House & Home

July 11, 2014

Prairie home has classic lineage, modern feel

Inspired by architects George Grant Elmslie and Frank Lloyd Wright, a general contractor designs a 3,600-square-foot home that melds bands of windows, a low-pitched roof and wide eaves on the exterior with modern and contemporary furnishings on the interior.

Contractor Stu Feldt is a student of architecture.

“Lee Copeland designed my parents’ house,” he says of the former dean of the University of Washington College of Architecture and Urban Planning (today known as the College of Built Environments).

“At 12 years old I fell in love with the process and wanted to be an architect. After college, though, I worked with a contractor and realized that I liked the hands on.”

For years Feldt bought neglected houses, fixed, sold and sent them on their way. Today he’s seated in the living room of the home he and his company, W.S. Feldt General Contractor, built for his own family, which is 3,600 square feet, open and, well, otherwise a little tricky to describe. But no matter what you call it, it’s a keeper.

“Prairie style was the influence,” says Feldt, who has roots in Minnesota and admits to having stalked homes designed by George Grant Elmslie and Frank Lloyd Wright.

“Well, Prairie style and Craftsman. The Greene and Greene house in Pasadena (The Gamble House) really inspired me.

“I wouldn’t really call it Midcentury Modern,” he says of his family’s Seattle home, “but that’s where it’s going with the interiors.

“Anyway, the idea out front was low to the ground.”

True to the Prairie style of design, the home is banded with windows and the roof is hipped and low-pitched with wide eaves. Concrete porch supports are true to the genre, but in reality, “I took those from a hotel we like in Hawaii. They did theirs in lava rock,” he says.

Inside the cheerful sunburst orange front door, the place skews contemporary. It includes glass (windows and sliders from Loewen), steel, cedar and concrete floors with mahogany cabinetry and paneling — the icy-glass balls of a Bocci chandelier dangle over the dining table. Interior designer Kathleen Glossa stuck to the modern theme with furnishings and finishes at once warm, elegant and family friendly.

Then, just to mix it up, beside the kitchen is a family-sized nook. Modern in its execution (surrounded by glass), but firmly of Craftsman lineage, it has become the family command center. No matter how many built-in desks and study areas Feldt put into the place, everybody’s always here.

“It turns out that it’s the proverbial kitchen table,” he says.

Feldt called upon architect David Norrie of Sandall Norrie Architects to put the pieces of his thoughts together into a cohesive design. “That’s what’s great about Dave — he studies how you live.”

The home serves its young family well. Coaxing the indoors out is a large, covered patio with a prominent concrete fireplace. “We had a surprise party for Steph (Feldt’s wife) in late December, and people were still sitting out by the fire at 1 a.m. That concrete radiates the heat so well.”

Meanwhile, the boys, Nathan, 11, and Spencer, 9, got themselves a very cool bit of graffiti art on the walls over their beds, featuring their names and a familiar-looking seahawk type of bird. There’s a pass-through in the closet connecting the rooms.

Feldt had his sons in mind throughout the project. “They were 2 and 4 when this process started,” he says. “And with two young boys, you’ve gotta have tile in the bathroom; especially important around the toilet.”

Technically, the home was finished in 2009. “It took about two years to build. Contractor’s house, second priority; paying customers, first.” But almost five years later, a few final tweaks (visible only to a professional’s eye) remain.

“The cobbler’s children never have shoes,” Feldt says. “It’s like that.”

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