Ellentuck Interiors


Karen Ellentuck, ASID, NCIDQ, principal designer of Ellentuck Interiors,  is an award-winning interior designer specializing in residential remodeling and custom furnishings. With 30 years of experience, she is more than qualified to guide you through your design project with great expertise. She prides herself as being client-focused working to assist her clients in creating spaces that they want to live in; hence, her tag line is “rooms with your view.” Ellentuck Interiors is looking for clients who are interested in getting great design for their homes and appreciate the value of good design. My clients may know what they like but do know how to pull it all together and are willing to get where they want to go with this designer as their guide. 


Awards: ASID Annual Design Awards, Bath Under 85 S.F., 2019; ASID Annual Design Awards, Bath Over 85 S.F., 2019;  ASID Annual Design Awards, Kitchen Over 200 S.F., 2018,  NW Design Awards, 2015, Textiles, 2013, 1st Place, Kitchen; 2012, 1st Place Bath; 2008. 


Professional memberships:  

ASID, NKBA and NCIDQ certified since 2002. 


Services: Residential furnishings and remodeling, specializing in kitchen and bathrooms. Design services provided such as space planning, furniture layouts, finish and fixture specifications, lighting design and architectural drawings for spaces being remodeled. Assistance with seniors downsizing into multifamily housing and families upsizing into larger homes.  


AMcCurdy Design Firm


AMcCurdy Design Firm is an award-winning, full-service interior design firm and real-estate staging company founded in 2014. Our focus is curating interiors that are timeless, balanced, and contemporary. 


From whole house renovations to one-room transformations, AMcCurdy Design Firm specializes in residential interior and boutique commercial projects throughout the Seattle, Greater Washington areas, and beyond. 


We put passion into every project so that the client’s vision comes to life. Our team works to design spaces that reflect who you are and inspire you through a thoughtful and collaborative design process for years to come. AMcCurdy Design Firm has provided an extraordinary level of service to its clients since its inception. It is helping founder Ashleigh McCurdy to gain notoriety through her loyal following in Washington and across the country. 

Contact us TODAY and let us help you transform your house into a home and fall in love with the space you’re in! 

Karlee Coble Interiors


Karlee Coble Interiors is an elevated interior design firm that specializes in luxury residential and commercial interiors.  For the past eighteen years they have been celebrating the art of living and experiencing refined interior spaces.  Their projects range from San Francisco to Seattle including, single family residence to urban hospitality. 

They believe a proficient interior designer should understand the, “big picture” of the client’s design needs and guide them through the solutions and design process to construction completion.  Karlee Coble Interiors provides a hands-on, highly experienced designer the entire way through the design to the final install without ever compromising skill and experience for the client. “You get senior level design from start to finish.”  Discovering how the client lives in their space starts with a personal story of the resident and ends with an even better interior design telling their story.   

Some of Karlee Coble Interiors services include, space planning, project management, conceptual design, design development, furniture design and construction management.  Specializing in urban and coastal markets, Karlee herself grew up near the sea and has a deep understanding for coastal life, urban life and the quality and importance of luxury interiors.  

NB Design Group


NB Design Group has been creating refined, meaningful interior design for our discerning clientele for nearly 30 years. As a premier Seattle interior design firm, we embrace a process that incorporates a multitude of elements essential to experiencing a building or space as a complete environment. 
We specialize in full-service interior design, including custom furniture, lighting and art procurement/installation. Our project resumé́ includes both new home construction and renovations of residential interiors of all sizes, small to large. NB Design Group also has design experience in boutique hotels, luxury yachts, private aircraft, and small commercial offices. 
Responsive to our clients’ vision, we are committed to design that expresses the interrelationships between architecture and place, space and form, color and materials, economy and integrity. 

Pulp Design Studios


With studios in Dallas, Seattle and Los Angeles, Pulp Design Studios is a national interior design firm specializing in defining clients’ personal styles and transforming their homes into spaces that feel uniquely personalized. After all, it’s not just about having a beautiful home; it’s how you live in it. The team at Pulp works across the country, designing primary residences, pied-à-terres, and vacation homes for clients near and far. Founders Carolina Gentry and Beth Dotolo ensure Pulp’s insightful Splendid Living approach ensures that finished designs are not just beautiful, but also functional. Pulp is respected for design sensibilities and professionalism by the design industry and by their clients. The Pulp team manages the interior design process from conception to installation and works closely with architects and other professionals to minimize costly mistakes in construction and furnishings. In each project, Pulp’s designers go to work, making smart renovation and furnishings choices that beautifully transform each room, resulting in artful homes that exude livable luxury and delightful surprises at every turn.  

2022 Q2


In this issue, experience the PNW’s Spring with SDC. See some animal and geometric settings we’ve been loving, and hear from some designers about what’s been inspiring them! Also, meet some new faces, showrooms, and lines you’ll be able to find around SDC

2022 Q1


In this issue, experience the PNW’s snow with SDC. See some lighting and neutrals settings we’ve been loving, and hear from some designers about what’s been inspiring them! Also, meet some new faces, showrooms, and lines you’ll be able to find around SDC.

Renee Erickson & Jeremy Price | Fabulously Funky

Renee Erickson & Jeremy Price | Fabulously Funky

In this episode of Inspired Design, we head to The Walrus and the Carpenter in Ballard to meet up with James Beard Award winning chef and author Renee Erickson, and her business partner, co-founder, and designer of Sea Creatures, Jeremy Price. This restaurant was their first joint endeavor over 12 years ago and gifts them with sentimental and insightful memories. We learn how they have honed their creative process to give guests the ultimate setting for a memorable meal.

Listen on your platform of choice

Explore this Episode

Behind the scenes


The Walrus & Carpenter


Intent on creating a fun, lively, and approachable oyster bar in their back yard — a neighborhood place where the very best in food and drink would be served in a cozy, welcoming setting — friends Renee Erickson, Jeremy Price, and Chad Dale began work on The Walrus and Carpenter in the winter of 2009.

The Barnacle


Sea Creatures

Sea Creatures is a family of restaurants, locally owned and operated by James Beard Foundation Award-winning chef Renee Erickson and partners.


Price Erickson Interior Design

Price Erickson is an established interior design firm with over 15 years experience in residential and commercial interior design. Price Erickson is pleased to offer interior design and project management services to select clients.

Principals: Jeremy Price, Renee Erickson

Inquiries: info@priceerickson.com


Renee’s newest book – Getaway: food & drinks to transport you

Renee’s Books

Episode Transcript

Speaker 1 (00:00): 

So I love being in restaurants. I love going to restaurants. I love cooking, but I think even more so I love restaurants. 

Speaker 2 (00:09): 

I’m Gina Colucci with the Seattle design center every week on inspired design, we sit down with an iconic creator in a space that inspires them this week. We sit down with chef author and restaurant tour, Renee Erickson and her longtime business partner and interior design specialist, Jeremy Price. Hello. 

Speaker 3 (00:29): 

Hi, welcome. Thank 

Speaker 2 (00:30): 

You. I’m Gina, Gina 

Speaker 4 (00:31): 

And Jeremy. 

Speaker 2 (00:32): 

Nice to meet you 

Speaker 1 (00:33): 

Renee. Nice to meet you. 

Speaker 2 (00:35): 

Renee and Jeremy met years ago when Renee was looking to bring spirits into her first restaurant boat street cafe and hired Jeremy and his dad to renovate the bar. You may remember boat street cafe originally located the very bottom of queen and hill kind of across from this martini bar called teeny bigs, which is gone now, but maybe that gives you a good reference. It was quintessential Renee at first, a little unassuming, but then you entered into this Oasis and it was so cute and decorated. It just popped. Renee now owns 13 unique restaurant spaces in Seattle, and we caught up with her and Jeremy in front of the iconic walrus and the carpenter. It’s their first joint endeavor founded in 2010. The restaurant is housed in a large brick structure. 

Speaker 4 (01:25): 

This is the Coltran building, uh, in Ballard here in Seattle. 

Speaker 2 (01:29): 

Uh, originally a Marine supply business over a century old 

Speaker 4 (01:32): 

We’re kind of in the front area, the building here where all the casting happened. And if we could get in these spaces over here, you’d see the old, like gantry where they would, um, you know, the crucible of like Moton metal would get poured in the form. So it was like very much like a working Marine space. Um, and originally when they reached out to Renee to kind of get us to come into the building to do a restaurant, they like imagined us taking all of it. Um, and yeah. <laugh> oh, you laugh about that. Yeah. I mean, it would’ve been like a 200 seat restaurant. It would’ve just been a crazy, uh, which is harder in Seattle, particularly like in a neighborhood like Ballard, which is a little quieter, but yeah, so, uh, what used to be the loading dock for that Marine castings? Um, space is now where Walton carpenter. So we just kind of took the tiny little back half. So if we head down this hallway, we’ll, we’ll find our way there. That’s 

Speaker 2 (02:17): 

Cool. Yeah. When you first walk through the door, you’re greeted by a long hallway that runs the length of the building about a half a block long. Yeah. And if 

Speaker 4 (02:26): 

We keep heading back, there’s these fun, uh, painted wood molds. So when we were talking about, um, this being a Marine casting, silly, they saved all the old wood parts and they’ve kind of made like a little decor wall ahead of us here. 

Speaker 2 (02:41): 

The building held nearly a century of history before becoming home to some of Seattle’s top restaurants, Renee and Jeremy took us through some of that history from the unusual architecture and mixed material walls to documents from the 1940s cold shoots and phone books and even bullet holes. 

Speaker 1 (02:59): 

Yeah. The space itself, when we first looked had like this cliff off the back, there was like a, like a where you could drive a truck up to 

Speaker 4 (03:07): 

Loading dock. So, so, 

Speaker 1 (03:08): 

And you going towards the Walworth and the yeah, yeah, yeah. And I remember the fir when they were taking the wall apart, they found like papers from like the forties, like talking about the war and everything that they had, like used as insulation or whatever. I don’t know, is this building’s nuts, like remember in the basement yeah. Where they had, like they had, there were these like coal shoots, I think, on the street, um, that they had filled with phone books, which I think is hysterical. Cuz do phone books exist anymore? Um, no. Right. I don’t think so, but they would shoot guns at this. And so it was all like just exploded with bullet holes everywhere and it like water on the floor. Like it was definitely not a place where you’re like, this seems like a great place for a restaurant, need 

Speaker 2 (03:50): 

A dime. If you wanna see exactly what we’re talking about. Head to the Seattle design center website on the inspired design podcast page, and you’ll get behind the scenes images and be able to see all the little details that we cover. I notice a lot of mixed materials throughout the hallway. You’ve got brick in the entryway and then some cement was this very different when you started the process, 

Speaker 4 (04:15): 

It was, it was all open. And so I think to, um, demise the space, they had to put this drywall in, which is like a burn wall. So it’s a fire thing. So we ended up with, um, you know, this drywall, but in other instances where we didn’t need the burn wall for fire safety, it’s just the exposed concrete or the original brick or what have you. But yeah, these are all, I mean, I couldn’t tell you what they all are for do, but these were all molds that were used for casting. It was kind 

Speaker 2 (04:41): 

Of fun. And you chose to keep these 

Speaker 4 (04:43): 

Just yeah. Yeah. I mean, we, it was really the, um, the building architect, which is Graham Baba that I think kind of really saw what an opportunity, all these cool little things were to be the core. Yeah. 

Speaker 2 (04:54): 

We came to a landing between Walworth and the carpenter and 

Speaker 4 (04:57): 

Barnacle and we’re standing on, um, card decking, uh, which used to have cement over it. Um, and that was roto hammered off to reveal the card decking, which is kind of a fun thing. So these are like, you know, floors that you could drive a car on, like, you know, properly thick, like wooden floors. I dunno. Just kind of a cool thing. And those, uh, carding extends into barnacle. You can kind of see it. And we used to have that in walrus for like maybe the first three or four years. Um, but because of the restaurant being so busy, the Gus between the boards started to really open up and like women wearing heels would get stuck and stuff. And so like, we were like out the water. Yeah. Oyster 

Speaker 1 (05:33): 


Speaker 4 (05:33): 

Yeah, it was really cool cuz underneath us is, um, some mechanical spaces and storage spaces, uh, for the restaurants. And so like the light from those spaces would shine through the floor, the old wood floor. And it was, it was cool. But unfortunately, yeah, it was a safety thing and a sanitary thing where we had to tile over the decking and, and walrus. 

