Room to Breathe
“How lucky are we to live 10 minutes from the airport and downtown and have moose walk through our yard?” ask Bob and Connie Travis.
Their words highlight a unique aspect of Spokane that appeals to so many. Our city with waterfalls running through its downtown, nestled amongst a throng of surrounding lakes and rivers, boasts ample neighborhoods comprised of generous plots of land whose sprawling acreage invites wildlife to co-mingle with the inhabiting humans.
The Travis’s four bedroom, four bathroom home sits on seven acres, running into another set of homes off the Cheney Spokane Road with similar acreage, guaranteeing the wide open spaces of land.
The west facing windows—looking down the hill behind their property to the stretch of pine covered fields—plays well to a nightly sunset serenade. The view changes with the seasons, and currently features a floor of white, nearly untouched snow anchoring snow-laden pines.
The couple originally planned to find and purchase a 1960s rancher, reminiscent of the I Dream of Jeannie era. The mirage of peach wallpaper and brown paneling beneath textured sunken ceilings greeting the Travises on their first tour of the custom built 1979 three-story home seemed way off the original plan.
“All Bob said was, ‘absolutely not.’ I’m quoting him, those two words,” says Connie. Bob nods in agreement.
However, the view and architectural uniqueness of the space wooed Connie, who suggested they give the home a chance. The three car garage status of the home persuaded Bob, desperately looking for a shop to house a submarine project in process, to grant that chance.
A full tour left the Travises impressed by the overall floor plan. Though not a rancher, the openness and geometric mid-century lines appealed to both. Understanding the potential in a home’s bones is second nature to the Travises, who have both spent decades in real estate. The chance turned into a permanent decision, as the Travises purchased the home from the original owners.
The first phase of the remodel immediately commenced, infusing the modern into the mid-century floor plan by removing the dropped ceiling in the kitchen, replacing outdated tile patterns and shag carpets with hardwoods and exchanging the brown paneling and wallpaper for fresh plaster and clean white paint.
Despite the changes, the footprint of the home remains untouched, and all updates simply breathe new life into the original intent of the home.
“I don’t like it when people buy houses and change them to something they are not, Respect the house,” says Connie.
She’s heeded her own advice to the very core of the home.
The angular exterior lines encase the original open floor plan with updated decor suitable for the period.
Connie says she spent a great deal of time researching lighting and fans, combing articles and websites for the perfect updates. In the end, she and Bob decided the original bronzed spotlights and simple fan were right as they were. They also left the original globe lighting suspended by a chain in one of the bathrooms, basing several other lighting choices throughout the home on the simple spherical theme.
Since purchasing the home, the couple has gradually adopted furniture pieces complementary to the space. This has, in some instances, proven a challenge. Especially with the seating. Because while the Travises are after a certain look, they don’t necessarily wish to forgo the natural comfort of the home for themselves and guests.
They recall the sofa they originally purchased for the living room. “It was a fabulous couch, but uncomfortable and difficult to stage around,” says Connie. They ended up selling the piece on eBay and it landed a home in a Portland museum.
It seems this museum tone is the exact aura the couple would like to avoid as they integrate authentic pieces into a livable welcoming space. It’s a fragile dance. And one the Travises execute well. A muted L-shaped couch defines the space of the living room, offering up a number of fireside seats around a minimal mid-century glass table. Two other chairs perched on famous mid-century legs complete the space, forming a circle for potential gatherers.
Mid-century credenzas house items throughout the home, eliminating clutter.
The minimalistic approach is a definite draw to the mid-century motif. Featured pieces are very intentional. Especially the artwork, always originals, featured on clean white walls. A 1979 Mel McCuddin abstract piece fills the space above the mid-century credenza in the living room. An Old Man and the Sea oil painting depicts Hemingway’s 1952 novel in the adjacent formal dining room. Authentic framed 1970s ads, a honeymoon purchase from the Parisian Left Bank, color the walls in one of two main floor baths. The Travises found the perfect home for a sketch of owls on an oversized canvas, that originally belonged to Bob’s late Grandma, at the interim landing between two sets of wide wooden staircases leading to the lower level.
And as the artwork blends seamlessly with its surrounding architecture and mid-century modern vibe, so do the details not visible to the naked eye as the home carries the mid-century theme to its core.
Kitchen cabinets house a set of Ava Zeisel dishes alongside other curated decade appropriate pieces. “I have a thing about dishware, although I think we are pretty full,” says Connie, who adds she likes a lot of air and avoids clutter. The carefully selected dishes came primarily through family and purchased pieces from Metro Eclectic on North Monroe in Spokane.
Kitchen updates in the remodel included removing the drop ceiling and extending the existing counter space out a bit to accommodate cooking and conversing. The Travises left the footprint of the northeast wall intact, modernizing the look and feel with updated appliances and cabinetry.
Freeze Furniture and Manufacturing, Inc. designed the dark wood cabinets with a unique visible grain, aligned from floor to ceiling, that provides a continuous flow between stacked cupboards.
A French door fridge, double oven, surface cooktop and bar amenities add modern conveniences to the open floor plan already destined for entertaining. Guests can mingle with the cooks at the counter or overflow to the adjacent completely open family room, sinking their toes into an off-white, oversized shag rug as they keep an eye on the game, or whatever is showing, on the TV perched on—you guessed it—another fabulous mid-century modern credenza.
As Connie collects dishes and art, Bob finds his own treasures from the the middle decades. He’s curated an interesting set of slides and reels from the era. Most of these are complete strangers. He’s just interested in the photography and the clues they provide of the time. The whole setup is a giant, fashionable time travel sparked with modern flare. Even the two standard poodles, Leonard and Moira, look right for the space.
While the home and its contents feels like a portal to another time, the back hallway, running behind the kitchen, is somewhat of a portal to the world. Oversized maps, housed in wood frames, flank the passerby. Strings in various colors, wound around tacks, mark past journeys through Africa, the British Isles and much of Europe.
When not enjoying distant lands, the Travises love to sit on their back covered porch, often listening to the yips of coyotes in the distance and hoping to spy a moose, deer, turkey, or eagle like they so often have. Integration with nature is an intentional mid-century modern architecture ideal, meant to encourage an appreciation for healthy living. A series of large windows in the living room and a sliding glass door to the back patio embrace this ideal.
This winter, Bob and Connie have enjoyed spying snow tracks left by creatures and then referencing security tape to match the visitor when the prints look interesting. Yet seasons will change. The absence of a snow slate will once again allow animals a more mysterious visit. Bob and Connie look forward to summer when they can enjoy their pool.
“The first rule of real estate in Spokane is never to buy a house with a pool,” says Connie. Yet they broke their own statute and took the plunge anyway, despite the heavy maintenance for two to three months of use in the Northwest.
“I love it,” says Bob, who now refers to the pool as a giant ice cube tray. Perhaps the pool is a symbol of hope. As Hal Borland said, “No winter lasts forever, no spring skips its turn.”
An avid traveler, Joni Elizabeth snaps photos to document inspiring architecture and design. Writing about such spaces melds Joni’s love for design and decor with that of sharing an individual’s story. She’s also convinced no space is complete without a dog.
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