Published on Thu, Sep 22, 2005 by ack Kintner

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Home Improvement

By Jack Kintner

Tom and Pat Long have nearly finished their renovation of the 102-year-old Captain R.W. and Sadie Ridings House at 1283 Harrison St., and under their thoughtful care the house has been equipped with appropriate 21st century technology while preserving the integrity of the original structure.

For example, not only do all 13 rooms have smoke alarms, they’re all tied together on one circuit throughout the house as codes now require, so if one goes, they all do. Interior wiring has been replaced and cables for telephone, TV and computer have been run to each appropriate room as well, but thanks to the house’s balloon frame the wires are all inside the walls.

In the kitchen, the Longs somehow shoehorned modern appliances and a large single sink with plumbing into a moderately small space that’s still got the original five full-sized doors and two large windows characteristic of the year the house was built, when the only plumbing was a pump on the well and the bathroom was an outhouse on the alley in the backyard.

One fairly tall pass-through fir cabinet installed in the wall between the kitchen and dining room was removed to make room for more counter space, and the replacement cabinet preserves the pass-though feature, but the cabinet has been saved and with a new back will be used as furniture somewhere else in the house. What’s sometimes called “farm” furniture, utilitarian copies of commercial pieces made on-site by an owner or builder, was intended to be re-built or modified in various ways. “This house definitely has an old farmhouse feeling to it,” said Pat Long, “because it looks useful and useable, like a place where people live.”
Another modern touch that when finished preserves the old look and feel of the place is the interior and exterior paint that Art Nolasco has been installing and applying for the past weeks.

As far as the outside is concerned, it’s all proven to be sound and very few boards have had to be replaced. The cedar exterior siding on the house was milled from old-growth logs in the immediate area, and since the builder, R.W. Ridings, was a lumber broker he could and undoubtedly did pick the best select grade pieces for his own house.
The Longs hired Michigan-based color consultant Rob Schweitzer, who also teaches architectural history at the University of Michigan, to help with the four-color exterior paint scheme. His approach is outlined at www.arts-crafts.com/market/robs/.

“He likes Sherwin Williams,” Long said, “so using their names, we chose Whole Wheat for the body or main color, two trim colors, a green called Renwick Olive and a lighter trim called Netsuke used on the railings, and a dark highlight color called Rookwood.”

Inside, the Longs mixed a custom very light sage for the walls on the main floor outside the kitchen, the stairway to the second floor and the second floor hall. Ceilings down to a trim piece about 18 inches down the walls from the ceiling are Stoneware by Martha Stewart. Bedrooms are Almond Cream by Pittsburgh Paints and the kitchen, butler’s pantry and main floor bathroom are Light Maple by Devoe. Carpeting on the main floor stairs, second floor landing and third floor is a commercial grade tight weave nylon called Council II by Shaw in a color called Sand Dollar. The marmoleum floor in the kitchen is done in a coffee and caramel combination that preserves the old-fashioned checkerboard look but picks up the colors of the lavish woods - straightgrain fir in the new cabinets, old-growth fir in the paneled doors and quilted maple for the door and window casings.

Tile is used as trim in the kitchen and bathroom was selected by Karen Lewis of Stone and Clay in Bellingham “The tile over the tub is done in a subway pattern,” Long said, “with a trim ring done in small glass tiles.”
The blended effect of all these colors is dramatically heightened in natural sunlight that Long said “flows like butter throughout the main floor. It’s like sitting in warm maple syrup.” The color compliments the structure without calling attention to itself, and shows what the builder wanted to show in 1903, the highly skilled installation of interior features made of the highest quality northwest woods ever available to cabinet makers. The interior plan is designed to draw you deeper inside with a technique that is found in medieval cathedrals, providing teasing peeks into larger interior spaces from the entryway, itself so completely paneled it looks like the interior of a ship.

Color that works this well without shouting is not an easy thing to achieve, although not everyone wants to do that. For a contrast, look at Jeff Matlewski’s bungalow at 836 4th St. in Blaine, painted in whimsical oranges and reds that works just as well but in a very different way, like the difference between Beethoven and Chuck Berry’s “Roll Over, Beethoven.”

There was once an oil furnace in center of the house, between two doors in the large main floor dinning room, so the heat would go up the middle of the house. The Longs installed a direct vent gas-fired stove by Lopi, a manufacturer based in a former Boeing factory building in Mukilteo, and it heats the house well.

The 2,500 square foot house still has a few touches left, and the small root cellar, reached through a trap door on the porch, will remain unfinished. The back deck and carriage style doors in the garage have been blended in with the period design to be functional without detracting from the period look.

Light fixtures are a detail that really helps bring this off, and some are new while others are originals that have been professionally re-wired.
“I like to think of the house as really belonging to Aleta Jane McKinnie Dodd,” said Long, “Mike Dodd’s mother, because she was born right there in the front room.”