Speaker 2 (05:50): 

Anyway, as we head into the restaurant, Renee tells us about her original inspiration to open a little oyster bar in the back of the building. 

Speaker 1 (05:57): 

I used to have boat street cafe and Chad Dale, our, our other partner, um, started coming to boat street. He was very persistent and, and pestering to get me interested in, into a space. And fortunately like Jeremy and I worked together as well. And um, he had at one point mention like if I were to ever do anything else that he would wanna partner with us. So, or with me. And so that kind of happened. But as we were looking at this space, I remember walking in, I think off of Ballard, there was like a plywood door basically. And like, like I laughed in the front earlier. Like I laughed at the idea that like they’re envisioning this to be the kitchen for the restaurant over there. And, and, and I was just like a no way it’s enormous. And you know, if you know our spaces now you’ll know that like having a like south or Western facing experience is much more interesting to me than like this dark kind of cave, like experience of a restaurant, which is very common in Seattle, not for us. So I kind of jokingly said to Chad, um, like if you let us have the back kitchen and then give us a patio, I would do it. And I didn’t think anything. I just was like, whatever. I was very afraid also of anything. I had both street, which was 60 seats and it felt big. Obviously the idea of this was ridiculous, but I wanted something small, you know, that we could kind of get our hands around 12 years later, we’re still here, which is lovely. 

Speaker 2 (07:24): 

The space is simple, but it’s not boring. There’s a beautiful chandelier right in the middle. And then these two large mirrors on the far wall that really open the entire space up and the back of the restaurant opens up to the alleyway and it lets in some really pretty natural light, there’s even a window. On the other side that looks into the adjacent restaurant. The energy of the space creates a really nice community feel if you’ve ever been to walrus and the carpenter, the most iconic piece of the decor is that massive chandelier that I just mentioned. Renee tells us the story of how she stumbled upon it on a trip to LA. 

Speaker 1 (08:08): 

The chandelier was fun. I ended up in LA with, uh, Carrie mania who works with us. Who’s one of my best friends. And we were walking around silver lake and went to this antique store. That’s sadly, no longer there. But, um, we went in and went out in the back and we were looking for a light, but not, you know, that wasn’t our, that’s not why we were in LA. And uh, this was in the backyard of this antique store with grass growing up through it. And it was like, you know, kind of just left there. I remember thinking like, oh, it looks like it’s in, you know, underwater a little bit. And so I don’t know. I must have sent y’all a picture mm-hmm 

Speaker 4 (08:40): 

<affirmative> yeah. I think at one time I could have told you who we thought made it. We don’t know for sure, but we think it was an artist, uh, that was working in California who, um, who made Robert. Yeah. Did like a lot of this kind of sculptural sort of stuff in like the sixties, but I mean, to me it like coral, but it is little tubes of steel that are all kind of welded together in this. Like branchy like tangled sort of Brae. And it was probably originally bright white, but you know, it’s um, probably like 50, 60 years old now. And so like what was white is now kind of, you know, gray and brown into like a, a wonderful, like kind of patina and some of the rust is kind of coming through, um, that original navel. So just is a cool kind of like, yeah, I don’t know. It’s um, I haven’t seen really anything like it anywhere, so that feels kind of fun to yeah. Hear lot. 

Speaker 1 (09:27): 

Yeah. It was, I mean, for sure when we decided, well then of course, like when we, I went to finally like, go ask if it was, you know, available and someone like that day or the day before had put a deposit on it. So I was like, of course. And so I asked, I was like, well, how much time do they have? And so come the end of the month, the person that was gonna buy it, didn’t buy it. So they created it up and sent it to us and we got it, which was great. Um, but yeah, it showed up like kind of in this like, okay, crate. That was a little bit, I don’t know. He was probably happy to get rid of it, but <laugh> um, we, we ended up sticking it in the back of my, it must have been my brother’s truck and took it to the brown bear car wash to get it cleaned before we took it to get, um, rewired. Cuz it, I don’t even know if it had wiring. It might have had just cut wiring in it. But yeah, it’s the best. I love that thing. 

Speaker 2 (10:23): 

Walworth’s in the carpenter holds so many personal touches for both Renee and Jeremy commission drawings from her friend and former teacher, Jeffrey Mitchell. Yeah. 

Speaker 1 (10:31): 

He’s spectacular. I adore him. They’re also, I think just so whimsical and, and layered and lovely. 

Speaker 4 (10:38): 

He like will send you like, here’s some drafts. Here’s what I’m thinking. Here’s what I’m working on. He sends you the drafts and the drafts are like absolutely perfect. 

Speaker 2 (10:45): 

He’s like salvage doors from a community space. Her brother was working on, he 

Speaker 1 (10:48): 

Worked at, um, the city of Renton. There are five doors originally and they were the entrance to this big, like community space. And I mean, they’re insane, massive doors. And for whatever reason, they decided they needed new doors. 

Speaker 2 (11:01): 

The brick lane was done by her father at age 88. He still helps with brick lane to this day. 

Speaker 1 (11:08): 

I just made him license brick for me yesterday. 

Speaker 2 (11:11): 

Even the Offwhite walls are a specific color based on a patch of fur from Renee’s beloved dog Jeffrey 

Speaker 4 (11:18): 

When Renee was, um, painting the second boat street or maybe it was the first, but anyway, like wasn’t satisfied with like the colors that were available. Like she really wanted this like warm, like sort of rich white color, sort of that glowy candle. Lighty kind of like white color and just couldn’t like find anything she was satisfied with. And so she took Jeffrey, the dog into the paint store and like had it, had his fur matched. And we used, he had 

Speaker 1 (11:44): 

These patches on his shoulders that were this like golden white. Yeah. And so I was like, I want that white. Yeah. 

Speaker 4 (11:51): 

Yeah. And so all the restaurants where you see this white color, this creamy white color, it’s Jeffrey White and we’ve used it everywhere, I think, except for westward 

Speaker 2 (11:58): 

Between the building history, the funky chandelier and the salvage doors. The phrase that comes to mind is imperfect perfectness. 

Speaker 4 (12:07): 

We’re attracted to kind of materials and spaces that feel like a little lived in. Um, I think that those spaces for us feel a little bit more alive as a result. Y you know, I think it’s like when you’re at a restaurant in like a mall or an airport, that’s, you know, those spaces can feel a little antiseptic cuz there isn’t isn’t that. So it’s, and it, and it’s also like the, um, having like the ingredients on display, I think, and having like, you know, the people that are like making your food for you, like visible, like all those kinds of things add more and more layers of like interest and like kind of just make the space feel dynamic in a way that if everything was like perfectly clean, perfectly smooth, you know, all sorted and tucked away, it, I think it would lose some of that energy in some of that life. We always, like, we talk a lot about like, you know, what our grandparents feel comfortable in a place or like, can I bring my dad to that place? And, and this is definitely like one of those places that works that way where like people feel comfortable here. And I think it’s because of all those sorts of things. 

Speaker 1 (13:02): 

Yeah. I mean, walrus feels even now, um, 12 years on like really magical in that way. Like it has this space, you know, it was like perfectly timed, I think in Seattle to have, um, I think a restaurant that felt like this where you’re like, cramed in it’s super loud, you know, the focus is on oysters, which was really uncommon back then. Um, you know, like it’s a little bit like our space too, which I think is what makes it like, you’re kind of like visiting someone’s house versus like a restaurant that’s, um, all about the guest. I mean, we are that, but it’s also like you can’t help, but like being, you know, impacted by your neighbor and you know, the server’s gonna like squeeze in between, you know, to like get stuff. So it’s, you’re kind of pushed in your comfort zone a little bit being here too, which we love. And 

Speaker 2 (13:47): 

It reminded me a lot of little cafes in Europe where everybody eats right next to each other and you have to be 

Speaker 1 (13:54): 

Social. I mean, it’s the only restaurant of ours it’s like that. So I think it’s, you know, it’s, it’s great in that way. I certainly wasn’t planned. It was just like, okay, we’ve got 700 square feet or whatever it is like, yeah, let’s cram as much in here as we can. And you know, like we really wanted the bar and the oysters to be so present when you walked in. So that kind of drove how we, we built everything around that. Basically 

Speaker 4 (14:18): 

This space is really, I think, special to Renee and I both, because it was the first space we created together and it, um, I know she mentioned like her dad and her brother, like working together to lay the brick patio, um, and the whole space, like from Jeffrey, giving us the art or ever had that kind of like community sort of barn raising kind of vibe to it, like my dad and I built the bank cat and we built the, um, that wine cabinet there and we built the prep table that’s in the kitchen. Um, and so, and that we didn’t really get to do that for other restaurants cuz like by that point it’s like we had restaurants and we were like kind of too busy to like be making the things ourselves. And um, so this one is like a, you know, like a real hands on kind of laborer of love in a way that, uh, the other restaurants that we’ve done together didn’t necessarily have the, that same opportunity to be. 

Speaker 4 (15:06): 

Um, so that’s really cool. Yeah. I used to have like crazy, uh, like stress dreams about the banquette collapsing under people like sitting on it like more than once I had this dream where like this banquette that we built, like just broke, just crushed. Yeah. Going, going on 12 ish years. Now it still, yeah. Strong, still hasn’t fallen apart yet. Yeah. Anyway, it’s a really special restaurant and I, yeah, and too, like, um, when we opened this, um, you know, this is a point in our careers where I was the GM for like the first two and a half years. And would be your host like five days a week, like greet everyone at the door. And Renee was, you know, working a station, uh, like we were briefly open for brunch and she was like our brunch chef one way or another. We’ve worked in all the restaurants, but this is I think the restaurant where we also like, I mean, I really worked here for a while, you know, for like years. So, um, it’s got that kind of specialness to it too. Like there’s that kind of a different relationship than we have with some of the other restaurants. 

Speaker 5 (16:07): 

Seattle design center is the premier marketplace for fine home furnishings, designer, textiles, bespoke lighting, curated art and custom kitchen and bath solutions. We are located in the heart of Georgetown open to the public Monday through Friday with complimentary parking. Our showroom associates are industry experts known for their customer service. We’re celebrating new showrooms and added onsite amenities visit Seattle design center.com for more information about our showrooms and our find a designer program. 

Speaker 3 (16:39): 


Speaker 2 (16:39): 

So where are walking to 

Speaker 4 (16:40): 

Now? Yeah. So this is barnacle. Um, and this opened in October of 2013, 

Speaker 2 (16:48): 

Barnacle is a thin long bar you walk in and there’s probably seating for eight people. And the shelves behind the butcher block countertops are curved and have all types of spirits. There’s these pendants that hang from the ceiling that are very angular and architectural. And then along the wall on your right hand side, as you’re walking in, it’s just this giant window looking into a hallway. So you kind of feel like you’re in a fishbowl, but with really good cocktails 

Speaker 4 (17:29): 

Between it being a casting Marine castings place, uh, to it becoming barnacle, um, it had a brief kind of like stint as a bike shop. So this was like a bicycle repair area. Um, and it didn’t coffee and coffee. Yeah. And for whatever. Yeah, totally. Yeah. Always <laugh> um, and sadly it didn’t work out, um, with the bike shop, but when they moved out, um, we were able to, um, sign a lease for this kind of little space and it’s become its own. Um, you know, it like people are coming to go to Walmarts typically, but it’s really nice to have this. So like we can send them somewhere to wait where they’re not having to walk in the rain or the cold or the dark. And um, 

Speaker 2 (18:06): 

And it’s just like a little skip hop 

Speaker 4 (18:08): 

Job almost like yeah. Like five steps, but yeah. Um, and it’s, it is super small. It’s kind of, this is, this is it. It’s just one long bar and then a little table, um, the opening crew here kind of jokingly called that little table, the champagne room, but it’s, you know, it’s, it’s so called the champagne should, 

Speaker 6 (18:24): 

Should set the champagne room, take time 

Speaker 4 (18:27): 

Very important. Um, so yeah, just, it’s a really, really sweet little space. And this was, um, you know, I think Renee had had the thought for a while doing kind of like a AVO or a TV type of bar where it’s like a lot of like little can snacks, like fishy things, crackers sort of things that are, um, you know, a lot of times are prepared. Um, and, and we’re just, we were plaing them and serving them, um, and kind of pairing that with a, with what at the time was kind of an eccentric cocktail program that was really just like, based on these, amaros just all these fortified wines and now you see those things, uh, a lot more commonly, but, um, at that time it was kind of a, like a, a weird thing. And we’d have to have that conversation with the guests. Like what, why, why can’t tomorrow? Why can’t 

Speaker 1 (19:10): 

Lots of that? 

