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Original Drawings Guide a Midcentury Gem's Reinvention

While helping their friends move to Ellensburg, Washington, Scott and Emily Faulkner fell in love with a midcentury home there. Designed by architect James Cowan in 1957, the house nodded to Frank Lloyd Wright's Usonian style, with its L-shaped plan, native materials, flat roof, clerestory windows, and large cantilevered overhang for passive solar heating and cooling. Before leaving their friends and heading back home to Seattle, the Faulkners vowed to relocate to Ellensburg if the house ever went up for sale. One year later it did.

The Faulkners bought the house, moving from Seattle over the mountains and settling into their new rural town. Scott, an architect and furniture maker, built most of the plywood furniture. And though the previous owners had renovated in 2006, much of the home's original character remains. The couple was fortunate to get a complete set of the original drawings of the house, and they plan to honor and reflect Cowan's design.

Who lives here: Scott and Emily Faulkner, cats Pearl and Tiger, and dog Domino
Location: Craig Hill neighborhood of Ellensburg, Washington
Size: 3,200 square feet; 5 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms
Many materials transfer between the indoors and out. A bed of river rock inside near the entryway continues outside, as does the concrete masonry unit wall.

A large, unadorned entry window washes the entry with natural light, while providing a clear view of the exterior vertical fir siding.
When the Faulkners, shown here, entered the home for the first time after purchasing it, Scott presented Emily with a midcentury style clock that now hangs on the clear, vertical-grain Douglas fir paneling in the living room.

"I was hoping it would look like one of the built-in clocks often seen in midcentury homes. And it does," says Scott.

Clock: Chiasso
The L-shaped house mixes wood, glass and cement. A large wall of glass lets light flood into the living room and connects the space to the outdoors, but a wood-screened courtyard in front prevents it from feeling exposed to the street.

The home was built in 1957 for the Devney family. It remained in its original condition until it was sold to its second owner in 2006.

The Faulkners have met both James Cowan's daughter and one of the Devney sons. "Speaking with them has added to the house and our desire to preserve it as a historical piece of architecture," says Scott.
The front entry is a study in textures: fir wood siding, cement pavers and blocks, glass, river rocks and playful shadows created by open roofing.

The homeowners created their own version of a screen door — a 3/4-inch board of fir plywood painted and dotted with circular cutouts.
The circular cutouts bring breezes inside but also create an artistic light element.
Both enchanted with and inspired by the home's rich design history, Scott built more than half of the home's furniture, including this entry console made of plywood and cherry, with cutout slots designed to make sorting incoming mail easy.

The slate flooring is original to the home.
Scott also built the long, low-slung console, coffee table and armchair in this living room. "Right now the chair and coffee table are raw plywood," he says. "They'll be finished like the console, and some cushions will be added to the chair. But, like the house, I like the furniture to be great in its details: well made, with multiple, surprising functions and with clean, surprising elements, like the cherry and heavily striated plywood inserts."

The sofa and two orange vases were gifts from Scott's family.

Tall orange vase: Mort's Cabin; table lamp: vintage, Vintage Vine
Eames-style rockers add curves to an otherwise straight-lined composition.

Scott built the door propped against the wall from plywood and a composite material left over from one of his own architectural projects.
The bamboo floors, installed by the home's second owners, reflect the abundant light that pours through floor-to-ceiling windows.

Small groupings of furniture anchored by no-frills carpets in dark browns and gray keep the attention on the home's lines and the play of light and shadow.

Rugs: Morning Coffee, Espresso, Flor
Scott built the storage cabinets to echo the scale and shape of the rectangular opening that leads down to the dining room. "I like things minimalist, but also usable and functional," he says. "I appreciate furniture and architecture that is adaptive and can transform itself for multiple uses."

The tufted vintage Mort's Chair, designed by George Mulhauser, was a gift from Scott's mom.

