sneak peek: philip newton

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Canadian-born photographer Philip Newton traveled the world shooting fashion, portrait, travel, sport and personal photographs before opting to settle down in Seattle to raise three kids. When he found this house, it was slated to be torn down and replaced by a McMansion. Philip was able to save it, and after a nine-month reconstruction job and inspiration from photographs of Julius Shulman from the book Neutra: The Complete Works, it became more of a restoration than a renovation. The overall result is a home and style that reflects Philip’s childhood, drawing on influences of the 50s ranch-style house — open plans, huge picture windows, wood and art on the walls — and his love of traditional Japanese homes and Danish modern furnishing, or what his brother dubs the “Newton Museum.” Click here for more beautiful images by Philip of his home. Thanks, Philip! — Anne

Image above: The dining chairs (these were reupholstered with leather) and side board are from my family home, and the round Herman Miller table is more fun than the original square dining table. The lamp is Ikea, which casts a perfect circle of light on the table, and it reminds me of Japanese lanterns I had around growing up. I like the crazy proportion, and it reminds me of pieces I have seen in all the Ian Schrager hotels done by Philippe Starck, besides the fact that it was cheap and cheerful. The flooring is seagrass, which can take food and drink being spilled on it, comes in wide rolls and is relatively inexpensive.


Image above: This is my son’s room. I adore anything by Hans Wegner, and the desk is one of his. Reminds me of some of the Biedermeier or Shaker furniture that I also like. The posters came from the Tate Modern (his grandfather was a pilot); the clown piggy bank was mine as a child; the truck is from Haiti; the street sign from my teenage years growing up in Victoria . . . there seems to be a Newton Street in every town! The floors are new tile that replaced the original asbestos tile. They come in so many colors and textures and are durable and cheap. Using a buffing machine, you can get a glass-like finish on them that is bullet proof. The walls are painted with a linen white (Benjamin Moore), as is the rest of the house; the finishes vary based on the surface. The stool is from a generic unpainted furniture store.

CLICK HERE for more of Philip’s home in the Pacific Northwest!


Image above: It is worth noting that all of the wood you see in this picture had been painted by the original owners. All of the wood in the entire house was painted to brighten it up! At great expense, it was all stripped to return to the original condition. The paintings came from my mother’s collection and are all by a Victoria painter from the 60s who both my mother and grandmother knew, named Herbert Siebner. I grew up in houses that were hung with his art. The bookshelves, and many other vintage pieces, came from an interiors store on Capitol Hill called Standard Home that Laura Michalek used to have here in Seattle. She has a fantastic eye for both name and generic furnishings and art. She was a great inspiration and source for me when putting together the house. All of the other odds and ends came from my uncle who was a potter in Vancouver and my grandfather who was a wood worker.


Image above: I have always had a collection of images above my desk. I got these metallic pin boards from Ikea and screwed them all together to make one massive 4 x 7’ palette. Mighty Magnets hold it all together as I pile layer upon layer of images, quotes and memorabilia on this wall. I do not delete anything, just edit by covering what has lost some of its appeal with new stuff making it over time like some archeological dig. The chair is my favorite Herman Miller Eames — elegant, minimal and is fun to roll around in (has made a great chariot for my kids zooming around the house). The desktop is a huge door we didn’t install during the renovation that has an Ikea support and drawer. The lamp is vintage generic American Office.


Image above: When I bought the house, this coat closet had been removed. I was able to contact the architect, Arnold Gangnes, who was still alive at the time, and he provided a full set of plans for the house. It was then that I realized why this space made no sense without this piece, as it defines both the dining space and the hallways besides providing a place to hang coats. I gave the original plans to a cabinet maker, Wood Specialties, and the rebuild is exactly to spec. I added the three finger-hole pulls that I had seen in much of Richard Neutra’s work.


Image above: This was a laundry utilities area that I reconfigured to suit my photographic needs. There was an empty space at the end where one of those huge 50s/60s floor freezers would have been, so I just continued the cabinets and put a Formica countertop and backsplash that matched the linen white paint on the walls. The floor tile replaced existing asbestos tile. The under-counter subzero fridge was salvaged from a friend and installed to store film in. The cabinets were all faced with the same veneer used in the rest of the house, and the pulls were sourced from recycled hardware stores around Seattle. The stool is Ikea. I decided not to strip any of the wood walls or window trim in this area, as I wanted a more clinical working space, and besides — enough with the wood! The ceiling lamp fixtures were original, just cleaned up and reconfigured to add more light to the workspace. The photo is my daughter Georgia.


Image above: This is my favorite piece of furniture. It was made by my grandfather who was a botanist by trade but wood artist by passion. This was his kindling-splitting bench. It bears the marks of all of the axe blows. It is to me both primitive, elegant and the perfect piece of found art. It is more sculpture than furniture to me.