Speaker 4 (19:11): 

Why can’t I get a margarita? You know, that kind of a thing. It was like, well, we don’t really do that here, but you know, here’s something you might like instead. And you know, we, yeah, we were really excited to just go crazy with the tile. Um, I was gonna say 

Speaker 2 (19:21): 

Yourself had your time where, you know, you didn’t really the oyster bar thing. Wasn’t cool yet. Yeah. And the, you know, floor to ceiling tile and the craft cocktails. Yeah. Where, where did that inspiration stem from travel, 

Speaker 1 (19:35): 

Travel? All of it. Yeah. Entirely. I would say like every restaurant of ours is somehow connected to travel 

Speaker 2 (19:42): 

Base of it. In light of that, I asked how travel has influenced their projects or certain locations 

Speaker 4 (19:49): 

For both these spaces. Cuz there’s some of the smaller spaces we have. Um, there is a bar and the ma that I think we’ve both been to, but I don’t know if we’ve been there together. Mm. Um, and it’s kind of like fifties, sixties, and they just like left it that way, but it’s really small. And like it, it’s got this like complete clown car kind of like dynamic to it where like the kitchen is somehow like you get to it’s fresh of all. Is that uh, no, it’s not first of all. Um, yeah, I would have to look, but it’s like, they, they literally open cabinet doors, like under a counter and they’re stairs. Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. And then they’re like, you know, to go get your food. And so it is like those kinds of like, just like kooky sort of experiences. 

Speaker 4 (20:29): 

Like we, um, don’t have a ton of that on the west coast, cuz like everything is so new and a lot of times it’s purpose built, like, you know, just knock, knock down and build the, the right thing for the thing. And I don’t think you get as weird of experience. I mean, we also have like, I think kind of tougher codes around that kind of stuff, but like those things are just so special. Like I remember that and that was probably 10 years ago that I was there and I don’t remember really too much else about it. Other than that there was like stairs in a cabinet. I don’t know. I think we really love finding the little spaces that seem like improbable. Like they feel more special. Yeah. And you just see so much more of that in Europe than you do, you know, on the west coast of America. 

Speaker 1 (21:09): 

Yeah. And a lot of, it’s not, um, visually inspired, but like ly, like we end up like whales was, um, I had been spending a more time going to England and, and become, or London, not just mostly London and uh, just the, um, experience around vegetables there was, was becoming something that wasn’t happening here. At least not in Washington where there was, um, the O hotel Linga group that everyone now, you know, has heard of at the time was had I think just one location. And um, you know, there was this like bountiful plethora of, of food that you could, you know, see when you walked in and then it became part of your meal. And so when we opened whales, we that’s how we started was not only, and that, that plus the wood oven was this, um, you know, very vegetable focused and like the meas and plus all the food that was gonna become your meal was basically these like beautiful, you know, ZUS or silver trays or whatever that were in front of you as you walked in. So you could kind of be excited about what was to come. And so like, I think it’s like kind of combination of like visual inspirations and, and also just like weird experiences that you remember or hold onto and want to kind of somehow translate into something here. Yeah. 

Speaker 4 (22:22): 

Yeah. One thing that Renee talks a lot about, at least with, with opening wall risk, is that, um, kind of at that time, like I think she had recently been to nor Albany and to Paris, um, and just had the experience, um, in both locations of oysters being like really accessible and like not fancy, there’s a really sweet little oyster bar that I remember you showing me early on called, uh Wheatie REI mm-hmm <affirmative>, um, which is even smaller than barnacle, I think. Yeah, totally. Um, but it’s like, you know, at that time in Seattle, like to go get oysters, you had to go to a steakhouse or you had to go to like a 400 seat, like tourist restaurant, um, like on the waterfront and there wasn’t really anything in between. Um, and so I think it was like kind of that inspiration from traveling where you’re like, oh, like this doesn’t have to be like a quote unquote fancy food. 

Speaker 4 (23:08): 

You can like have this like delicious thing, which we grow so many of in the Northwest and you can put it in this, like, you know, in a really a bar essentially is what Walmart is, is way more bar than it is a restaurant, put it in that context. And, um, it becomes kind of a new thing and, and hopefully a more accessible thing where like people are having to leave their neighborhood or like, you know, have like, you know, a, a huge, like $50 steak to also like have oysters or whatever it is, you know? So, yeah, 

Speaker 1 (23:34): 

It’s true. Yeah. The, um, we regime was, or is, it’s still open, um, tiny and I still like maybe one day that Seattle would be ready, but, um, you had to buy oysters by the dozen each person. Nope. Like you couldn’t share <laugh> um, you, I know, right. I loved it. Um, there was only white wine or champagne. You could get like a shrimp terrain I think, and then like poached shrimp and it was ridiculous. And the whole place, like, I mean much like walrus, I would say, like, it felt like you were like in a room that like was entirely inspired off of the colors of an oyster shell. Super cool. 

Speaker 2 (24:13): 

It’s not only travel that influences Renee’s design choices, 

Speaker 1 (24:17): 

The back bar at barnacle. I think I was watching Willow Wonka, chaga factory. Yeah. And sent you, or sent you a text if you remember the candy store in Willy Wonka, it’s like, it’s the opposite. Well, it would be like this, you know, it’s like a U shape, but I was like, oh, I think that like kind of crazy candy, you know, mania for a bar would be really fun. So that’s why the, the style or the, you know, the design is sort of inspired off of that room and that it had this like intimacy and tininess and then kind of berserk as well where it’s just, everything’s everywhere 

Speaker 2 (24:50): 

When you get that with the Chandel or the pendants handing over the bar. 

Speaker 4 (24:55): 

Yeah. Those are, um, gel day pendants, um, which is like a, uh, a French sort of task lamp or task pendant from, I think the twenties. Um, these are like new versions of the, I think it’s been in continuous reproduction, like wars aside since the twenties. And these are kind of fun ones because each pendant has kind of two of these articulating, uh, arms, like they’re just like little apparatus, you know, like they’re just fun. And like they have, um, I think a sense of movement to ’em. I mean, obviously like they’re actually kind of like a pain in the butt to reposition and to move around, but just even static. I think that they’ve got kind of like a, I don’t know, a sculptural quality to ’em mm-hmm <affirmative> like, they’re, they’re kind of kinetic 

Speaker 2 (25:33): 

As we sat in the champagne room, Renee and Jeremy told us more about how they met and Renee’s unique opportunity to pivot from art studies to running a restaurant. 

Speaker 4 (25:44): 

Renee was looking to bring spirits to both street. Cause originally it was wine and beer. So she wanted a bar and she wanted to change some of the seeding to like banquette type seating. And um, so she hired me and my dad to do that work. And, um, after that I started working, um, at bore. Jeremy 

Speaker 1 (26:01): 

Is the best, best boy ever is what he 

Speaker 4 (26:04): 

Claims to do. Yeah. I mean, I’m now retired, but I was Seattle’s easily. Seattle’s best boy for best, best boy for about two and a half years. Love that. Yeah. No, 

Speaker 1 (26:12): 

I don’t 

Speaker 4 (26:13): 

Know us now. Retired. Yeah. Now retired. Yeah. 

Speaker 1 (26:14): 

You hung up your, uh, your clogs. Yeah. 

Speaker 4 (26:17): 

<laugh> um, so yeah, working at working at the restaurant, we got to be, I think friends, um, just through working together and kind of that, that connection. Yeah. 

Speaker 2 (26:25): 

And Renee, do you wanna tell me kind of your history, you were going to art school and then kind of fell into this world or? 

Speaker 1 (26:35): 

Yeah, so I was a student at university of Washington in the, um, department of art. I have a painting degree, um, and printmaking and I needed a job. <laugh> like all college students do or should. And, uh, I drove by the first boat street and um, thought it was really charming and I needed a job. So I like walked in and um, this part of the story, I always kind of laugh. I’m like I gave him my resume, which was essentially my phone number. I got a job as a server and started waiting tables there. And Susan who started it had a full-time job in Tacoma. And I quickly realized that serving was maybe not what I was meant to do. And so I asked if I could bake or do anything else. And so I started baking in the morning before I would go to school. 

Speaker 1 (27:24): 

And eventually just like, because of the, um, opportunity that was there because, um, a lot of times Susan was managing from afar. There was, you know, stuff just had to get done. So you were able to do things that wouldn’t have been probably what was normally given to someone like me. So over the course of a couple, like three years, I ended up helping, you know, just like cook dinner or service and went to school in Rome, which has, you know, kind of been an inspiration for a lot of the other things we’ve created and came back and, um, worked again for Susan. And at that point she was wanting to sell boat street and I had at this point graduated and was, I thought I would be a, um, art teacher, cuz I grew up with the, you know, the best people that I knew growing up were art teachers. 

Speaker 1 (28:09): 

So, um, I thought that’s what I would do. And I had applied to graduate school. Um, and I wanted to go to temple university in Penn, in uh, Pennsylvania, because they had a program in Rome. I basically just wanted to go back to Rome, um, and still to this day. And uh, <laugh> I got wait listed, I didn’t get accepted. And I was basically like Susan was trying to convince me to buy boat street. I was 20, I would’ve been 25 at the time. And I was just like, you know, what am I doing? And I basically asked my family and some close friends what I should do. And they were all like, you should buy the restaurant. So I got a loan from my folks and um, bought a restaurant and that was 25 years ago. Um, <laugh> 

Speaker 4 (28:56): 

When I first started working for an a at boat street. Um, I had a day job at a biotech company. Um, and wasn’t super happy there. Um, it was like, it was, um, maybe a couple years after college and I had that experience where like everyone was working with were in like really different chapters of their lives, you know, like 20 years older than me married kids. And there wasn’t really like a community there. Um, and I, you know, I’d always been interested in and certainly furniture making, um, is something I just grew up with my dad. Um, like our houses were always torn apart. There was always like projects going on, like always remodeling everything. Um, so that was like in me somewhere. And I think when, like I started like, oh man, this is like, not what I want to keep doing. Like I started to kind of revisit some of those like hobbies as like, well maybe this could be a thing. 

Speaker 4 (29:46): 

And um, I went to school and got an anthropology degree, so it wasn’t like super applicable to, uh, to careers. Uh, so I, yeah, same with the painting degree. Yeah. So I started, uh, I started, um, going to community college to do, uh, like math, prereq, prereq, so I could, uh, apply to grad school for architecture. Cause I was like, okay, this is like something I know I like. And um, you know, maybe that could be, um, you know, a path for me and kind of at that same time as when, um, Chad started talking to Renee about these spaces. Yeah. Um, and Renee was like, Hey, I know like, I dunno if you’re interested. Um, but you know, this might be a thing we’re doing like, and I was like, oh, this is amazing. And like, I think right away, like I started drawing, uh, like layouts and kind of all that stuff and was sending ’em to Renee. 

Speaker 4 (30:34): 

And, um, it just felt like at that time, like a real, like kind of like fast track to like, oh man, I get to like draw stuff and like design it and build it. And like people get to use it and enjoy it. And like, I don’t have to go to school or like take on a bunch, take on a bunch more debt. We’ve probably designed like one or two commercial spaces a year for like the last, like 10, 12 years. And so it’s, um, I’ve got to do kind of that design work that I wanted to do with it, like in a, you know, not a non-traditional path, you know? Yeah. So it’s been cool. 

