WE’VE BEEN SUSPENDED in a constantly shifting, consistently inconsistent state of “before and after” for a while now. “Before” reminds us from time to time of alluring, familiar feelings — a solid foundation, a nostalgic touchstone, a sense of knowing and comfort and security. Home base.

Meanwhile, the elusive, ever-blurry concept of “after” teases — and motivates — us forward. With hope. With the promise of resolution. And certainty. Oh, please: just one tiny freaking slice of certainty.   

Well, hallelujah: We found four. Four brilliantly renovated/updated/restored Seattle-area homes with absorbing “before” stories, and inspiring, absolute, clear-as-oh-happy-day “after” outcomes.

These dramatic renewals — a bright and light kitchen update in a historic West Seattle home, a second-story addition/whole-home redo in Exposition Heights, the supersensitive historic restoration of an architectural treasure on Queen Anne, and an officially trailblazing sustainable remodel on Bainbridge Island — have not only enhanced and transformed four structures, but also the lives of the people inside.

Even through our tentative, still-technically-pandemic-y present:

  • In that West Seattle kitchen, a gorgeous custom island has become an oasis, says Brandon, who, with his wife, Jill, “would order out and have some great cocktails. We sit there, and we’re like: ‘Well, we can’t go out to a bar, so I guess our new bar is just sitting there.’ “
  • In Exposition Heights, new space (and spaces) created fabulous, functional room (and rooms) for work, play and family togetherness. So much family togetherness. “I can’t even imagine being in the original house with the kids and the dog, especially those first couple months, when the kids were home all the time,” says Lily, whose parents also live with her and her husband, James (in their own newly refreshed ADU).
  • On Queen Anne, it took Adelaide Blair and her husband, Darin McAdams, “a moment” to adapt to working from home in such a newly open layout, but there’s another happy, adaptable “after” here, too. “I wear headphones a lot,” she says. “I’m an introvert, and I like to spend all day by myself, and now there’s a person in the house all day, talking. I still love him. Our marriage is good; I swear it!”
  • And on Bainbridge, profound relationships — with the land, the home and the life-affirming nature all around it — forged on the supremely green path to full Living Building Challenge certification have helped sustain Todd Vogel and Karen Hust (and the planet itself). “It wasn’t so much that the house is net zero in power and water that makes us feel healthier or more secure,” says Hust. “It’s really the connection to place that allows for a sense of groundedness and healthfulness and balance that’s a mainstay during a difficult time. It’s a foundation that allows you to roll with chaotic circumstances in the world, knowing that you have a place to come home to that is regenerative to your well-being, as well as to the place it’s built upon.”   

Ah. There’s that blessed certainty: rooted in connection, and in our own relationship to our own sense of home. Maybe that’s how we hang on and roll to whatever our “after” holds.