For a house set on a dazzling spot on the Olympic Peninsula, it would only make sense to take advantage of the site’s many blessings. Unfortunately, the reality of the owners’ previous log home was quite different. “It was not an easy indoor-outdoor experience,” says the wife. “There were many times when we couldn’t enjoy the sunset, so we finally decided it was time to do something about it.”
Doing something meant finding an architect who could mingle the traditional and modern elements the couple craved into a newly built warm, comfortable home that would allow them to take better advantage of the locale. Their search led them to architect Stephen Hoedemaker, who, along with Tom Bosworth, is known for creating just that mix. The architect quickly zeroed in on the key ideas the husband and wife each brought to the table. “He liked really strong houses with heavy timber and big stone fireplaces—powerful and protecting architecture,” says Hoedemaker, who received support from Bosworth and project manager Kelly Jimenez. “She wanted to bring the outside in and have the kitchen, living room and dining room connect to each other.” Both preferred natural materials and eschewed more hard-edged modernism.
With builder Tad Fairbank implementing the plan and designer Garret Cord Werner complementing it throughout the interiors, the architect’s solution incorporates all of the couple’s requirements, starting with the way the house sits on the land. It nestles into a hill, with areas partially below grade, and the front of the house angles toward the water below to enhance the feeling of being part of the earth. Patrick and Betsy Leuner, of Leuner Landscape Design, furthered that feeling with a naturalistic approach to the landscape of native plant materials, helping to make it seem as though the home had always been there.
To seal the connection between house and environment, the architect conceived of a flat, planted roof—the firm’s first, so the team consulted with living roof experts Hadj Design on its creation. “It helps it settle into the hillside, so you don’t really see the house if you’re out on the water,” says the wife. What is seen, though, is a simple boathouse, redesigned to be a multifunctional place for entertaining and storage.
Materially, the board-formed concrete inside and out (Fairbank and his team implemented nearly 400 cubic yards of the material) represents a response to the needs of the property and program. “Working from wooded hills down to the water, it’s a tool for creating leveled terraces and structures within the site,” Hoedemaker says. “It creates spaces for gathering and movement and weaves together the indoors and outdoors.”
Inside, the couple’s love of Asian furniture “suggested a structural system. Rather than the typical post-and-beam design, we have complex four-post structures with beams that intersect,” explains Hoedemaker. The beams, in Douglas fir, fulfill the husband’s vision of a home replete with strong wood elements, as does the cedar shiplap siding on the walls.
The house’s programmatic and material simplicity belies the underlying complexity of the project. “We had to use generators for most of the construction and had to cut in roads,” says Fairbank, who helmed the build with project manager Sharen Borgias and superintendent David Nixon. Winter storms and snow also meant coming up with creative solutions to keep work moving. “We built a tent over the entire roof,” he adds. “It kept the house weathertight until the roof was completed.”
For the interiors, “we wanted the colors from the outside inside, and we wanted as much simplicity as possible,” says the wife. “We didn’t want anything precious. You can have your dirty, wet boots in this house.”
Werner’s M.O. jibed perfectly with his clients’ desires. “My overall method is to create something timeless and enduring—nothing trendy. I like to strip out the superfluous details,” he says. He worked closely with Hoedemaker, specifying finishes, colors, lighting, and millwork for understated family living, establishing a palette that referenced the world outside. Beloved pieces acquired by the couple—an heirloom collection of duck decoys, an eye-catching sculptural hanging in the main hall—mingle with simple, elegant furnishings and soft, easy linens and cottons.
“There was a lot of life going on while it was being built,” says the wife. During the process, the husband was deployed overseas, and the couple celebrated the birth of their first child. In the end, “We love it,” she says. “It’s doing everything we wanted it to do. It’s a wonderful place for gathering with family and friends.”