Speaker 1 (31:05): 

I was gonna say, we always kind of joke that when, you know, when people ask us about the design part, that we are like our, we design for ourselves. So we’re like the best client ever <laugh> <laugh> cause we are like, we know exactly what we want <laugh> and so much, I mean, it’s luxurious, you know, like I think that’s the kind of decadence of, of being able to do that. 

Speaker 2 (31:26): 

And each of them having their own personality and ideas. Right. Mm-hmm <affirmative>, mm-hmm <affirmative> which one you think personally speaks to, you know, you individually Renee, if you wanna, 

Speaker 1 (31:37): 

Oh man. You had pick pick the 

Speaker 2 (31:39): 

It’s like pick your favorite child 

Speaker 1 (31:41): 

<laugh> yeah. I mean, I think I would end up picking here just I think, cuz there’s so much, I like Jeremy kind of spoke to like there’s more of us here than any of them. I think our ideas are, and our aesthetic is everywhere, but like our, you know, our grit and everything ends up being here cuz we, you know, built it from ground up and, and built it like while being open too, which I think is, you know, there’s um, clearly the restaurant industry is, is, is best for, um, the younger crowd to survive the growing days. And so like the older you get, you’re not, you know, you’re not the, you’re not the team that like is standing at the end of the night anymore. So there’s, there’s camaraderie to it. That’s really wonderful. And so I think not having that in the other spaces, to the extent that we had here changes it, you know, like the, the feeling is different. 

Speaker 1 (32:32): 

I mean we love them all. I think we have, we know we get asked all the time, like what’s your favorite? And I think we say, I would say largely, foodwise like, whale’s my favorite, but it’s because it’s an experience that is kind of more food that I wanna eat all every day be to is obviously like ultra fabulous and decadent, but like not something you wanna eat every day or at least not anymore. Um, yeah. I mean Wilmas is, um, this like speaking of like wild spaces to design too, Jeremy can talk more about that, but um, kind of the realization of my love of Roman food for so long and not really having an outlet to serve it, cuz we, we try pretty hard to keep really clear boundaries on uh, <laugh> on what the food can be within the restaurants otherwise, you know, we, because we really want them to, to stand on their own. 

Speaker 1 (33:23): 

And if given it’s sort of like the grocery store analogy earlier, like chefs will be like, yeah, I want that. And I want that and I want that, you know? And so like without having the boundaries, you know, like you, everyone would end up having like asparagus with whatever, you know, and that’s not a good example, but like, you know, like everyone would want salsa, matcha on everything in all the restaurants, you know, or whatever chili crisp, the thing that’s like everyone’s in love with right now. So, um, some places that’s okay. Some places it’s not. So having that kind of boundary is really helpful. 

Speaker 4 (33:54): 

I would have a really similar answer to Renee as like around favorite. It’s like, what’s the occasion like, oh, like this restaurant’s perfect for this kind of a thing. Or like, this is the night I want to have right now. I’ll go here and here. Um, you know, so it’s, it’s kind of all over the place. Like whatever one I’m eating at is probably like my favorite in that moment, you know? Um, I also think too, cuz it’s like happened over, um, uh, a span of time where they kind of like, they marked time in a way for me a little bit, like in my own life, like each, uh, restaurant is sort of like a sign post for like I yep. I remember when that was being billed and this was what was going on in my life. Like I don’t necessarily have that as much with like music, but for sure with like the spaces that we have together, like that’s like, it’s like a time telling kind of a thing. And so sure. Uh, I know, I guess that doesn’t have anything to do with like what one, it’s my favorite, but like they’re all like, I don’t know. They’re like, they’re like they’re each of their time and of like what we were excited about and interested in, in that time. And so each is sort of special in that way. They become like a little memento 

Speaker 2 (34:54): 

As we chatted. I learned something about oysters. I didn’t know before 

Speaker 1 (34:58): 

The spring is like, like prime oyster season, cuz they’re, you know, the lights come back and the oysters are feeding again after like all winter just trying to stay alive. And so they’re getting plump and juicy and so by summer they’re gonna be so plum and juicy that they’re gonna be spa and ready to, you know, they’re just very, very different. So I’m almost hard. I mean, I eat it well rest a lot in the summer, but I, I don’t eat oysters unless they’re really incredibly amazing. But most of the time they’re just so Milky and creamy that they’re kind of 

Speaker 4 (35:28): 

Yeah. Or like real thin, like, you know, they can be they’ve spawn 

Speaker 1 (35:31): 


Speaker 4 (35:31): 

They are like, they’re not Milky and creamy. They, they can be, uh, 

Speaker 1 (35:34): 

You can like see right through them. Yeah. <laugh> it’s like, 

Speaker 4 (35:36): 

Like ghost, ghost oysters. Yeah. 

Speaker 1 (35:38): 

Yeah. We don’t want anyone to stop coming, but, and obviously all the oyster farmers want you to keep eating em all year round, but it is one of those, you know, like you like slap your forehead where you’re like, why on earth are people not eating so many oysters in the winter? Yeah. Blow my mind. Yeah. 

Speaker 2 (35:52): 

With 13 distinctive spaces, I wanted to know a little more about their design process. 

Speaker 4 (35:59): 

We’ve I think approached it in both ways where it’s like, there’s a space that we really love and it’s like, what can we do here? Mm-hmm <affirmative> um, and we’ve also approached it, like we’ve got this great idea, where can it working? Can it live? Um, I think we’re most successful or at least I’m happiest with the outcome when we’re approaching it. Like with a idea, um, in search of the space, uh, rather than the other way around. Not that, not that you know, I don’t know. That’s just my preference. Mm-hmm <affirmative> um, early on we had been like kind of keeping a mental file of like, oh, this would be cool somewhere. Like this idea, like this material or this kind of approach to service, like all the like little pieces that kind of come together to actually like make a restaurant. I think we would, I think we’re always kind of like thinking of those things and like telling each other, like this would be cool or I saw this thing or like, here’s a picture I took somewhere like, oh, I was at this place last night and they did this thing. 

Speaker 4 (36:51): 

Um, and I don’t know, like eventually like that kind of aggregates into something that you can kind of get your arm around and feels like a complete idea. Um, I really like to have that and then find a spot that, that, um, yeah. Yeah. 

Speaker 1 (37:06): 

I like that lot there. I mean, to have to like, I, I, it goes back to being like our own perfect client is like, if we have this vision, it makes it so much easier versus having a thing that we have to find a vision to put in it, you know, like that’s, that’s kind of feels certainly less exciting and I think, um, maybe less authentic too. 

Speaker 4 (37:29): 

Yeah. And I think as, as we’ve done more of this, I think that process of, um, collecting all those little ideas that like will someday add up to something, um, has become like a little bit more formalized where it’s like, I don’t know. I think like early days we would go on trips and it would be like happenstance that we would see something. And now it’s like, we’re gonna go on a trip cuz we need to be inspired. And we don’t know like what 

Speaker 2 (37:52): 

It is that work never ends for Jeremy and Renee. For us, they’re just about to open a new restaurant Southlake union inspired by a friend of Renee’s Cameron who sadly passed away during the pandemic. He was a fan of fried chicken and rock and roll and his energy inspired, the design and food and they will fund a scholarship in his name. 

Speaker 1 (38:12): 

He, um, was from the south and was this like, you know, larger than life kind of human. And he had a popup called king Leroy. And, and so we ended up, I think, I don’t know, at some point I just mentioned it to you and all the like, you know, design details have come from that. But I think to have this person and also, um, a way for us to feel motivated to do it, some of his loves will be in there. And then also kind of like some ridiculous things. And I think we both are charmed by and wanna have around. 

Speaker 4 (38:42): 

There’s so much like nostalgia going into the space king Leroy, like Seattle kind of nostalgia stuff that like, uh, it feels like, you know, like the shoot box shoebox, like, and the like top shelf of my closet of like all the stuff that’s like from like 20 or 30 years ago that like doesn’t quite fit in any of this world. Like this world of like, you know, like white and blue and like, like sophistication in a way this gets to be like our like uncles creepy basement, totally like, uh, kind of in the best way and the best like kind of like things that we haven’t got to do anywhere else. Cute box. Yeah, yeah. 

Speaker 1 (39:17): 

Box anywhere, but there, which is great. Yeah. 

Speaker 4 (39:19): 

And to see that glitter glitter for days. So yeah. 

Speaker 1 (39:21): 

You had like glitter, glitter, banquettes, like the glitter that was on the like sixties gay boat, like glitter, 

Speaker 4 (39:27): 

Like your bass fishing. Yeah. Like, and like the shiny, like it’s that. Yeah. 

Speaker 1 (39:31): 

And all the like beer memorbilia and posters and where is this gonna be? Lots of 

Speaker 4 (39:37): 

Summer fan Leno. Um, so Southlake union, 

Speaker 1 (39:40): 

We just hope to, like, we need a lot of like peanut shells and maybe some cigarette buts on the floor. Yeah. For sure. To kind of fast forward it in its time of, of existence. But 

Speaker 4 (39:55): 

Yeah, but that one, um, kind of to bring it back to the, the question like that one. Um, and I think this is what Renee was getting at, is that that’s what that space wants to be. I think for that neighborhood and for the people that are there, that one feels like it’s less Renee and Jeremy really need like a wings bar. <laugh> like, I, uh, but it does like, there’s not anything like that in that area. Like it’s, I don’t know. I think it’s like adding something to what’s happening there. And like, I think once like, like Renee was able to kind of like define like this menu and this like direction, like through her friend, Cameron was like, oh yeah, this is what it, what it should be. And so that’s been pretty different for us. That’s not how it normally goes. Normally it goes like, wouldn’t it be cool if Seattle had, you know, blank 

Speaker 1 (40:39): 

Yeah. To like have something that I, you know, clearly care about to be the center and the focal point of it all and to feel really good about why it’s being opened. It’ll be good. 

Speaker 2 (40:53): 

Thank you. Renee Erickson and Jeremy Price for shining a candid spotlight on your fame space while we’re in the carpenter and barnacle inspire design is brought to you by the Seattle design center. The show is produced by large media. You can find them@larjmedia.com special thanks to mechi Suzuki, Lisa Willis and Kimmy design for bringing this podcast to life for more head to Seattle design center.com, where you can subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on social media. Next time on inspired design, we head to Woodenville and sit down with John and Peggy Bigelow at their famed winery, JM sellers. 

Speaker 7 (41:41): 

It’s really fun to have an environment like this, where people can walk around with their glass of wine and really explore things that maybe they haven’t seen before. 

Susan Marinello | Skyline Sanctuary

Susan Marinello | Skyline Sanctuary

In this episode of Inspired Design, follow Susan Marinello up forty stories to the top of McKenzie Tower where you are met with a full 360-degree panoramic view of the beautiful Seattle Skyline. From a conference room designed with an acoustic trade trick to specific seating height to maximize spatial awareness, every inch of this space was designed to make you feel like you are on top of the world. Learn about the design decisions that make this rooftop lounge more than just a pretty view.

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Mckenzie Towers


Susan Marinello Interiors


Susan Marinello Interiors is a multi-disciplinary interior design firm based in Seattle, Washington. Established in 1996, the award-winning firm provides complete interior design, furniture design and procurement for residential, hospitality and commercial projects. Our philosophy has always been to find and create a cohesive marriage between architecture and interior while respecting location, sense of place and natural views.

With a wide array of projects in locations throughout the US, our work is driven by the guiding principle that an interior must engage in the context of architecture, landscape and above all, enhance the human spirit. Since its inception, the firm has garnered acclaim for its signature approach to creating interiors as natural backdrops for the people occupying the space.

Episode Transcript

Speaker 1 (00:00): 

Rewind. This is maybe 1998. I had been asked to renovate the center court women’s restroom at Bellevue square shopping center in downtown Bellevue. And this was an exciting space for me, uh, because it’s a large restroom and there’s a, uh, women’s lounge. And so new mothers bring their babies in there to, you know, to breastfeed or to just take a moment. I really took this project seriously, and I thought about the colors and materials and the finishes, and we got all done. The project what’s constructed. It opened up probably a month or six weeks after it had opened. And I was walking down the hall and there was a mother and little girl in front and the little girl, she must have been six years old. She looked up to her mom and said, mommy, are we going to the pretty bathroom? And the mom said, yes, we’re, we’re going to the pretty bathroom. And I was behind her. And I was so touched by the fact that this six year old was excited. We reach everyone no matter what age. So, you know, to the six year old to the 96 year old, it matters. And we can move people by the work that we do. And that’s a, that’s a responsibility and a privilege all at the same time. 

