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HOMEOWNERS — Rick and Michelle Lucas

COMPLETED — 2002 after three years of construction

FAVORITE PASTIMES — "Water! We're in the pool or boating on the water all summer long."

EXTERIOR — French-tile roof, stucco, and stone with pulfrey-stone pavement

LIVING SPACE — 8,000 square feet on Lake Washington

FAVORITE ROOMS — Kitchen, family room, and verandah — "that's where we hang out"

HOUSEBUILDING TIP — "Think about the future. It's a lot easier (and cheaper) to put in plumbing, electrical, and drains while you're under construction than to go back and do it later."

Dining Room

Entryway

Living Room

Project Manager and Interior Designer
Patricia McFall
PM Design
Seattle, WA
206.679.3928

Landscape Architect
Jeff Sawastuk and Steven Goreski
Froghouse Gardens
Seattle, WA
206.721.3727

Seattle, Washington — Several years ago, Rick and Michelle Lucas decided to live out their dream of building a home on Lake Washington. They loved the neighborhood. Folks were very family-oriented, and the nearby bike path gave the kids a place to ride in safety.

And talk about convenience: one of the main freeways was just two minutes away, and in just fifteen minutes they could drive downtown, park the car, and be in their theater seats.

But Rick and Michelle soon discovered there were no more lots to be had. Their only option was to purchase an existing home and remodel it to their liking. They settled on a 4,000-square-foot ranch rambler and brought in an architect, only to be confronted with the realization that "we couldn't get anything close to what we wanted in a house."

Those "wants" included a big, big kitchen, separate sleeping and recreation area, complete with baths, for their two children, and a ground-floor apartment for Michelle's mother.

"I bought 80% of our furniture [in Europe] and shipped it all back."

A 30-day feasibility study revealed that the only way Rick and Michelle could get the house they wanted was to build from the ground up.
And that's just what they did. But to do so, they had to tear down the house they'd just purchased. "It was so sad," says Michelle. "It was a great house. It wasn't at all dilapidated - it just didn't suit our needs. We tried to give the house away to Habitat for Humanity, but it cost too much to move."

Instead, they recycled everything. "The brick went to the brick place, the aluminum, the wood: the demolition crew made big piles and took them all to the appropriate place to be reused." The recycling project cost $35,000 but helped Rick and Michelle justify tearing down an otherwise habitable house.

Rick gave Michelle free rein when it came to designing the house, asking only that he have a hand in creating his office. And so, for three months, Michelle worked with an architect, trying to nail down the particulars. In the end, she says, "he got fired. He just couldn't get the concept I wanted."

A HELPING HAND

At that point, Michelle decided to consult designer Patricia McFall, "a woman of many talents," who'd done some work on their former home. "When I started running into problems, I asked Patricia if she'd oversee the project. She went through the whole process with me."

Working hand in hand, Michelle and Patricia designed the house, sent the plans out to engineering, and selected all the interior and exterior appointments: "all the surfaces, counters, everything."

At Michelle's suggestion, Patricia made five or six trips to Europe in search of home furnishings. Once Patricia had completed her scouting mission, Michelle says the two of them embarked on a 12-day whirlwind tour. "I brought along measurements I'd taken and had the blueprints in my hand — I knew exactly what I was doing. We'd get up at 6:00 in the morning and go from warehouse to warehouse. I bought 80% of our furniture there and shipped it all back."

Michelle was particularly fond of an antique hutch she found in Belgium. "I saw that piece, and I was really taken with it." A series of carvings depicted the story of children harvesting grapes, putting them in a wagon, pulling the grapes out of a tub, then dancing and stomping on them. "I was in awe! But I didn't have room for it. It was huge! Then, at three o'clock in the morning, Patricia comes and knocks on my door and says, 'We can use it to frame the television!'" It took some doing — removing the glass doors, converting a drawer front, extending the family-room wall, building a base for the TV using similarly carved panels from two old benches — but Michelle was more than satisfied with the results.

