This modern and artistic Seattle home used to be a grocery store
It’s now part residence and part creative space.
When it comes to commercial spaces converted into residential spaces, you might not think twice about converting a factory into a loft, or perhaps a school into a home, but have you heard of a grocery store being converted into a residence? That’s what happened to this building in Seattle’s North Beacon Hill neighborhood.
The 3,800-square-foot building had many lives. It was originally built in 1929 and served as a general store for two decades, owned and operated by Yugoslav immigrants Fred and Mark Olovich (who also lived in the place). After that, it became 3001 Grocery and later Tony’s Grocery. The last time there was a grocery store was in 1997, when it was an Asian grocery store. It was then sold to a real estate attorney who leased it from 1999 until 2010 to Bible Studies Outreach Ministries, a Baptist organization. After zoning laws were implemented in 2010, the Baptist church had to move out and the top floor was rented out as a residence.
Then came artists Demi Raffin and Janet Galor, who bought the building in 2015. “When we bought the property, it was in poor condition, and still had a lot of grocery equipment from 1997 that had not been maintained, including a couple of walk-in closets. “Coolers inside the space and a large walk-in freezer on the upper patio level,” says Demi. “Apart from the original cut-glass windows upstairs, all the windows had been replaced with plexiglass, the doors bore signs of being broken in several times, there was an abundance of mould, and signs of a previous fire in the wall heater. The brickwork had not been maintained since its construction and was likely The exterior walls are in desperate need of attention.
But Demi and Janet weren’t deterred by the neglected space. They recognized its historical value to the neighborhood and saw potential for continued use — especially the large front room that could be used for many creative purposes. So they approached the team at Mutuus Studio to help them renovate it and turn it into The Grocery Studios, which is what it is called today.
“We saw the space as a dwelling, ultimately, but not in the typical sense,” Janet says. “Given the flexibility and semi-public qualities of the building, we intended to use the space not only as a home, but also a studio for our work, and as a location for nonprofit events to engage with the community.”
Creating a space that serves as both a home and a public space can have its challenges. While the team had to deal with building codes that have different requirements for residential and commercial uses, they also had to make it feel special And Available to the public. “The key is to keep the spaces adaptable to permanent, limited niche configurations,” says Jim Freeze, one of the principals at Mutuus Studio. “This allows areas to shift from private to public, often by quickly rearranging furniture that allows for transformation as the energy of the artist community comes indoors.” Providing plenty of storage space behind the scenes was key to facilitating transfers from public to private (and vice versa).
At the beginning of the project, the domestic and commercial spaces were completely separate, and the goal was to make them feel more connected. “The second-floor apartment and street-level studio had independent exterior entrances with no internal connection,” says Jim. “At the heart of the new design is a new internal staircase connecting two levels of residential apartments on the second floor above and the former grocery space at street level below.”
Another transformation was the grocery aisle space, with its 13-foot ceilings and tall skylights, became a living room art studio. “The existing windows were updated with new energy-efficient windows designed to match the existing historic architecture,” says Jim.
The new kitchen is designed to be completely open to the adjacent art studio. The design team added a new layer of contemporary interior finishes. “(This) includes a concept of connected folding steel elements that include new staircases, handrails, sills and shelving details, all in the same raw steel finish,” says Jim. “The kitchen and hardware for the kitchen include linen-clad panels produced by Mutuus and Micarta pulls that “Brings the next layer to the ongoing story of The Grocery.”
The space is now the perfect mix of residential and commercial, with beautiful architectural details and design touches. “Since completing the project, we have had the pleasure of visiting Janet and Demi in their new home and attending many community events hosted by Janet and Demi. “We feel that the project puts Janet and Demi in their element whether in the privacy of their home or in the company of artistic friends and neighbors,” says Jim.