Speaker 2 (01:23): 

I’m Gina Colucci with the Seattle design center every week on inspired design, we sit down with an iconic creator in a space that inspires them. Hi, 

Speaker 1 (01:31): 

Well, hi, how you doing? Welcome to McKenzie 

Speaker 2 (01:35): 

This week, interior designer, Susan Marinello takes us through her team’s latest project. The McKenzie tower in the heart of downtown Seattle. This is unbelievable. We take a high speed elevator up 40 floors and meet Susan at the top. How 

Speaker 1 (01:51): 

Did you like that? 

Speaker 2 (01:52): 

I could feel it in my 

Speaker 1 (01:53): 

Ears. I know. In fact, my ears are still ringing too. Yeah, yeah. Um, yes. And here we are. I was hoping the sun would be out because it is the most divine sunset. I think in downtown Seattle, it’s a beautiful place to sort of perch and understand all that’s happened in our beautiful city in the last, um, five, seven years 

Speaker 2 (02:15): 

From the elevators. We walked through the common area and into this board room or the EOPS room 

Speaker 1 (02:22): 

It’s, um, rich with books and art. You can see 

Speaker 2 (02:28): 

The, because of the shape of the building. It is not a perfectly square room. It kind of comes to a point, uh, as you enter, there are bookshelves along the left hand side and a large conference table with these beautiful chairs surrounding it. And then there is this breathtaking glass sculpture hanging from the ceiling. You 

Speaker 1 (02:50): 

Can see there’s a beautiful piece by Anne Gardner, who I love. 

Speaker 2 (02:54): 

Uh, they almost looked like bubbles. 

Speaker 1 (02:57): 

It’s large blown glass. And, um, even though it’s multiple pieces, mm-hmm, <affirmative> she arranges them and chooses the shapes and, uh, installs it. 

Speaker 2 (03:09): 

Right. So I quickly counted there’s eight. Yes. Eight pieces. Yes. All varying sizes from a large basketball to probably 

Speaker 1 (03:17): 

To a massive watermelon to yes. 

Speaker 2 (03:21): 

To a, a medium sized dog. Yeah. <laugh> 

Speaker 1 (03:24): 

Yes, exactly, exactly. 

Speaker 2 (03:26): 

And how did you choose the color cuz 

Speaker 1 (03:28): 

It’s yeah, we wanted it to reflect the sky. So the color is a reflection of the Seattle sky nine months out of the year. And even when it’s brilliantly sunny, it, it works with the reflection of the sky. But this is where we are. We’re up here in the sky. We’re facing west, looking over Elliot bay and looking past the new Amazon towers into, you know, the fairies coming in and out. We’re looking over at west Seattle and down through, into the port. And you know, from this perch all looks well with the world. Right? Right. Exactly. Seattle is in glorious form 

Speaker 2 (04:06): 

With such a stunning view. One might be forgiven for forgetting about the interior space, but in this case I couldn’t, the ellipse room seemed to perfectly compliment its ethereal surroundings. I asked Susan about the books. Yes. 50% of the room is covered with bookshelves. 

Speaker 1 (04:23): 

So a few walls here lined with books and we take the paper bindings off to expose the bindings chosen for color chosen for style. The big benefit is we get a real quiet room. When we line up with books, it becomes acoustically calmed down. I don’t know if you guys have noticed just even being in here, there’s a, it’s a few notches, uh, quieter than anywhere else. And we find that it’s interesting for people who use the space, they get to peruse and borrow 

Speaker 2 (04:55): 

A book. If you wanna see exactly what we’re talking about, head to the Seattle design center website on the inspired design podcast page, and you’ll get behind the scenes images and be able to see all the little details that we cover. 

Speaker 1 (05:09): 

Okay. So let’s go this way. Now we’re in the wide stretch of the elliptical OV looking direct west and, and we can see for miles and miles and miles 

Speaker 2 (05:21): 

As we walked out of the boardroom and into the common space. And you just mentioned that we’re now kind of in the middle of the longer oval yeah. Full width. Yes. There you go. The full width and there’s floor to ceiling, glass, glass, windows. And then from, you know, I look left and you can see the buildings of downtown and then I look right and you can see the space needle. Yes. And you just have this UN encumbered view. 

Speaker 1 (05:51): 

Yes. It’s very unique and special and being on eighth avenue. So we’re set back from the waterfront. I think it’s remarkable because here we are in the skyline. So at night we have all these, you know, beautiful buildings lit and then you’ve got queen Anne and you see it all you 

Speaker 2 (06:09): 

Really, you really do. And something that just hit me is you said you came into this project when the tower was only half built. Yes. So you really designed this space without actually ever being up this yes. 

Speaker 1 (06:22): 

At this point. Yes. Yes. Fortunately, today we’ve got, you know, there’s technology, so there’s drones. So we, we, we have bird’s eye views of what the views are going to look like different times of the year from this, you know, vantage point. So we know what the view will look like. And I’m a Seattle girl, so I know the color of the sky and the quality of the light. And I know this, you know, I, I used, I grew up as a kid living in west Seattle, so I know what that’s all about. So I feel like this was my pallet. I was very excited about this. 

Speaker 2 (06:59): 

There’s a beautiful fireplace. Yes. In the middle of the room. 

Speaker 1 (07:04): 

Yes. We center. We, we centered the fireplace on the elevator lobby. So it’s the first thing you see when you open the door because we wanted that welcoming, uh, sense of arrival and funny fact, listening to the canvas’s story and talking about how that fireplace is right at their entry. It’s the same psychology. Yeah. We need fire in the Northwest. We want that sense of welcome. Right. And so it’s, uh, people have really appreciated it. 

Speaker 2 (07:36): 

This isn’t your typical fireplace. It was in the center of the room and had four different sides, but you could see all the way through it. And there was this beautiful purple glass in the middle. It warmed up the space, not just physically, but it warmed the energy of the room. Yeah. And even the color of the glass that’s inside. Yes. The gas fireplace. Yes. I’m sure wasn’t by 

Speaker 1 (08:00): 

Accident. No, no, no, no. We, we, everything you see, we chose. Yes. It also acts as a really great room divider. Mm-hmm <affirmative> so, you know, multiple people can be up here doing different things. And that’s the idea. I mean, yeah. This is the extended gathering, living room, family room. Hang out for, for everyone. You wanna meet a neighbor, you wanna have a meeting. Yeah. You just wanna change a scenery. 

Speaker 2 (08:24): 

You want this, 

Speaker 1 (08:25): 

You want this view. Exactly. Yeah, exactly. 

Speaker 2 (08:28): 

So as we continue around, we’re now entering another section that is the right 

Speaker 1 (08:35): 

Shorter point of. So now we’re, we’re now we’re in the, um, the north end of the elliptical oval, which is hello, space needle. Yeah. 

Speaker 2 (08:44): 

Just had a 

Speaker 1 (08:44): 

60th anniversary. Exactly. So, so great. And queen Anne, and we start to be able to peek down into lake union. Again, you get to see more of the palette. I mean, this is what we brought inside. 

Speaker 2 (08:59): 

What were the builders and the architects and owner inspired by the space needle as 

Speaker 1 (09:04): 

It. Oh, for sure. Yes. I mean, this is, this is one of the most coveted sight lines in, in all of the Northwest. So anytime you have a way to look at the space needle, you’re celebrating it, which is why we kept things pretty open right here. You can see everything’s real low and we wanted people to be able to engage with it. 

Speaker 2 (09:26): 

And can you elaborate on why everything you said everything’s low? So the furniture, the tables, the are at like counter height, they’re 

Speaker 1 (09:32): 

All at yes. We kept things 30. Yeah. Even cocktail height. This is 26 inches, which is a, a, a proportion that I we’re kind of into right now in my office. Even let’s get it even lower <laugh> and it’s very relaxed and that loungey feeling, we want people to feel like they’re hanging out and they’re not, they’re not on. So Gina, if I sat you in that bar stool over there yeah. Where you’re raised up, you’d have a posture. But if I sat you here with, with your drink, you would be more relaxed. It’s just a feeling of like, oh, I’m gonna sit back and 

Speaker 2 (10:09): 

Relax instantly. You know, you go from standing to just sitting. Right. You kind of relax exactly. Just a little bit. Exactly. Yeah, 

Speaker 1 (10:17): 

Exactly. So all those dimensions are important. And of course we like to make sure we have a little bit of everything for everyone. Uh, 

Speaker 2 (10:27): 

You sat here at the reflect. So across the room there, there’s 

Speaker 1 (10:31): 

Lots of mirrors in this project. Yeah. And very inspired obviously by where we are by the views, by the fact that this is a story of light, the Seattle light, but the, the mirrors and all the reflective touches allow all of that energy and movement to flow around the space. And it’s a very contributory, uh, experience 

Speaker 2 (10:55): 

Cause that right. There’s it looks there’s, um, a kitchenette on the other side of the room, uh, and it there’s mirrors on the back splash all the way up the ceiling. Uh, and it is reflecting the sky. Yes, perfectly. Right 

Speaker 1 (11:12): 

Now. It’s another window. The goal with using the mirror was a to bring the light in. And, uh, also you’ll notice the glass cladding. The building is very reflective. It’s very sparkly and we wanted that on the interior. So there’s a sparkle to everywhere you look and the mirror we use just to create more windows and in aspects where there, there isn’t, and you’ll notice it in the lobby too, 

Speaker 2 (11:42): 

As you come in and it is just the color wave in the sky right now is matching perfectly with everything in our, in the interior of the space. Yeah. So we’re walking out onto the deck. Yes. As you exit the common area and step out onto the roof deck, remember that the building isn’t oval. So you get this sweeping almost 360 view of the entire city. You start from the south end where the ports are and continue along to see the space needle, south lake union. You can even see Bellevue, it’s such an amazing perspective to see the city at, because everything looks different than obviously when you’re 40 store. Yes. Lower. Yes. Uh, but it you’re right. Each building has its own personality. Right. 

Speaker 1 (12:29): 

That’s right. Which is what Seattle’s about. Right. Mm-hmm, <affirmative>, there’s a lot of celebration right here in this intersection. 

Speaker 2 (12:39): 

Susan’s love for her. Hometown is clear as we continue around the roof deck surveying this beautiful city below 

Speaker 1 (12:46): 

We’re, we’re really right. Dead end north. And we’re now veering, uh, over to the east. And it’s actually kind of, you know, like a really classic Monday night in Seattle in this point in time, because you can see the I five is slowing and we can see, you know, people are, are gathering. I’ve seen a few people walking around in that tower over there. Um, you know, there’s, there’s no question Seattle’s quieter today than it was two years ago. Right. Mm-hmm <affirmative> two and a half years ago. And so I’m always looking for these very exciting clues of things, feeling more energetic and feeling like life in our town is, is reviving. 

Speaker 2 (13:34): 

Well, it definitely feels that way right now. 

Speaker 1 (13:35): 

Yeah, it does. Up here. It does. 

Speaker 2 (13:37): 

And as we continue on, oh my gosh. I can see the Amazon spheres. There 

Speaker 1 (13:42): 

You go. Yes. We are on top of the world right here. 

Speaker 2 (13:46): 

We really 

Speaker 1 (13:47): 

Are. Yes. 

Speaker 2 (13:49): 

That is amazing. Yeah. Ooh, here comes the wind. We headed inside as the wind picked up. You definitely don’t get a view like this every day. Well, the people who live here do 

Speaker 1 (14:01): 

<laugh>. I know 

Speaker 2 (14:02): 

We now entered back into the building where we first started our tour at the elevators. 

Speaker 3 (14:08): 


Speaker 4 (14:10): 

Show. You let’s see. Do you wanna cut through here? Just real quick? Could you just 

Speaker 2 (14:12): 

Do that? Okay. Right here. We noticed the custom rug built into the floor. It was created to match the sunlight, hitting the water. 