Image above: The house was by split in to two functional halves in its original design. One for entertaining and one for family day-to-day living. I have played with this space in many ways, as both a second dining room and living room. Hating redundancy, I use the space now for play, hence the ping-pong table, unseen rowing machine, and yoga mats. The curtains were inspired by coming home one day when the house was being painted and they had sheathed the exterior windows in a thin plastic to protect them from the painting. It felt like walking into a sculpture installation called Blind Light by Antony Gormley that I had experienced at the Hayward Gallery in London. The curtains are a fabric that I use in photography and first saw in Paris used between the windows and curtains. It comes in huge widths and lengths and is a polyester voile. They also help at night to kill the blackness of the widows until I install outdoor lighting in the garden. The floors are cork that replaced the asbestos tile and make a continuous run through the kitchen, halls and bathrooms. I would love to have terrazzo installed, but this is the Pacific NW, and stone is ultimately hard on the feet. I hate how concrete floors feel despite how great they look.


Image above: The bookshelves were custom built for my apt in NYC in 1989. They are completely modular and break down into components, which means that they have been able travel with me through four different apartments and homes. Almost all of the books that I have collected over the years are photographic. One of my first jobs while in NYC as an art student was at the Photographer’s Place Bookstore. I was exposed to all of the great in- and out-of-print books at that time. It is now defunct, but Dashwood Books, run by my old friend David Strettell, has taken up the cause. The print is Inuit; the other stuff is old family photos, antique cameras and other family goods. Tiny Bose speakers make for my favorite listening station, while the Baker couch is super cozy. The couch was an old Baker furniture set that I reupholstered with a cleaner line by removing the piping and skirting. The table is vintage Knoll Mies van der Rohe Barcelona. The rug is from Timothy Paul in Washington DC, and the basket is for all those unread New Yorkers that I can’t bear to throw out.


Image above: The same brick wall and fireplace is exactly like the ones in both my parents and grandparents’ homes. We acid washed the brick and stripped the poured-concrete hearth. The ceramics are my Uncle Jack’s; the votives are from a client of mine, Glassybaby, from here in Seattle; the print by my elementary-school art teacher Miriam Thorn — it reminds me of Japanese wood cuts; the metal lamps are from the souk in Marrakech. The sofa and settee were copied from a B&B Italia Charles couch, just made a little softer and more comfortable. The chair is an old English one that I had recovered in velvet, and it’s my favorite seat in the house, as it is next to the fire and perfectly positioned for the stereo speakers. The pillow slip covers are from a store in Stockholm called 10 Swedish Designers and the other is Marimekko fabric from a shop in Portland called Relish. The floors are again seagrass, which is inexpensive, comfortable (with a foam under-mat!) and incredibly durable.


Image above: We used a sequence-matched veneer in all of the kitchen and throughout the house. We demolished the kitchen and reconfigured it, inspired by the Neutra Kaufmann desert house in Palm Springs. I shot there once, and it was like being able to walk into the Mona Lisa. The hanging cabinet had been removed and was rebuilt according the original set of plans that I got from the architect. Counters are granite, which is such a great kitchen surface, and I put in a Formica backsplash for easy cleaning. The counter in the foreground is for the kids to eat at, but I sold the metal stools as they were uncomfortable and I’m looking for a “softer” replacement set.


Image above: This is almost exactly one wall of the Neutra Kaufmann desert house in Palm Springs. The veneer is all from the same tree, and it is called “sequence matching” when applied in this way. The same veneer was used on all bed, bath and closet doors in the rest of the house. The subzero fridge was in the house when I bought it and just reinstalled after shifting its position. It’s from the 80s and still works great! The convection oven is Miele because the design and functions are so beautiful.  The upper area was meant as a cover for a steam oven, but I used it to hide a combination microwave/convection oven. The door lifts up to access this appliance, as I did not want to look at it. The vintage drawer and cupboard pulls were all sourced through local recycled hardware stores by digging through the bins and spending a lot of time polishing. The dish towel is my ode to Canada.


Image above: Another view of the kitchen. I love granite as a kitchen surface, as it is indestructible, easy to clean and can take any scorching pot. I used drawers as much as possible instead of cupboards to store all pots, pans and dishes so that getting access to the backs is made easy. Also used “Lazy Susans” in cupboards to again make access easy. All the appliances seen are Miele both because of the beauty of design and function. The dishwasher has a half-load mode and is almost silent. The sink is Franke, which I think are the most beautiful, and the faucet was a modern version of what I grew up using. The door in the distance was built to be as flush and seamless as possible — no hinges and no trim. It is spring latched, so there is only a pull to push open and closed.


Image above: The chairs are vintage Wassily Knoll, again from the now-defunct Standard Home, and I like that the leather is tan and not the more common black. They are beautiful pieces of sculpture, but to be honest, are not the most comfortable. Maybe a sheepskin would cozy them up, but for now, I let the guests sit in them. The wooden baseboard heater covers were custom built, as the original metal ones were ugly. The lamp is vintage from a stall in the Pacific Galleries antique mall. The pillow cover comes again from 10 Swedish Designers in Stockholm. If you could see the view, on a clear day it looks out north over Lake Washington to Mt. Baker, 85 miles in the distance.