Floor lamp: vintage, from a secondhand store (now closed)
Bamboo floors continue into the dining room, bathed in light. High windows create an open feeling but block the view of the carport on the other side.
An original teak and glass light fixture hangs over a table and bench that Scott built.

The low-slung round table and console are both vintage.
One of many original pocket doors in the home connects the dining room to the kitchen, which retains its original layout and birch cabinets.

The previous homeowners had installed new flooring, a tile backsplash and updated appliances. "It really is amazing how much of the house remained intact," Scott says. "And we have that great original spec book, which we can look at to find the things that are missing. Slowly we'll try to re-create them."
The homeowners acknowledge that other people might prefer to completely revamp the kitchen, but they're happy the cabinets and sliding glass doors remain. "It's just so interesting to see how intelligently some of the aspects of the house were designed," Scott says. "The glass sliders can be opened from both sides, so that if you wish, you can get the light from the family room windows pouring into the kitchen. Where the dog bed is now, there used to be a swing-out desk that you could place up against the [picture] wall, to work at. I'd like to rebuild that one of these days."

Clock: designed by George Nelson
The kitchen connects to a family room, creating an open concept that's common today, "but when this home was designed, this was forward thinking," Scott says.

The original fireplace wasn't drafting correctly, so the homeowners installed a woodstove in its place.

Woodstove: Lopi Republic 1750, Armstrong's Stove & Spa
Sliding doors off the family room hide a large storage and utility room with floor-to-ceiling shelves.

Scott built the sawhorse table, coffee table and couch; the latter converts into a guest bed. "With five bedrooms in the house, we actually haven't had to use it," Scott says. "But I still like that it has that second function."
A staircase leads to the bedrooms and bathrooms, which are "all about function," Scott says. "They’re small, and no matter what you do, you have to leave the bedroom to get to the bathroom. A lot of people who looked at the home when on the market were turned off by that. But it works for us.”
Clerestory windows are the hallmark of the upstairs rooms. "You can tell their placement was so carefully chosen," says Scott. "The light that comes through the windows completely changes throughout the day."

In this home office, a vivid shaft of afternoon light seems to point directly to one of Scott's multiuse designs: a Murphy bed that folds down to reveal a full headboard and shelves.
When the bed is closed, the space becomes solely a home office in both function and appearance.
Lined with sliding doors, the hallway has ample storage made even more functional through another creative original element: slide-out shelves.
Although a bathroom renovation by the previous owners veered away from midcentury design, the Faulkners still enjoy the interplay of light through the original windows. "We will return the bathrooms to their midcentury roots one day," Scott says.

Faucet, sink: Grohe
A doorless enclosure with three rectilinear windows sets the toilet area apart from the bath.
Though another bedroom has larger windows, the Faulkners made this their main bedroom because they love the way light pours in through the clerestory windows.

Scott built the platform bed with underbed storage.
The only other furniture in the room besides the bed and some shelving is a vintage desk. "I saw it at an auction and thought it might be a George Nelson piece," Scott says. "It wasn't, but we still like it."
Living in the house for the past five years has revealed the carefulness of the design to the Faulkners. "Cowan took into account all the natural elements we have here in Ellensburg: our famous winds, the need to capture the sun in the winter through glass walls but protect from the sun in the summer with large overhangs," Scott says. "The house doesn't have air conditioning, but it doesn't need it. The home wasn't just designed to be pretty, but to be very livable."
One of the couple's greatest challenges was expanding storage in the carport for their motorcycles while still staying true to the home's design.

The couple increased a storage area by 6 feet, built doors to match the home's front "screen" door and repurposed the home's siding to create a wall.
For this couple, the home’s architectural history helps them enjoy the home itself. “It’s like unraveling a mystery,” Scott says. “We’re lucky that we have the original spec book for the home, as well as all the blueprints. Whenever we wonder what the house had that is now gone, we can always reference those. It’s unusual and amazing to have all of those materials.”