Speaker 3 (14:22): 

And so you’ve got a runner when you get off the elevators. Yes. And then there were two large, yes. Freestanding rugs. That matches is our, this is the dog you dog slate. This 

Speaker 1 (14:33): 

Is the dog spa. 

Speaker 3 (14:34): 


Speaker 2 (14:35): 

One of the amenities in this part of the building is a dog spa. It had the cutest puppy wallpaper, beautiful wall SCS, even a little kitchenette. This 

Speaker 3 (14:46): 

Is cute. How much fun did you have picking out the wallpaper on the back of the 

Speaker 1 (14:50): 

Lots of fun? Yeah. 

Speaker 3 (14:51): 

Yes. There’s there’s little 

Speaker 2 (14:54): 

Doggy wallpaper on the back of the shelving units in the dog spa. Yes. 

Speaker 3 (14:59): 

You guys really did think with everything. 

Speaker 5 (15:06): 

Seattle design center is the premier marketplace for fine home furnishings, designer, textiles, bespoke lighting, curated art and custom kitchen and bath solutions. We are located in the heart of Georgetown, open to the public Monday through Friday with complimentary parking. Our showroom associates are industry experts known for their customer service. We’re celebrating new showrooms and added onsite amenities, visit Seattle design center.com for more information about our showrooms and our find a designer program. 

Speaker 2 (15:38): 

Susan shared with me that she had a lot of creative freedom on this project. 

Speaker 1 (15:42): 

We think of the, a project like this and at like a large home, it just has lots of rooms, you know, in between obviously when you come in off the street and you walk into the lobby, that’s really your first impression how you arrive home is, um, meaningful and something. We, we really spend a lot of time considering, right? When you walk in the door, what happens for you emotionally? Here we are up on the roof. I mean, for us designers, like let’s not mess it up because this is so spectacular. We don’t need to do a lot. Right. The view is so crazy. Good. We just need to make sure everything is complimenting the view. 

Speaker 2 (16:19): 

And as you were in the design process, you had the lobby, the roof deck. What other areas did you do and what was kind of your common theme through them? 

Speaker 1 (16:29): 

Yeah, so we’ve got, there’s a, an administrative leasing area on the second floor with a gathering space. It’s really quite nice. There’s a spa, there’s a gym. You know, anything that you would sort of fantasize about needing in your, when you think about what you want in your, in your personal living life, did 

Speaker 2 (16:47): 

You pick all the finishes in, in the apartments as well? Yes, 

Speaker 1 (16:50): 

We did. So, uh, we were responsible for, you know, the spec of the units. Uh, really every square inch of interior surface that you see is, is our responsibility 

Speaker 2 (17:02): 

With every space in the building, falling under Susan’s responsibility and vision. I wanted to hear more about her philosophy and process for making each space individual, while also maintaining a connective thread. 

Speaker 1 (17:15): 

We start out at 35,000 feet. Mike, where are we and why, and what are we looking at? And we really connect with the big picture vision. And then we bring that down to who’s going to live here. Why are they going to come live here? Jean is gonna come live here. What does she want when she walks in the door? What does she need? You know, if she’s having a bad day and coming in off of the street and what, what needs to happen in 30 seconds, when you walk in the door that makes you feel safe, comforted, proud, I’m home. This is my, this is my place and all of those considerations. So from you to, at large, how it fits into the Seattle skyline, those are, those are where we hang out. 

Speaker 2 (18:08): 

Is there anything, I mean, you said that you didn’t, everything you envisioned got to happen in this project, which is rare. Yes. Right? Like that doesn’t usually happen as you’re fantasizing about a project or, you know, envisioning it. 

Speaker 1 (18:23): 

I love working with developers. They have amazing vision. There’s always, uh, an effort and, and a, a contribution they want to make. And this was special. This is, you know, this is my town. This is, this was a, like I said, small team, uh, very involved owner who was very collaborative. And we, we were designing a home. That’s really what it came down to. So the process felt like we were designing a home. 

Speaker 2 (18:52): 

Well, it’s very comfortable. That’s good. An elevated, comfortable where that’s good. You feel? 

Speaker 1 (18:57): 

Yeah, that’s good. The elevated, comfortable. I love that term because that’s what we’re after. We want it to feel very luxurious, but very approachable. Mm-hmm <affirmative> and, and every moment where you put your eyes, like welcoming, come sit down and hang out here. We are up on the roof. I mean, it, it’s kind of for us designers, like let’s not mess it up because this is so spectacular. We don’t need to do a lot. Right. The view is so crazy. Good. We just need to make sure everything is complimenting the view. 

Speaker 2 (19:29): 

You’ve got to check out the photos on the website because my words are not doing this justice. We were touring on a cloudy day. And even then the view was stunning. And talk about a vibrant sunset. 

Speaker 1 (19:44): 

No, Seattle evening is ever the same. The light’s always changing. It’s you know, you could come up here 365 days a year and it’s gonna look different. 

Speaker 2 (19:52): 

Susan thought of everything. I mean, if Seattle had a color palette, Susan Marinello interiors would be it. So you’ve mentioned a few times you are a Seattle light. This is your home. Yes. But you went to New York. Yes. For interior design school. Yes. You worked under Victoria Hagen. Yes. What brought you back? 

Speaker 1 (20:14): 

Yes. I had a baby. 

Speaker 2 (20:15): 

That’ll do it. 

Speaker 1 (20:16): 

And life became real clear. I always knew that I would likely come back, but I just didn’t know when, and, and I can, I can share that. It really was that moment of, I wanna be back in my hometown. I wanna be back in with my people. I wanted to start my own company. I wanted to do it in my town. Really. Honestly, I’ve made several good decisions in my life that is up there with really one of the best decisions. This is my town. I’ve had been, you know, fortunate to travel all around the world. And I have many favorite cities, New York being one of them, but this is home. This is, this is where it’s happening. 

Speaker 2 (21:01): 

You’ve been an interior designer for 25 plus years. 

Speaker 1 (21:07): 

Yeah. So I’ve had Susan Marinella interiors for 25 years. And I, congratulations. I have, I have probably four years behind that. So I’m soon to approach probably a 30 year mark of, you know, career professional. 

Speaker 2 (21:23): 

So I mean, that is an amazing career. And you’ve seen trends come and go. You’ve seen styles. You’ve seen all types of clients. Yes. Tell me kind of what has changed. What has stayed the same? Yes. What do you wish would change? 

Speaker 1 (21:40): 

Yeah. You know, it’s such a good, I love that question. What has changed? I think what I’ve really seen today is people are valuing interior design. So interior design has become something that’s a very important part of your home, whether you’re the newly graduating college student or, you know, the retiring couple or you design has become more available, more accessible and, and people are educating themselves or getting involved, they’re learning. And they’re recognizing how important it is to have things that you are meaningful to you. And that make you feel great around you. 

Speaker 2 (22:23): 

What has stayed the same, 

Speaker 1 (22:24): 

The values of what we humans need. We need to feel comfortable. We need to feel enveloped. And we have a kid of parts of key ingredients that matter to us on a daily basis, lighting, soft textures, you know, surfaces that are available to us for the things we need to do and the technology and the sustainability, those things are ever changing and evolving. But what we need as humans hasn’t changed. 

Speaker 2 (22:55): 

You consider yourself a multidisciplinary design firm. Mm-hmm <affirmative> can you explain that? 

Speaker 1 (23:01): 

Yes. I love that. Okay. So, uh, we work on hotels. We work on commercial, new construction, high-rise development, like the beautiful project we’re sitting in, and we work on really beautiful private homes. The common denominator in all of that is their residential and where the hotel is. Obviously, you know, you’re staying for only two nights. It’s your home for those two nights. So we take it really seriously. Like this is home, home, away from home. Uh, this is someone’s, you know, beautiful urban home. And, um, there might be, you know, a private lake front home, or a vacation home. I have really grown into, uh, the commitment to that in my work, because the two inform one another mm-hmm <affirmative>. So the, the work we do in a private home, for instance, whether it’s, you know, sun valley or Hawaii, you name it, we are learning things in a really important, valuable way about whatever it is. That’s ahead of us with a, a particular family or couple those ideas get extrapolated and distilled into the work we do for the high rise towers. And I like that a lot. 

Speaker 2 (24:20): 

What, what is one thing that you carry into each of those projects? That’s very Susan Marinello that you’re like every project you can find. What’s your Easter 

Speaker 1 (24:30): 

Egg. That’s nice. Uh, leave the ego at the door, stay focused on who the end user is, understand where you are in the context of where you are and drop something in. That’s so special and elevated, but that it’s not loud and it’s not shiny and sparkly. And in the way, you know, nothing should ever overshadow the people that are in the space. 

Speaker 2 (25:01): 

Part of Susan’s overarching philosophy is enhancing the human spirit that care and intentionality in centering the individual rather than the design is very clear as we sit in the space, 

Speaker 1 (25:13): 

No matter what it is that you’re doing the experience of the people interacting with it or paramount, everything that we put in a room builds it. But none of it matters because it’s us sitting in here. That’s what matters this moment, live time. We’re here. This is just the backdrop for it. So let’s make it really as enjoyable as we can and let’s make it so you wanna hang out. You’re not in a hurry. You wanna stay linger. That’s that’s what motivates my work enhancing the human spirit is a mission because I don’t think there’s anything more important. 

Speaker 2 (25:51): 

Susan has worked all over the world. So I was dying to know where did she wanna work next? 

Speaker 1 (25:57): 

Okay. This is really, this is I’m gonna put this out because maybe somebody’s listening can, can make my dream come true. But I have family in Alaska. My mother was raised on a homestead on the Kenai peninsula lab. A lot of people don’t know this about me. I have never had a project in Alaska and I would love nothing more than a project in Alaska. And so I’m just putting that out there because I have a strong connection to the state, the history, and would love nothing more than something really cool. <laugh> yeah, it was my grandfather that homesteaded, when, when he claimed his land, it was in 1939. So he, and then he was in the army during the war, but there were 13 people within a 45 mile radius. And now there’s 2,500. Yeah, you guys, my mom. I mean, she snow shoot to a one room school house until her senior year in high school, you know, literally like there’s stories where she had, you know, moose following her. And it was a crazy time. They were, it was very remote. Very, very remote. Yeah. Do 

Speaker 2 (27:13): 

You think you’d take that kind of survivalist, uh, mentality on 

Speaker 1 (27:17): 

With you? Hell yes, absolutely. Being raised by a mother who was raised on homestead, you learn how to be, um, environmentalist and green and sustainable, and you never discard anything. You reuse things. There’s a practicality to how we think about interiors that is really strategic. And that has really resonated in, in everything I think about. 

Speaker 2 (27:50): 

Thank you to Susan Marinello for taking the time to give us a tour through this beautiful space and to the folks at McKenzie tower for your warm hospitality, inspired design is brought to you by the Seattle design center. The show is produced by large media. You can find them@larjmedia.com special, thanks to mechi Suzuki, Lisa Willis and Kimmy design for bringing this podcast to life for more head to Seattle design center.com, where you can subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on social media. Next time on inspire design, Renee Erickson and Jeremy Price. Take us through their iconic restaurant, the walrus and the carpenter 

Speaker 6 (28:38): 

When Renee was, um, painting the second boat street, like she really wanted this like warm, like sort of rich white color, sort of like glowy candle. Lighty kind of like white color and just couldn’t like find anything she was satisfied with. And so she took Jeffrey, the dog into the paint store <laugh> and like had it, had his fur matched. 


Liz Dunn | Concentric Circles

Liz Dunn | Concentric Circles

In this episode of Inspired Design, Dunn & Hobbes Founder and Principal Liz Dunn, describes the “concentric circles” of place and community that she has endeavored to build over more than twenty years through incremental redesign and redevelopment of the Chophouse Row block. She takes us to the Cloud Room, a warm and lushly appointed shared workspace and cultural venue located at the center of it all. Learn how the community is enriched by the diversity and entrepreneurial talent of its members and neighbors, many of whom are drawn from Seattle’s deep-rooted arts, music, and media industries.

