Siweb: How did you come to buy a house in Centralia, Washington?
TED TUTTLE: It's where I was born. I lived about two blocks from where Merce Cunningham grew up. One day I was taking my mother to lunch, and we drove past this place. It had a For Sale sign on it, so we just went in to look. I had no intention of buying it, but I couldn't get it out of my head.
ED: What do you know about the house?
TT: It was built in 1935 by Elizabeth Ayer, who was the first woman to graduate from the architecture program at the University of Washington. It was owned by a pediatrician who had an office there.
ED: Did you do much to the exterior?
TT: I relandscaped the whole property, which is just under an acre. I took out everything except two massive oak trees. I replaced about 60 pickets in the fence, and I found one remaining neoclassical finial hidden in the bushes and had it replicated.
ED: How extensive was the interior renovation?
TT: I didn't do much demolition. I combined the old kitchen and laundry room. I redid all the bathrooms, of course, and replaced the electrical system and most of the plumbing. It took almost three months just to strip off all the wallpaper and prep the interior for painting.
ED: Why white?
TT: The weather in Washington can be a bit gray, and the house was dark. The paneled library, for example, had deep-green carpets and curtains. Every room had a different wallpaper—and it was dated: One room had daisies and shag carpeting. I thought the house needed to be lightened up, to be brought back to life.
ED: Do you always paint every room the same color?
TT: I like using a quiet, limited palette throughout a house. It's difficult when you work for a family with small children, because they tend to like bright colors, and that's fine too. You have to let them have their own artistic license. But, if I had my way, I'd go back once they grew up and repaint their rooms.
ED: Did you get all new furniture for this house?
TT: No, some of the pieces I've had for years. I tend to move them around rather than get rid of anything. I've had the piano since 1978, and the carved table next to my bed is one of the first pieces I ever bought. What I did buy, I was cautious about, because most living rooms have too much furniture. If I put something in, I took something out. I think it's a good rule.
ED: What's the rationale for the mix of furnishings?
TT: I didn't want all modern or all traditional. I wanted a fun, eclectic mix for this project, so the Mies daybed faces a custom-made sofa in a classic camelback form. The gilt chair is Empire period, from Russia, and the antique secretary is from the Max Factor estate in Palm Springs, but the painting is by a living artist, John Belingheri.
ED: Your dining room is a combination of high and low furnishings.
TT: Yes, like most of the rooms. The table is vintage Baker from the 1940s, but the chairs are faux wicker from Crate & Barrel. The cabinet and the chandelier are antiques, but I've also got a couple of faux-bamboo folding chairs from Ballard Designs, which are quite inexpensive. There's a Rose Tarlow gilded Branch side table in the living room, but the wood stumps in front of the sofa are from Pottery Barn.
ED: Is the kitchen all new?
TT: Mostly. I tore up the old linoleum and had oak floors installed, but I did leave some of the original cabinets. Others I had custom made. I designed the small bracket-foot detail on the cabinet legs to give the room a more traditional feel. I bought all the Viking appliances in white because I think it's more appropriate than stainless steel for older houses.
ED: So is the house finished now?
TT: I still have one major project: the party room on the third floor, which runs the length of the house. The walls are knotty pine, and the space has its own bar area, but it only has eight-foot-high ceilings. I think I want to blow the roof out and really do it up.
ED: What do you like most about this house?
TT: If I could move this house to Seattle, I would do it, because I'd like to enjoy it all the time instead of just on weekends. It has a kind of magical quality. You walk through the door, and you feel at home.
What the Pros Know
• used Benjamin Moore's Super White on all the walls and trim (most of which is original). This particular shade of white, he believes, has a lot of depth and is "still as rich at night as it is in the morning."
• Although he had originally considered ebonizing the floors, Tuttle decided to whitewash the existing red oak, a process that involved stripping it, bleaching it (three times), staining it, and sealing it.
• The minimal window treatments throughout most of the house are white matchstick Roman shades. "I like to use one, possibly two window treatments in a single project," says Tuttle. "It's one way to unify a home."