She can't say enough about her friend and colleague. "I tell you, she's the most talented person I know. She knows wood, she knows hard surfaces, she knows interior design, she knows everything. I couldn't have done it without her."


The intricately carved cabinetry framing the television was converted from an antique hutch Michelle found in Belgium. Shop Furnishings & Décor.

HOME HIGHLIGHTS

Building a home to their specifications gave Rick and Michelle the ability to make every item on their wish list a reality. The Lucas children did indeed wind up with space of their own. A second-story catwalk leads to their media room and bedrooms, each with full bath. "The kids hang out on their end of the house," says Michelle, "and we can close our bedroom door and not hear the noise."

Anticipating that her mother would one day live with them, Michelle designated the entire first floor as wheelchair accessible — all the way out to the pool — and created an apartment-like set-up with living room, kitchen, bath, and bedroom.

Rick got everything he wanted in an office: a decidedly masculine retreat with brick fireplace, leather armchair, plenty of bookcases. (Plans originally called for the walls to be covered in 12" x 12" leather squares, but they began peeling and were replaced with wood.) It's here that "the brains of the house" — phone, media, and sound systems — are located, neatly concealed behind closed doors. A split-level, height-adjustable computer table allows Rick to stand while working, bringing relief to the back problems which plague him.

Michelle is every bit as happy with the kitchen as Rick is with his office. "I designed it the way I wanted it," she says. "I love to cook. My new kitchen has a six-burner range with griddle, built-in espresso machine, and SubZero full-size refrigerator and full-size freezer. There's a dishwasher on each side of the sink, and they're always going." There are two warming drawers, one in the kitchen and one in the butler's pantry off the dining room. "I use them all the time. We do a lot of charity work and business entertaining — it's not unusual for us to have 200 people here — and the kitchen supports it very nicely."

The island gives Michelle plenty of room to spread out: 14 linear feet of work space in all. At one end is a round sink for scrubbing vegetables, and toward the center a farmer's sink that's deep and wide enough to accommodate her biggest cooking pots. Granite counters were a must. "There are so many kids in and out of the house. They can chop right on the counter, put hot pots on it — you just can't hurt it. My daughter cooks for her boyfriend, and I don't ever worry."

The only thing missing is a pizza oven. "They delivered it, but it didn't fit," says Michelle. The mishap turned out to be a blessing. "We put in a fireplace instead. Best thing we ever did! It's right next to the table, and on a cold, windy, rainy Seattle night, it's really wonderful to eat by the fire. We're very family oriented. On Sundays, we always have a big, nice three-hour dinner, just our family. It's really important to us. And we always have a fire."

"The kids hang out on their end of the house, and we can close our bedroom door and not hear the noise."

Michelle strove to create that same kind of warm, welcoming ambience throughout the kitchen and family room. "The look I was going for was Old World, so I honed all my marble and granite to take the shine off," she says. "The walls look like cracked stucco, but they're actually 4' x 6' sheets of resin called composition. You put it on the wall, cut it to fit around the cabinetry or whatever, and then paint it."

Cracked stucco was just one of hundreds and hundreds of designs that were available, and Michelle darkened the cracks for greater authenticity. "We also used composition on the dining-room columns and the ceiling trim. When you heat it up, it becomes pliable so you can shape it and bend it to look like moulding.

"The other thing that's really cool about the kitchen is the stucco ceiling: it has straw in it. It's a funny story. I knew the look I wanted, so I spent the day with the stucco guy, and he did a lot of test boards for me. I'd keep saying, 'No, it has to have more texture. Muck it up some more.' He finally threw in some straw, and that did it." Soon thereafter, stucco-and-straw ceilings were installed in family room and kitchen. "But my husband walked in and said, 'OK, that's it! I'm not living in a barn!' So I decided to trim all the big pieces of straw that were hanging down."

