One woman designed her interiors—and a booming business—around one thing she will never take for granted: light.

By Paige Porter Fischer; Photography by Lisa Romerein; Styling by Liz Strong
Updated: February 08, 2019
Home of Lee Rhodes and husband Peter Seligman.

Lee Rhodes pays attention to windows. "I'm one of those people who walks into a house and moves toward the glass to look out," she says. For the 1930s Seattle home she shares with her husband, Peter Seligmann, "My goal was to keep it serene and uncluttered. This is a fairy-tale setting, and I felt if we weren't outside, we should at least direct our eyes there." 

To that end, bare windows invite in sunlight. Warm wood floors and furnishings and a palette of grays, smoky blues, and soft whites reflect the views of the Lake Washington landscape. "All the soft rain and fog creates this cocoon of calm," Lee says. "It's a soft, kind light—nothing too jolting— and one thing is for certain, I'm drawn to beautiful light." In fact, she's made it her business.

See some of our favorite living room lighting ideas. 

At 32, Lee was diagnosed with cancer. Between her chemotherapy treatments and caring for her three small children, she had little time for contemplation. But one day she dropped a tea light into a colorful glass votive candleholder. "I just stood there watching the light flicker inside the glass. The color startled me into being still for a few moments, which was cathartic in a way I can't put into words." She started giving votive holders to others struggling through sickness or loss. "It was just a way to spread kindness."

That simple objective became Glassybaby. Her company makes glass votive holders in nearly every color imaginable (almost 500 to date) and pledges to donate 10 percent of revenue to people struggling to meet their basic needs and fight serious illnesses at the same time. "The fight for my life was intense," she says. "And I had the means to fight it. But I had made friends at my chemo treatments who often didn't come because they couldn't afford the transportation or pay for child care." To date, the company has given away more than $8 million. 

Make your own DIY photo candles. 

Lee spreads the colorful glass creations across her property, on windowsills, coffee tables, even a waterfront dock. "I don't have a lot of stuff, but I do have a lot of Glassybabies. Every one casts beautiful light. And let's face it, a home can never have enough of that." 

In the kitchen, Lee had a wall removed to create space for two peninsulas and recycled some of the original wood as a shelf in front of the window. 

Lee has had her Roy McMakin maple table for two decades. She surrounded it with ergonomic Varier chairs she bought on Amazon. "They're incredibly comfortable, plus they add an unexpected twist in the kitchen when pulled up to my old table," she says. The chairs are praised for their comfort and they help improve your posture. 

Check out other dining chair styles here. 

In another stroke of creative reuse, Lee and Peter fashioned this pavilion out of cobblestones from an old pathway. "We can feed a crowd out here and often use the oven for pizza parties. It's a magical place in the evening, with all the little lights glowing." Several missing stones in the structure make natural coves to place more of her well-used lights.

A parade of Lee's votive holders leads the way to one of the couple's favorite perches on the property, a pair of Adirondack chairs overlooking the lake. "We may be in our parkas for much of the year, but we live out here. It's the most peaceful place I can imagine," she says.

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