A House with Curve Appeal

One couple thinks outside the box and takes on a major modern makeover

Story by Mara Severin • Interior Photography by Photo Arts by Janna

There are so many reasons to admire military families. They're courageous, adaptable, and adventurous. They pull up roots and lay them back down with an ease that leaves the rest of us in awe. Add humorous and unflappable, and you've perfectly described Traci and McLane Gardner – a young couple who recently took on a brand new type of assignment: renovating an eccentric, eclectic, and exciting modern home with limited time and a limited budget.

In kitchen: DeWils Zebrawood, Spenard Builders Supply; In bath: Bellmont Wenge floating cabinetry, Ferguson Enterprises
In kitchen: Cambria Espresso Quartz, Rino's Tile & Stone; In bath: Carrera slab, Rino's Tile & Stone
20x20 Galaxy tile by Cronin Co., Ferguson Enterprises; Carrera marble tile, Alaska Marble & Granite; Slate hexagon floor tile by Cronin Co., Ferguson Enterprises; Commercial carpet, Curtis & Campbell
Kitchen fixtures
Rohl faucet and Altmans pot filler with Oliveri single basin stainless steel sink, Ferguson Enterprises
Viking refrigerator, Allen & Petersen; Bertazzoni range and Zephyr ventilation hood, Ferguson Enterprises
Bathroom fixtures
Kohler Stillness WaterSense in polished nickel with vessel sinks by DecoLav, Ferguson Enterprises; Mirabelle bath accessories, Ferguson Enterprises; Toto toilet
Vanity stool
Restoration Hardware
Benjamin Moore paint, Curtis & Campbell
Door Hardware
Emtek, Ferguson Enterprises
Eurofase, Ferguson Enterprises
Heatilator, Alaska Wholesale Distributors
Speedy Glass
Oil painting
Steven Gordon, Artique Ltd.

"We knew it was a special house," says McLane of the Dimond-area home, built in 1986. "It stood out from everything else we saw."

Addition by subtraction

While the dramatic exterior of the home has maintained its sophistication and modern relevance, the interior was looking dated. The house had not had a major update since it was built, and the Gardners had their work cut out for them.

The main living area needed the most drastic facelift, and gutting it completely was the couple's first plan of attack. The first element to go was a dark and fussy built-in buffet and wood-burning fireplace separating the living and dining areas. The loss was a stunning gain – a spatial coup. The rooms looked larger, lighter and more livable.

A new gas fireplace – crowned by a luminous oil painting by Alaska artist Steve Gordon – was installed in the living room, drawing attention to the quirky curve of the room's one windowless wall. Because the wall is unbroken, it shows the home's cylindrical shape.

The kitchen received a thorough and thoroughly necessary upgrade. The couple tore out dark cabinetry that weighed down the room (and, by extension, the adjacent dining and living rooms) and replaced it with lively zebrawood that brightens and modernizes the space. The couple installed top-of-the-line appliances, floor-level "nightlights" under the lower cabinet lips, quartz countertops, and playful light fixtures ("doughnuts," quips Traci, describing the round, curvy lights).

A bachelor pad grows up

While the house needed an aesthetic update, many existing design elements were distinctly ahead of their time, says Traci. The private deck was pre-plumbed for a hot tub; the master bathroom for a steam shower. A centralized light system was installed that allows the couple to control every light in the house from their bed. The floors had radiant heat and the house was wired for an elaborate sound system. "It was the ultimate bachelor pad," jokes Traci.

This "bachelor pad" feel made the couple re-think the entire layout of the master bedroom and bath. They removed a large Jacuzzi tub from the bedroom along with a short wall that closed off the bathroom. This created a more spacious feel for both rooms.

Defining modern and dispelling myths

While the couple doesn't consider their tastes to be exclusively modern, they wanted to define the style in a way that made sense for them. For Traci, modern means "a sense of connectivity," she says. "I associate 'modern' with things that are practical, well designed, and well thought out."

Illustrating her point is the precise and clever way that the house has been placed on its lot – a modestly sized one on a busy corner. Inside, the home feels private and intimate – an oasis – even with 17 windows in the main living space. Windows at the back of the house look out onto a wooded green space.

Eclectic harmony

The couple married the heady modern concepts inherent to the house with a playful and personal blend of modern and classic décor. Retro, modern, and traditional accents all hold melodious sway throughout the home. A vintage 60s living room set (purchased by Traci on Craigslist while McLane was out of town) lives comfortably with the reproduction antique plane propeller that leans near the fireplace (McLane is an Air Force fighter pilot). The colorful Steve Gordon oil painting is an unexpected counterpoint to a wall full of dramatic African masks – a gift from McLane's parents, who lived for a time in The Democratic Republic of the Congo. In the dining room, antique Delft urns share shelf-space with contemporary mercury glass vases. "I wanted to create something luxurious, but not pretentious," says Traci of the eclectic mix.

Drawing dreams on paper napkins

The couple did most of the work entirely on their own: design development, research, material sourcing, and just plain labor. And yet, they joke, their marriage survived. "We collaborated," says McLane, remembering weekend breakfasts when the couple would, "start grabbing napkins and start drawing up the plans and coming up with ideas."

They're a good balance, explains Traci. "He's the dreamer with the outlandish plans," she begins. "And she would keep me level," finishes McLane.

Happily, the couple still enjoys talking about this tremendous undertaking and, more importantly, they still enjoy talking to each other.