THE SETTING FOR THE JEWEL

Michelle brought as much care and forethought to the gardens as she did the house. "I'm huge into gardening — it's my passion. We had to start from scratch, and I wanted every square inch to be methodically thought out." She interviewed 15 landscape architects, but found she couldn't work with any of them "because they weren't willing to work with me."

And then she met Jeff and Stephen of Froghouse Gardens. "Jeff and I designed the whole thing together, including the greenhouse on the side of the house. I wanted the gardens to fit with the house, and they do. There's a courtyard in front, and a fig tree in the courtyard — typically Italian. And I put banana trees in these huge black urns I brought from Europe.

"We were meticulous about prepping the soil: 18 inches of granite for drainage, then 15 inches of topsoil. It really paid off. I've had more growth here than I had in nine years at the last house."

Mature trees studded the property when she and Rick first purchased it. Rather than have the trees injured or destroyed by the excavation and construction process, Michelle made up her mind to dig them up and put them in storage at a nursery. "They'd dig a huge root ball around the roots, wrap the roots in burlap and twine, then bring in a crane and lift them onto the truck." Already remorseful about tearing down the house, she was willing to go to any lengths to save the trees. "There were two 30-year-old Japanese maples on the waterfront and the equipment couldn't get back there. The only way to get them out was to bring in the crane on a barge and then truck them away."


"The brains of the house" — phone, media, and sound systems — are located behind three paneled
doors in Rick's office. Shop Office Décor.

Michelle's vision extended to the hardscaping as well. In the interest of making the entire outdoors wheelchair accessible, there were to be no steps or decks. As for the garden paths, verandah, and driveway, she intended to pave them in granite, specifically, pulfrey stone, a material used on the roads in Italy. During one of her forays to Europe, Patricia made arrangements to have the granite, complete with backing, imported from northern Italy.

Meanwhile, Michelle put the project out to bid. "I got three bids on having it installed, and they were so expensive, we couldn't do it. I was crushed! I had all these containers of stone, and now I couldn't use them. I was physically ill at thought of all that wasted expense." Her project manager once again came to the rescue, making inquiries at the quarry where they'd bought the stone and eventually arranging for three Italian stonemasons to come to Seattle for six weeks to handle the installation — at a fraction of the cost of the lowest bid Michelle had received.

COMFORTABLE, CAREFREE LIVING

"Our house is all about hang out and hunker down," says Michelle. "It's all about comfort — family and comfort — so there's nothing too 'foo-foo'. We have a pool, and we live on the lake. There are always kids here, and it's always non-stop! But I don't get uptight. There's no place, no area, no room that's off-limits, nothing that can be ruined. When people come to the front door and take off their shoes, I say, 'No, no, no! Put your shoes on. You can't hurt this house.'"

Marble floors and leather sofas are impervious to dripping-wet swimsuits. And nicks and dents only lend more interest to distressed-alder kitchen cabinetry. "Our last kitchen had highly finished cherry — every nick and ding and dent would show. But we distressed these cabinets, so now I just take a little wax stick and fill in. It adds more character!"

All the cabinets as well as the old knotty-alder kitchen and family-room floors are finished with natural Swedish oil. "I just take a towel and wipe up any spills." Michelle was cautious not to use any materials or substances in the house that might exacerbate her asthma. "There's no formaldehyde here, no wall-to-wall carpeting. It's impregnated with chemicals for stain resistance."

The part of the house the family enjoys most? The kitchen, family room, and adjoining covered verandah. "You just open the double French doors, and you're on the verandah. It's heated with gas. There are tables and a fireplace, a BBQ and beer on tap. The kids eat out there, we play cards out there, it's even OK to smoke cigars out there. We have a huge Christmas party — we use that area all year long." Rick and Michelle are here to stay. "We wanted to build a comfortable, come-hang-out, kid-friendly house, and we did. We love this house — we love it!"

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