪ Compromise works. Anne and Rob both work from home: He’s co-founder and managing partner of Grey Matter Partners; she recently launched the online social-learning website wisdomsoup.com. Their offices reflect their individual styles (his: streamlined; hers: cozy), but the whole-house palette required a little give and take (his preference: modern white walls; hers: warmer colors). The happy medium: all white walls, all black fixtures and lots of natural color-infusing elements. “It is white, but there’s so much texture and pattern in the wallpaper and artwork, this isn’t an all-white house,” Linden says.
▪ Some things are not complete yet – and that’s a good thing. “A lot of clients think all the furnishings and artwork have to be done right away, but that can give a feeling of sameness; it doesn’t feel lived in,” Linden says. “When you find things you love and you are passionate about them, it’s a lot more personal, and you’re building memories.”
▪ But some things should not wait. Amid all the chaotic renovation upheaval, Anne and Rob took on another meaningful joint project — outdoors. “We got married by the pond with the house being a total wreck,” Anne says.
And now, this is a home where all sorts of long-term potential pays off brilliantly.
“Rob and I met when we were 10. We were friends through school but never dated,” Anne says. “We both went off, married other people, had kids and reconnected.”
Adds Linden: “This is their first project together. This house feels like they’ve been together forever — because they have.”