Tackling Design Challenges & Surprises at The Captain House

It goes without saying that every design project comes with its own set of unique challenges. In my 15 years as an interior designer in Seattle, I’ve never encountered a project that didn’t have a tricky challenge or an unexpected surprise along the way. And boy, was that the case for our Captain House project – a remodel of a Seattle house built in 1904 with a closed off floor plan and a dated ‘90s-style kitchen. 

Sometimes challenges can seem daunting at the start of a project, but our team views them as opportunities to make the ultimate design even more interesting and unique. Below were a few of our favorite challenges and surprises at the Captain House project.

The captain house breakfast nook

The Breakfast Nook

Adjoining the original kitchen was a drafty back porch mudroom. We saw this space as the perfect opportunity to increase the footprint of the kitchen by creating a cozy, light-filled breakfast nook. By expanding the opening between the kitchen and the porch, replacing the drafty windows, and moving the location of the back door, we were able to create a magazine-worthy breakfast nook. And homeowner Julie says it’s now the space where she spends all of her time!  

The Downstairs Bathroom

The first floor bath started as an impractical, cramped space with a clawfoot tub. We were set on transforming the space into a highly functional guest bathroom. By reconfiguring the floorplan to allow for a roomy stall shower, we made it much more accessible and safe for Julie’s guests than a clawfoot tub. We took advantage of an otherwise awkward sloped ceiling (under the stairs), and designed built-in shelves for towel and toiletry storage. 

The captain house bathroom

The Exposed Brick

One surprise that we didn’t plan for was the exposed brick accent in the kitchen. During the demo process, our contractor called me to let me know they uncovered the original brick chimney while opening up one of the kitchen walls. I stopped by the site to check it out for myself, and instantly knew we had to keep it exposed to add another layer of texture and character in the new kitchen. Another bonus: it ended up becoming our inspiration for the brick-colored antique stair runner. 

The captain house kitchen and dining area

The Stair Runner

Speaking of the stair runner… this was another tricky challenge! I searched high and low to find the perfect antique stair runner to line the winding steps up to the second level. The intricate pattern of the runner combined with the tight turn of the steps made it VERY tricky to install in a seamless way. The solution? Spending an entire morning with our contractor calculating the perfect angles. It required part math, part optical illusion, and a whole lot of butcher paper.

staircase (before) staircase (after)

The Clawfoot Tub

We can’t discuss challenges at the Captain House without mentioning the original clawfoot tub. The plan was to take this tub from the first floor bath, refinish it, and repurpose it as a soaking tub in the new primary suite on the second level (more on that in the Final Reveal!). Easier said than done, because this thing was HEAVY. 

Major props to the guys from Gaul Construction, who carried this 500lb vintage claw foot tub up a tiny, winding set of stars, risking LIFE and LIMB so that this historical treasure could be refurbished with love, painted the color of an early morning London fog, adorned with brass feet and enjoyed for years to come!

Clawfoor bathtub