HOUSE TOUR: Washington family rock climber with gilded finish and rich texture
Lara and Jeff Sanderson did not want to hire a decorator. Yes, the 11,000-square-foot house they’d recently bought on Mercer Island, Washington, was in dire need of total revamping. But their meetings with interior designers left the couple feeling underwhelmed. What they wanted was an artist. So they turned to Kelly Wearstler.
In the master bedroom, the Murano-glass light fixture, mirrors, and sconces are from John Salibello Antiques, and the stools are from Epoca; custom-made bedside tables and vintage lamps flank the bed.
To the casual observer, Wearstler might appear to inhabit the white-hot center of the decorating universe — she has been hailed as the heiress apparent to Hollywood’s grand Regency style, and is a virtuoso of its glitz and glamour. In reality, she’s a free spirit who didn’t get where she is in her career by playing it safe. She is possessed of a creative confidence that allows her to take chances based on eye and instinct alone. “I’m not an intellectual designer,” says Wearstler. “I’m a very emotional designer. I listen to what my client says and then I take it to heart.”
Eleven hundred miles north of Wearstler’s Los Angeles studio — and just a stone’s throw from earnest, rainy Seattle — the Sandersons’ new abode was classic Pacific Northwest on the outside: a rambling 1946 cottage-style house clad in split-cedar siding and clinker brick. Yet the Sandersons longed to pass through its front door into a different world, equal parts Parisian jewel box, scholar’s retreat, and natural wonder.
In the entry hall, the light fixture is vintage, and the stone sculpture is from JF Chen; the walls are painted in Glidden’s Onyx Black, the floor is patterned with three different marbles, and on the ceiling is a wall covering by SJW Studios.
Jeff and Lara, who married four years ago, bring a broad diversity of interests to their union. Princeton- and Harvard-educated Jeff arrived at Microsoft in 1984, and stayed for 17 years; he left to become a middle-school math teacher for several years. A collector of music manuscripts, he often plays piano in his downtime. Lara, a professionally trained dancer who grew up among artists, shifted careers to politics. Two summers ago, the couple started a venture-capital fund, Sanderson Ventures, aimed at supporting small local businesses that will contribute to their communities.
The Sandersons’ house is a manifestation of their combined passions — with an art-filled salon, a music room lined with pages scribbled by the likes of Beethoven and Mahler, and a warm, sprawling kitchen.
The master bath is clad in onyx fantastico stone, which Jeff calls “the most astonishing creation of nature you could imagine. It makes it very clear that there are forces larger than oneself giving beauty in this world.”