“It all started with me wanting more room for my CDs,” says Kevin Hekmatpanah, explaining his recent move from a 700-square-foot condo in downtown Spokane to a “fixer-upper” roughly 10 times that size on a bluff overlooking the Spokane River.
A seasoned cellist with the Spokane Symphony and an associate professor of music at Gonzaga University, Hekmatpanah, 43, has been collecting classical music on compact disc since the technology first became available in the late 1980s.
Of course, that doesn’t include the vinyl records he was accumulating before that time.
“I actually still have them all,” he says sheepishly.
Standing against a wall of CDs in his makeshift “living room,” an unheated second-story bedroom in the historic Kirtland Cutter home currently undergoing an extensive renovation, Hekmatpanah runs a hand along a span of shelving.
“This is all Yo-Yo Ma,” he says, then spreads his arms wide: “And this is Rostropovich, a very famous cellist.”
Hekmatpanah (an Iranian surname pronounced just as it is spelled) says when he first considered a move to larger quarters, a historic home was the last thing on his mind.
“I thought about building a house and had picked out some land.” he says. “But the more I made plans, the more I saw that it was being driven by money.”
Then in the spring of last year his real estate agent, Larry Lapidus, suggested the rundown 1907 Mission Revival mansion in West Central that had been used in various incarnations as a group home since the 1960s.
“It was so cluttered, it had a lot of problems and I kind of dismissed it,” Hekmatpanah says, describing the ugly shag carpet and linoleum that covered the formerly beautiful oak and fir floors.
Although the house retained much of its original character, including a large safe and Cutter’s three stunning fireplace designs on the main floor, much of it was remodeled to meet city zoning and building code requirements, including a massive addition to the north side of the house constructed some 40 years ago to accommodate the group-care facility.
Walking from the foyer up a central staircase to the second-floor suites, Hekmatpanah recalls his initial reaction to the sprinkler system, firewalls and fluorescent lighting that scarred Cutter’s original design.
“It was affordable,” Hekmatpanah says. “But it needed so much work.”
Still, as Hekmatpanah’s more practical side cautioned against the time and expense needed to restore the house to its former glory, the music lover in him had begun to dream.
“I thought about turning the addition into a concert hall,” he says. “And then I would add a second story and put the master suite above it.”
Today Hekmatpanah’s vision for the 7,000-plus square-foot manse is a shade less grandiose, though his plans do include an enormous master suite in the group-home addition, complete with a fireplace and a small kitchen. By mid-summer Hekmatpanah hopes to move from his temporary quarters on the second floor to the master suite, where he will live while further renovations progress in other parts of the house as time and money permit.
And though a large concert venue is not in the cards, he does plan to incorporate a recital hall in a spacious ground-floor area that once housed the living and dining rooms and the original side porch with a colonnade.
With the house in the midst of a major renovation, it is hard to envision Hekmatpanah’s intimate music venue through the bare wood studs, faded linoleum and exposed plumbing. But as he strolls through the empty room, describing the placement of a piano or the use of furniture and architectural elements to break up the cavernous space, an elegant great-room ideal for entertaining and music begins to take shape.
Ultimately, Hekmatpanah hopes to use his professional cachet as a classical artist to bring nationally recognized acts to the intimate performance space.
“I would do a season of concerts and would sell tickets, with the money going directly to the performers,” he says. “It would fill a unique niche for concerts in Spokane.”
Hekmatpanah also plans to make use of an enormous “sky deck” atop the master suite.
“It would be nice for summer entertaining,” he says. “The house really invites a whole entertainment sensibility.”
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