Image above: This is the master bedroom. The wall behind the bed is papered with grass cloth, as was the same wall in my parents’ house. The headboard and side table are all from their bedroom and are just generic Danish modern. There was a fantastic Danish modern furniture store that my best friend’s parents owned in Victoria called Ego Interiors, run by Shushan and Joseph Egoyan. One of my first part-time jobs was working in the back assembling and oiling the new furniture. My mother must have got a lot of stuff from there, and I was definitely influenced by all the time I spent in the Egoyans’ store. The wall lamps came from Laura and Standard Home. The bed spread was a bit of a departure for me but was found at at outlet store on a trip to Vancouver. Perhaps an ode to Paul Smith or some 60s hippy bachelor. The carpets are a divine wool with a thick foam mat underneath that makes for a wonderful barefoot experience besides that fact the all of the floors have radiant heating. There is a small private garden outside the windows that I screened with a fence using translucent fiberglass panels, again an ode to a privacy fence at my parents’ house in Victoria. The curtains were sourced for me by my friend Tova Cubert, who is a fantastic designer. She was a great help to me with many other aspects of the house.


Image above: This is a typical view of the exterior. I love the Japanese chain drains that I found at a Soko Hardware in Japantown, San Francisco. Not only are they functional, but they are also wonderful to watch as kinetic water sculpture on the many rainy days here in Seattle. The house colors were custom-concocted for me by Tova Cubert — color but no color. The garden is a constant work in progress that is supposed to look like the Pacific Northwest forest with a Japanese gardener. The landscaping and plantings were done by Brandon Scott Peterson of the Palm Room in Ballard, Seattle.


Image above: By day, the house has fantastic views looking out over Lake Washington. My favorite view at night is back toward the house from an area that I created with an open fire pit. There is something very comforting about looking into this perfect jewel box.

  1. isabelle says:

    This is my very house post yet! I want to move in immediately :) Love all that wood. Down with the McMansions!

  2. mona says:

    extraordinary.

    this house is a lot like mine structurally so this post will help me out with restoration ideas.

    thoroughly enjoyed this peak.

  3. Anne says:

    Oh my gosh, this house is so incredibly beautiful. I could not love it more.

    One question for Philip (a little silly considering all the amazing things in the house): What are your doorknobs? I’m hunting for some for my mid-century house and those look perfect and simple.

  4. Jill says:

    I’ve never written about a sneak peak before but felt I had to say something. Such a beautiful, soulful home that just oozes of love. Very dreamy. What a wonderful, lovely perfect home. Thank you so much for sharing it.

  5. Rachel M. says:

    I am a big fan of wood and brown as the main neutral in the home, so I really liked several of the photos that featured all of that beautiful wood and natural materials. They make the space warm and comforting to me. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Liisa says:

    This one is getting printed for my reference files for sure. I’m from Victoria, B.C. too and had completely forgotten about Ego interiors. Now I remember that’s where I first saw all that Danish modern furniture when I was a kid which remained in my subconscious and has influenced my design aesthetic ever since. Love so much about this home but especially that velvet chair by the fireplace!

  7. Jesse Lu says:

    A very beautiful and warm dining nook and kitchen. I love all the windows, too… In a place with such spectacular foliage, cozy minimalism indoors is just the right style.

  8. Lucy says:

    This one gives me butterflies! Absolute perfection.

  9. sarah says:

    I love this sneek so much. All that wood is just lovely and so warming. this is a place I would be happy to live in in.

  10. Emily Z. says:

    Just incredible, in so many ways. I don’t even know where to begin listing the ways I love this… Thanks so much for sharing your beautiful home!

  11. Seattle - ist says:

    RE: Caroline. Philip has no wife, that might answer your question. Don’t assume.

  12. Jen M. says:

    This is a fantastic house! I’m so glad he restored it. Just beautiful!

  13. Dave says:

    I absolutely love the wooden stool. So much character. The concrete floor that the owner says “she hates the feel.” She should feel radiant heat under a concrete floor. That is an amazing feeling of warmth and comfort.

  14. Tom says:

    I liked your idea using those polyester voile fabric in your game room would you mind sharing where I may purchase this fabric?

  15. Jackie says:

    Thank you for this post and your detailed descriptions. It helps to know where things and ideas come from, physically, emotionally and aesthetically. The location and descriptions also spoke to me as a person who grew up in Victoria, and who is thinking of moving back there and perhaps to my dad’s 1960 house. The post speaks to me of history, family and love for vintage design in all its permutations. I am also surprised with what you have done with all the exposed wood, as my current house is a bit of an 80’s wood showcase. Thanks so much.

  16. Lola says:

    I just want to say thank you thank you thank you for being so detailed and candid…and for the gift of this sneak peak. This is the way to update a ranch, in a way that honors it, and mine will now be getting similar treatment.

  17. This made me fall in love with wooden furniture. Philip, you’re a genius. But my most favorite is the coat closet, one big major steal!

  18. Tyler Gangnes says:

    Thank you for restoring this house and preserving a great piece of architecture. I know my grandpa would be proud.

  19. Deb Hughes says:

    Fabulous renovation/restoration. Great work.

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