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Dunn & Hobbes


Cloud Room


  • To contribute something unique to a neighborhood while respecting and incorporating its existing fabric.

  • To express strong design values that help “raise the bar” for quality of architecture and urban design city-wide.

  • To enhance the experience of living, working, shopping and playing in an urban environment.


Our goal is to maximize the appeal of dense urban living, because it goes hand in hand with our desire to preserve this region’s remaining wilderness spaces and to reduce carbon emissions. Attracting more people to live and work in urban neighborhoods will make better use of our transportation and utility infrastructure and ease development pressure on our region’s growth boundary.  Maintaining the character and uniqueness of these neighborhoods will help Seattle to continue to attract and retain talented new residents from other places.

Episode Transcript

Liz Dunn:
I think that’s the most interesting part of design.

Gina Colucci :
Really? Yeah.

Liz Dunn:
Is how do you create something that human beings love and want to populate and want to use and find both beautiful and functional, and that’s my basic approach to any design problem.

Gina Colucci :
I’m Gina Colucci with the Seattle Design Center. Every week on Inspire Design, we sit down with an iconic creator in a space that inspires them.

Liz Dunn:
I bought this group of six buildings, right at the end of 1999.

Gina Colucci :
We meet up with real estate mogul and trailblazer, Liz Dunn.

Liz Dunn:
I’m not someone who thinks you plan your life out. I think just opportunities present themselves, and you have to decide whether you’re just going to take a left turn.

Gina Colucci :
Originally from Canada, Liz spent the first 10 years of her career as a software developer for Microsoft.

Liz Dunn:
Tech always felt temporary to me, but I nevertheless had 10 great years in tech and is what brought me to Seattle.

Gina Colucci :
She took a hard pivot into commercial real estate and started her own firm, Dubb & Hobbes in 1998.

Liz Dunn:
It was good that I came to it without any preconceived notions of how real estate works. You accidentally end up doing it a different and sometimes better way.

Gina Colucci :
Liz’s imprint can be seen all over the city. Her best known project, Melrose Market, opened in 2010 and sold for 15.5 million dollars, just nine years later.

Liz Dunn:
It was one of the first market hall projects in the country. People do love that concept and we’re seeing a lot more of that. Yeah. Okay. Just down a little bit.

Gina Colucci :
Liz invited us to Cloud Room, a creative co-working space at the top of Chophouse Row in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. Sit here?

Liz Dunn:
Wherever you want, yeah.

Gina Colucci :
Do you want to explain where we are right now?

Liz Dunn:
Sure. This is The Cloud Room. This is a co-working space that we opened about six years ago. We really catered to kind of the local Capitol Hill based creative crowd media, lots of tech people actually here, too, and it’s kind of smaller and more intimate and more locally based than a lot of the bigger co-working chains, and because we have this lounge and the bar and the outdoor deck, we’re able to host a lot of cultural events and just bring in a lot of neighbors who don’t necessarily need a workplace, but come to the bar and hang out.

Gina Colucci :
Every corner of the loft was used purposefully. From the bar when you entered, the furniture is set up in such a way that’s very inviting. There’s a white grand piano in the far corner and this long wooden table with these teardrop chairs in a very plush velvet. It was industrial, but inviting. Liz put a lot of thought into every square inch of the space.

Liz Dunn:
Place making isn’t just about making a place that’s pretty to look at. You actually have to populate it with human beings. I think that’s the most interesting part of design is how do you create something that human beings love and want to populate and want to use and find both beautiful and functional, and I think that’s my basic approach to any design problem.

Gina Colucci :
Going through and developing this space, I instantly walked in and was like, oh, wow. You just get this jolt of inspiration and-

Liz Dunn:
Oh, that’s so nice to hear because that’s the goal.

Gina Colucci :
Yeah. I was like, “Oh, I could be here a while.” It feels comfortable.

Liz Dunn:
It is interesting, too, about designing a workspace in particular, is finding that balance between masculine and feminine and warmth and businesslike-ness, I feel like, because a lot of offices I feel are quite masculine and not very warm, and I’m not sure that, that is actually the way to productivity. I think a lot about how do you create a space? You don’t want it to be so feminine that it turns off a portion of your clientele or just that it seems too cushy to be a place where you would get work done, but I think we’ve achieved a pretty good balance here.

Gina Colucci :
I think so.

Liz Dunn:
Oh, that’s good.

Gina Colucci :
I asked Liz, how does she always have a strong vision for what she creates?

Liz Dunn:
As a commercial landlord or a residential landlord, you’re designing for a tenant, and sometimes that tenant’s theoretical. Sometimes you know who the tenant is. That helps a lot, but in most cases, it’s a future tenant, so it’s somewhat theoretical. You have to be able to pretend you are that tenant. I will also say, I’m pretty good at living in and using the spaces that I’ve designed over the years.

Gina Colucci :
What’s an example of that happening?

Liz Dunn:
The first project I ever built, which kind of all happened accidentally was because I wasn’t quite ready to jump development with both feet, was a condominium loft project at 13th and Union, and it was so inexpensive, which I was so naive that I didn’t realize it was so inexpensive because it was so small that it was almost unbuildable, like no wonder no one else had bought it. I was the only person stupid enough to buy it. 3200 square feet, which is like, half the size of most single family lots, and I built, what ended up being a seven story, eight story, well, because it was 65 feet, but we did these double height lofts, so we jammed a lot into that height restriction. Mistakes were made, but we’re pretty proud of the outcome, but our timing turned out to be terrible.

Liz Dunn:
We got our, what’s called Certificate of Occupancy from the city on September 13th, two days after 911, and we were unable to sell any of those units for almost a year. We were all really freaked out. We didn’t know what was going to happen next. My partner and I, at the time, had to move out of our house, which we were able to rent to somebody else and move into the empty project. We actually lived in three different units in that building in the end, because as the units got sold, we would move into a different unit. We lived in the front penthouse and then we lived in the back penthouse, and then we lived on the fourth floor.

Gina Colucci :
So, moving is no-

Liz Dunn:
Moving, yeah.

Gina Colucci :
You’re used to that one.

Liz Dunn:
Moving is no problem.

Gina Colucci :

Liz Dunn:
Yeah. I do a lot of moving. One of the things that made that project challenging to sell, too, is it was a very edgy product for Seattle at that time. It was all steel and concrete. It was a lot like this Chophouse Row building, which is steel frame and steel pan decking with concrete floors and quite unfinished. Not a lot of drywall, completely open plan, the only enclosed spaces were the bathrooms, and I really felt there was an appetite for that in the city that wasn’t being met. The problem was… I don’t want to offend my friends who are real estate agents, but the real estate agent community at the time, did not understand the building at all, so they would come in and say, “Oh, well when is it going to be finished?” And I’d be like, “Well, it is finished. This is it. This is creative space. It’s targeted at a certain kind of urban dweller who might have moved here from another city,” and they would just be completely perplexed. It was very challenging to market it.

Liz Dunn:
I knew the woman who was kind of one of the national reporters for a magazine called, Metropolitan Home, and Met Home was the magazine at the time. It no longer exists and it was the one you wanted to be in, but it took a year. These days, it would be completely different. There’s tons of websites and blogs and Instagrammers who post about design every day, so it’s a lot easier to get the word out when you have an interesting project that you want people to know about.

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Gina Colucci :
Tell us a little bit about Melrose Market.

Liz Dunn:
It’s two old auto row buildings that we renovated to accommodate 12 businesses, and six of them were in one open market hall. You would really call them micro-businesses because they were arranged around a big open area in the center, and it was one of the first market hall projects in the country. At the time, it got a lot of attention and I think what’s great is people do love that concept, and we’re seeing a lot more of that in cities around the country, and it’s a great format for really small tenants to start out if it’s their first location, because they’re paying for such a tiny amount of square footage that they can afford it and get their foothold in the market, and so what’s nice is to see that incubate often into them then going off and doing bigger things.

Liz Dunn:
Marigold and Mint, for example, Katherine Anderson, gorgeous little shop that did flowers and plants and some homewares, she went on to establish London Plane, which is a much bigger format down in Pioneer Square. Lots of stories like that over the years of little tenants kind of incubating into bigger ones, and I’d like to say, and I think Melrose Market was an example of that, because we did sell the asset in 2019 for an extremely high price. My projects age well and the reason they age well is partly because of how we design them, and incorporating old buildings. Old buildings already by definition age well. They’ve already aged. These projects age well. If you keep them alive and people keep coming, you’re constantly actually able to improve the tenant mix as time goes on because if you’re doing enough to continue to make the place relevant, then tenants also want to be part of that mix.

Gina Colucci :
You mentioned keeping these historical buildings somewhat intact. What is it about old buildings that you’re drawn to?

Liz Dunn:
Well, it’s interesting because I think, at some level for all of us, it’s emotional, but when I’m making the case from a policy perspective, I try to make it as unemotional, unsentimental as possible. I do love old buildings. There’s no doubt that I’m biased, but what I will explain to urban planners or city policy makers is that there’s lots of data out there to prove that everybody does, and therefore, it translates into more activity on the sidewalk, more interesting tenants who want to rent those spaces from you, more interesting local businesses because they don’t want to be in a cookie cutter white box in the base of some monolithic new building. There’s all these economic multiplier effects that you can actually quantify, if you keep your older building, and more granular building stock, intact.

Liz Dunn:
In this country, we have a habit of taking these really great old main street blocks that will have five or six cool, very eclectic buildings packed onto each side of the street, and we just take those blocks out and replace them with a massive cube of blah-ness, and then wonder why that block went dead from a retail shopping foot traffic perspective. I always try to make the… That’s what I wrote my master’s thesis on is the relationship between keeping an older, more granular building stock on your neighborhood main streets and the success of those neighborhoods, which filters out to the tax base. Locally owned businesses generate something like four times the multiplier effect in the local economy than a chain store, that’s not headquartered in the same city because those chains are just sending all their profits somewhere else. The locally owned business every bit, including the owners is reinvesting all the profits and even just, they’re engaging local professional service providers like lawyers and accountants and the supply chain. Local business actually matters, not just because we love it, but because it’s actually better for our economy.

Liz Dunn:
You talked about preserving these old buildings, but then bringing in the new. How do you decide what you keep and what stays to make it a functional space? Oh my God, that is such an excellent and relevant question. I’m not a preservationist and no offense to my friends who are, but I don’t buy buildings to restore them to the detail to how they were a hundred years ago, because it’s got to be functional for this future tenant that I’m designing for. I am just not shy about cutting the back off a building, cutting a hole in the roof. At Chophouse, we hollowed out an interior bay and turned it into an outdoor alley in order to create new retail frontage, and then we chopped the back off so that it could join up with this courtyard that we had created when we chopped the back off another building that came in from the other street.

Liz Dunn:
Those are pretty significant interventions, and sometimes with old buildings, that’s what you need to do to create light or air. Take an old storefront and insert a rollup door where there wasn’t one before because that’s the best way to connect the indoors to the outdoors. You can look at the old historic photos of a building and those are great guidelines, but then I think you just have to decide that the character will still be intact. The interiors of these buildings are often, especially these old warehouse buildings, the interiors are more interesting than the exteriors anyway.

Gina Colucci :
You made the exterior of this one pretty interesting, so…

Liz Dunn:
Well, when we get down to the courtyard and we can talk about it when we’re down there, it’s a pretty eclectic, I was going to say Motley, but it’s a pretty eclectic collection of styles and vintages of buildings, and I think that messy mix actually is part of what makes us love cities. I think we should be trying to achieve more of a messy mix.

Gina Colucci :
Should we go?

Liz Dunn:

Gina Colucci :
All right. We headed down to the courtyard of Chophouse Row and it was buzzing with life. It’s a perfect little refuge off of the busy Capitol Hill streets. The space felt collective and organic. Everywhere you turned, there was something to look at, with different mixes of building materials and different spaces for people to sit, and walking areas. All of this packed into a small urban courtyard.

