Renewing Irwin Caplan’s Laurelhurst Midcentury Home

Irwin Caplan’s Laurelhurst -exterior front

Text from the architect.

Originally designed for the notorious illustrator Irwin Caplan,  this mid-century home was both humble and grand–a modest one-story street facade harboring floor-to-ceiling windows with territorial views. 

​The new owners bought the home directly from Caplan’s estate in hopes of settling their growing family into the residence. But in order to do so, the mid-century home needed updating, remodeling, and fortifying–Seattle-based ​SHED Architecture & Design​ was selected to tackle the project.

Irwin Caplan’s Laurelhurst -
Irwin Caplan’s Laurelhurst - entrance door
Irwin Caplan’s Laurelhurst - living room
Irwin Caplan’s Laurelhurst - living room
Irwin Caplan’s Laurelhurst - living room

Although the home had ​strong bones and a clear floor plan, ​it showed signs of deferred maintenance, inefficient and outdated systems and had a number of layout deficiencies. 

On the main level, ​SHED’s design solution removed the original fireplace to free the kitchen and create the scene for social interaction between spaces. In place of the chimney, a large peninsula set between building structure forms a new hearth, anchoring the living and dining areas in the open, flexible floor plan. 

Irwin Caplan’s Laurelhurst - kitchen
Irwin Caplan’s Laurelhurst - kitchen
Irwin Caplan’s Laurelhurst -
Irwin Caplan’s Laurelhurst -bedroom

The architects also simplified and reconfigured the narrow, L-shaped deck into a rectangle running parallel to the living and dining areas. Accessible via a large sliding door. To bring natural light into the home, a skylight was placed over the peninsula, creating a bright space despite being surrounded by both the carport and an adjacent house.

To expand the master suite, a small addition was added on both levels to the furthest extent of the roof. This bump out added volume to both the master bedroom and bath, while simultaneously allowing for an office space on the lower level. 

Irwin Caplan’s Laurelhurst - balcony
Irwin Caplan’s Laurelhurst - exterior night
Photos Rafael Soldi

The vertical wood screen is another functional and aesthetic element that serves, at once, as guardrail and light filter to heighten the daily experience of light and shadow while moving through the home.

The lower level was transformed from a collection of utility and work rooms into a multi-purpose level for media, entertaining and hosting house guests. ​Because the families of both partners live abroad, setting up the basement to comfortably accommodate longer stays was paramount. 

Irwin Caplan’s graphic style had a clean, distinctive simplicity that could adapt to elaborate detail and evoke atmospheric qualities. SHED’s renewal of the cartoonist’s home hopes to reflect that–returning to the home’s midcentury bones, reconnecting the structure to the surrounding nature effortlessly, and with deliberate consequence.