Seattle's salvaged penthouse
A vacant space is transformed into a two-bedroom apartment with a view from what once was the West Coast's tallest building.
But in Seattle, a penthouse in what was not only the tallest tower in Seattle when it was built in 1914, but also the tallest on the West Coast, it was a good sales pitch rather than money that got its current occupant her lease 12 years ago.
The pitch from Petra Franklin Lahaie? From The New York Times: "I could make this the greatest home and studio in the world."
And if you check out the accompanying slide show, it's hard to deny her success at creating a 1,750-square-foot, two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment from a space that was filled with piles of concrete, dust and Seattle's infamous rain that barreled through the unit like a river.
The apartment had been vacant for 10 years when Franklin first saw it in 1997, but she knew that even with her limited budget she could create a fabulous home for herself.
It didn't hurt that the building's owner, the Samis Foundation, was in the midst of a major overhaul. The architect who designed the floor plan of the newly expanded unit, Jim Castanes, told The Times:
"In terms of the finishes and all that," Castanes said, "Petra basically mined the rest of the building."
When new companies moved in, Franklin took a look at what they were throwing out and grabbed what she could use, including a marble slab that became her kitchen counter, not to mention found items such as a set of carved Chinese chairs that could be 300 years old.
And all of her work didn't go unnoticed by the building's owner, which gave her a discount for the improvements she made in addition to the fixed-rate rent she was paying.
But that was then. In 2006, the Samis Foundation sold the Smith Tower to Walton Street Capital, and The Times says the future is uncertain for Franklin, who lives in the penthouse she calls the "Lighthouse" with her husband, David Lahaie, and their two daughters, Simone, 6, and Naomi, 3.
Since then, The Times said the building has lost its major tenants and put plans for a condo conversion on hold:
"I would love to live here my whole life," Franklin said. Yet the specific terms of the lease — what she pays and how long she can stay — are subject to some dispute.
She doesn't offer details, nor does Walton, but if the family does have to leave their space 462 feet above the city, The Times writes:
Wherever you go from the pinnacle of the Lighthouse, it’s a long way down.
About Teresa Mears
Teresa Mears is a veteran journalist who has been interested in houses since her father took her to tax auctions to carry the cash at age 10. A former editor of The Miami Herald's Home & Design section, she lives in South Florida where, in addition to writing about real estate, she publishes Miami on the Cheap to help her neighbors adjust to the loss of 60% of their property value.