Liz Dunn:
I’ve owned these properties for 22 years, so that’s the other thing. I’m a very slow developer. Maybe there’s some analogy to the slow food movement that you could apply to my style of development. It’s been a work in progress for literally that entire period of time, and in 2005, 2006, we renovated a building called the Piston and Ring building that came off of 12th avenue, but had a lower level, and that was an example where we had to chop the back off to create natural light, so we literally chopped the back bay off the building. As you can see, we left the skeleton.

Gina Colucci :
What was left of the old building were these large cement pillars and scaffolding that framed the seating area of the patio. The pillars don’t serve a structural purpose anymore, but it gives the courtyard this edgy cool factor.

Liz Dunn:
We created this little two level courtyard by chopping the back off the building, and we also restored the facade on 12th Avenue, which had been turned into parking. We actually had to rebuild the front facade of the building, and then we built that new apartment building next to it on what was an empty parking lot. That’s an example where you can take a new building and you can pair it up with an old building and you connect them and they share an elevator, they share a stair, they can share some systems, and you can just make the whole thing more cost effective. That was that big move, but we always had this idea that this building over here on 11th that backed into this little courtyard, that we would do something with it one day, but it took like almost 10 years to work my way around the block and get to it, and so that’s what we know as the Chophouse building.

Gina Colucci :
Old buildings often come with good stories, and Liz definitely uncovered bits of history when creating the courtyard.

Liz Dunn:
When we were digging around in the foundation, we found the remnants of the foundation of the farmhouse that had been here in the late 1800s.

Gina Colucci :

Liz Dunn:
No kidding, because Capitol Hill was a series of hills and valleys. It was very, very topographically all over the map and this whole area that we’re standing on was a ravine quite a bit deeper than where we’re standing now, but they raised all the streets in 1910, so what that meant is a lot of the buildings ended up down in the ravine and were no longer accessible. They literally just did it, and most of the property owners went along with it because along with the street came infrastructure, water, sewer, street car. So, their property was going to be more valuable, but it meant a lot of buildings got abandoned. When we built the Agnes Lofts on the corner, we also found the remnants of an old frame building that had been just shoved down into the pit at the time that the streets were raced. There’s this crazy history. You just think about it, literally in terms of layers.

Liz Dunn:
So, about three or four years ago, I collaborated with my friend, Greg Lundgren. Greg is an artist, an art curator. He’s kind of an Empresario in the best possible way. Greg helped me commission this installation that we call ghost cabin, and it’s a long story of how you get from the idea of the thing to picking an artist and going with a concept, but it started with the idea of excavating the layers of history from under this project and trying to surface them to the public. So, there were tons of ideas, but finally our friend Prentice Hale, who’s an artist and an architect by the way, from Shed Architecture, in his capacity, as an artist came up with this concept. And so, Greg and I worked with him.

Gina Colucci :
And do you want to describe it?

Liz Dunn:
Well, it’s, it’s a set of two corners, an innie and an outie. It’s a one dimensional, folded onto a three dimensional space, that one dimension is rendered in Cedar and which would’ve been the traditional material that a cabin two floors underground from here would’ve been built and there’s one spot. There’s one spot that’s marked by this little brass survey marker where it flattens back into one dimension. So, if any of you stand here…

Gina Colucci :
Oh yep.

Liz Dunn:
All the edges line up. This thing that’s folded out in three dimensions, flattens back into one dimension visually-

Gina Colucci :
And they’re all perfectly-

Liz Dunn:
And they’re all perfectly aligned, and then, we love that idea and then we incorporated a stage, so that we can do outdoor concerts and have a DJ and our piano sits there all year round.

Gina Colucci :
It’s so cool.

Liz Dunn:

Gina Colucci :
I love that. With something that, you notice it, but then hearing you talk about it just gives another level of appreciation.

Liz Dunn:
Well, I love the fact that a lot of people probably come and don’t stand in that spot and get it. We’re pretty subtle about it. You know what I mean? Maybe we should have a QR code or something that people could-

Gina Colucci :
You got to look for it.

Liz Dunn:
… read.

Gina Colucci :
You got to earn it.

Liz Dunn:
You kind of have to earn it. You kind of have to earn it. I think it’s nice to have those little hidden surprises.

Gina Colucci :
Back inside, I got to ask Liz about her career. I’m noticing kind of like a theme of your trail world blazer in the real estate industry of having these ideas, and it might be quote unquote, too soon, like you said, but then it catches on and you’ve got this philosophy that really speaks to a lot of people.

Liz Dunn:
I think it was good that I came to it without any preconceived notions of how real estate works. I had skills from my previous career. I had project management skills and I had finance skills and I loved design, but I came with no sort of, this is how it should be done rules rammed into my head. That naivety, frankly, very helpful in a circumstance like that. It’s good to not know how everyone else is doing it. You accidentally end up doing it a different, and sometimes better, way. Now, on the other hand, like I said, I’ve made lots of mistakes, lots of rookie errors, but I think the other thing that I do is, I just take more risk and I don’t want to make it sound like it’s not calculated risk, but I’m willing to experiment.

Gina Colucci :
Even the philosophy of designing a space that you want to be in-

Liz Dunn:

Gina Colucci :
… is huge, right?

Liz Dunn:
Yeah. That’s a tricky thing in my previous life in tech. When I was younger, I was a programmer, but then I was a user interface designer. It’s good to design for yourself because then you have a client in your head, but you also need to have enough innate empathy to also be able to design for others, and there’s always a tension there.

Gina Colucci :
You talk about your past life in the tech industry and then you went back to school.

Liz Dunn:
I did.

Gina Colucci :
What was the deciding factor? What happened to, “Okay, I want to completely pivot my career and go in this other direction.”?

Liz Dunn:
What I had wanted to do was pivot straight into a Masters of architecture program, and I was taking some courses at UDub in both grad and undergrad and urban planning and architecture to try to get the prerequisites under my belt, and I was also working on a very rough, preliminary way working on a portfolio, and I knew I wanted to do that pivot before I even went into to tech. Tech always felt temporary to me, but I nevertheless had 10 great years in tech and it’s what brought me to Seattle. I got a full ride scholarship in math, and that was in 1983 when math had just become the doorway to computer science, and then that was the doorway into tech.

Liz Dunn:
Those were great opportunities, but I always thought I wanted to be an architect. Anyway, I didn’t end up being an architect because what happened is, that crazy little lot that I built the eight condominium loft units on, came up for grabs. It happened by accident and I think life just happens that way. I’m not someone who thinks you plan your life out. I think opportunities present themselves, and you have to decide whether you’re just going to take a left turn and do something when it presents itself.

Gina Colucci :
What’s another opportunity that defined your career path?

Liz Dunn:
Well, going back to school was not my immediate plan once I started doing projects. It wasn’t until 2008 that I went back to school. I previously had done an MBA, but that was when I was still in tech. I went back to do this program at the London School of Economics that hadn’t existed previously. It was a relatively new program. I was in my forties by then. So, I was old to do this program. It was funny because I love London. I needed a little break from Seattle and I don’t know why. I’ve always been fascinated with the London School of Economics. I’m clicking around on their website and I see this program in city design and I thought, God, damn it. If that program had existed when I was 29, I would’ve gone and done it. So, I sat on that thought for a few days and then I thought, well, damn it. Who says I can’t go do it now. I don’t mind being the oldest person in the classroom and it’s so great that I did it.

Gina Colucci :
Well, I’m sure you did some travel while you were there. Is there a European city or area that really inspires your development today?

Liz Dunn:
Yeah, you know what? I’m lucky because I had previously lived in Paris for a couple of years and the build environment of Paris is like most European cities, but it’s probably the quintessential example of a certain scale, but that is very dense. Barcelona, interestingly, is one of the most dense cities in the world and if you’ve been to Barcelona, it’s all six stories tall.

Gina Colucci :
I studied actually, there, and I did an urban planning in class.

Liz Dunn:
Oh, did you? So, you know that Barcelona, those blocks, and they all have courtyards in the center, so it’s not suffering for open space. Places in London like Covent Garden or these little passageways in Paris that lead to little pedestrian courtyards. Those cities demonstrate that the intimate spaces between buildings can be some of the best urban spaces that exist, especially if you can get rid of the cars. I also think that there are lessons to be learned from the older neighborhoods and places like Beijing and Asian cities, where again, extremely dense, not high rise. Now much of, just taking Beijing as an example, most of the low rise is disappearing before our very eyes, but those Hutong courtyard neighborhoods in Beijing left a lifelong impression on me because they’re so densely populated and so functional, and there’s all these little alleys and courtyards.

Liz Dunn:
And then Melbourne Australia is actually a better known example. Melbourne’s downtown is a more modern one. It developed in the last couple hundred years, and there’s these 14 foot alleyways behind all these pretty tall downtown buildings that were always just used for garbage dumpsters. They decided to get rid of all the garbage dumpsters and let little commercial restaurants and other little commercial businesses occupy these 14 foot wide alleys, and I took a ton of pictures. I just couldn’t believe. There would be little restaurants on both sides and seating areas, and people just smushing themselves in between, and it was so vibrant. They were so packed and that became directly relevant when we were designing the alley here at Chophouse because we had kind of 10 and a half feet that we hollowed out from an existing building to create this long walkway.

Liz Dunn:
We turned an indoor bay of an old building into an outdoor arcade. We had an additional four feet just outside the building. We had a total of 15, but it’s got structure in it. It’s pretty compressed and I probably wouldn’t have had the nerve to do it, if I hadn’t been to Melbourne. I love Post Alley in Seattle because it has that same intimacy and Pike Place Market, but we don’t have a lot of other examples in this city of intimate public urban spaces, where you can get off the street, so you’re protected from the cars and wander through.

Gina Colucci :
Going carless and being more of a walking city might go against the grain of some Seattle planners. How do you navigate that and where do you see Seattle going?

Liz Dunn:
I’d love to see more street closures to pedestrians, and that always requires the city and the property owners on that street, holding hands and having a vision, and both the city and the building owners need to refine what that looks like and how it operates. I’m hoping the city will take a leadership role going forward so that someone like me can invest in more beautiful permanent structures, not being worried that six months from now, we’re going to get our permit for the street closure yanked. People love closed streets. It’s all about bringing people… it always, always goes back to getting human beings to come and populate this space, and I think that’s the other thing I would say is, I see these buildings going in and places like South Lake Union with these really beautifully designed outdoor spaces, but I worry that they haven’t found the right way to program them and get people to occupy them.

Liz Dunn:
Even before COVID I felt like, wow, gorgeous design, nobody’s here, so something’s missing, and the something can be really interactive businesses like retail and restaurants that are doing their own activities that just generate a lot of foot traffic and spill out into the public domain, but often it requires going one level above that to programming cultural events, either in adjacent indoor spaces or literally in these outdoor spaces, and I’ll tell you who’s done a tremendously good job, Scott Redman, with the 9th and Thomas building, which is in South Lake Union. It’s a beautiful Tom Kundig designed office building and Scott, from the get go had this vision of both the indoor atriums surrounded by active, active businesses, coffee shop, barbecue, rotating art shows, murals on the outside of the building, and then all this stuff in the street along 9th Avenue, he continues to invest in and it’s real money that a lot of property owners and property managers don’t want to spend, but I swear it pays off in the long run.

Liz Dunn:
I guest lecture sometimes at UDuB in the Foster School and in the Ranstad School of Real Estate, and I’ll get the hard questions from the real estate students. Well, [inaudible 00:31:49], and if you spend too much money up front on a project and then you spend too much money operating it and I just have this one thing that I always try and get out on the table, which is, I don’t care what kind of real estate developer you’re going to be, but you are building a piece of city. It’s not building a building. You’re building a piece of city. You’re building a piece of connective tissue. You have a responsibility to the context in which you’re building to somehow elevate everything around it and make it better.

Gina Colucci :
Inspire Design is brought to you by the Seattle Design Center. The show is produced by Larj Media. You can find them at larjmedia.com. Special thanks to Michi Suzuki, Lisa Willis, and Kimmy Design for bringing this podcast to life. For more, head to seattledesigncenter.com, where you can subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on social media. If you’ve enjoyed season one and season two, as much as we have, make sure you subscribe on your platform of choice to Inspire Design and stay tuned for season three later this year.

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