A Whidbey Island Home is Out of the Box and Grounded in Nature


Odd One In in Washington

On the shores of Whidbey Island, a modern farmhouse aesthetic takes shape arising from unconventional angles and quirky architecture.

A-Line Roof White Siding Home Exterior

Architect Martin Henry Kaplan rethought a Whidbey Island home, opening it up to its stunning waterside locale. The project’s building superintendent, John Rogers, oversaw the installation of Andersen windows and doors from The Window & Door Shoppe. Landscape architects Randy Allworth and Brian Gregory worked with Alliance Landscape Services NW to create paths that enhanced circulation in and out of the house.

Natural Wooden Table Entryway with Abstract Art and Rug

Designer Brian Paquette brought character, texture and personality to the entry hall by combining a teak root console from Tirto Furniture with a vintage Moroccan rug sourced in Turkey and a ceramic lamp by Victoria Morris Pottery. Above hang a large abstract work by Michael T. Hensley and smaller figural works by Polina Tereshina, all from Linda Hodges Gallery.

Blue Cabinet and Yellow Chair Open Kitchen Living Room

Romo fabrics from George Associates cover the living area’s custom sofas and custom Lawson-Fenning lounge chair. The Lee Industries ottoman and the host chairs in the dining area in a Kelly Wearstler for Groundworks pattern from Kravet are from J. Garner Home. Metallic and textural accents come from the Stark carpet, the Visual Comfort & Co. floor lamp and the geometric Made Goods side table. Lighting from Rejuvenation hangs above the Noir table and Jayson Home side chairs.

Kitchen Blue Cabinets with Wooden Stools

DuChâteau’s Heritage Timber engineered wood replicates the feel of reclaimed building materials, bringing character to the floors. Calacatta Caldia marble from Lambert Marble & Tile tops the kitchen counters. Custom Lee Industries stools pull up to the island and Hubbardton Forge lights hover overhead. The BlueStar range and hood and Sub-Zero refrigerator are all from Albert Lee, the faucet is Hansgrohe, and the backsplash features tile from Statements.

Round Leather Chair Reading Area Library Bookshelf

A corner of the living area comes with built-in bookcases giving it definition as its own space. It’s tricked out with Garza Marfa leather chairs, which can be easily moved to provide more seating elsewhere, and an unlacquered brass table from Lawson-Fenning.

Geometric Patterned Rug TV Room with Leather Ottomans

A TV room features a steep ceiling angle, creating a cozy attic feel. Twin Cisco Home ottomans stand on a custom Kravet carpet before a sectional in a Pindler linen. Finishing the space are a Lawson-Fenning chair, a Visual Comfort & Co. table lamp, a Workstead floor lamp and a teak Tirto Furniture table.

Organic Patterned Black and White Wallpaper Powder Room with Circular Mirror

Paquette, a firm believer in fun and crazy powder rooms, used a Malachite pattern Cole & Son wallcovering from Kravet in this one. It offers a lively backdrop for a leather-framed mirror from Design Within Reach, flanked on either side by Visual Comfort & Co. sconces. The sink is RH; the faucet is by Hansgrohe.

Palm Frond and Chevron Playroom with Patterned Fabric Couch

For the playroom, Paquette designed a versatile window seat, fabricated by Always Perfect, which features mismatched fabrics; the cushions can even be used to build eminently stylish pillow forts. A Cole & Son wallcovering from Kravet and zigzag Stark carpet add more madcap fun to the space.

Blue Leather Ottoman Sitting Room with Window Seat and Patterned Fabric Pillows

A vintage carpet in the master bedroom’s seating area sets the theme for subtle pattern and material mixing. From Cisco Home are a leather ottoman and a wing chair outfitted in a Kelly Wearstler linen for Groundworks from Kravet. The chunky wood Tirto Furniture table plays off the metal sconce from Visual Comfort & Co., while the window seat cushion is dressed in a Pindler wool, creating an ideal spot to watch the water.

Simple and Clean Master Bedroom with Wooden Nightstand and Artwork

Swathed in rich mohair, the Cisco Home bed in the master bedroom provides a plush counterpoint to a rough-hewn wood-and-metal custom CFC nightstand and a Jayson Home hide rug. The artwork above the bed is by Jeremy Miranda.

All White and Chrome Accented Master Bathroom with Square Mirror

Gemkow Construction fabricated the vanity in the master bathroom, topping it with the same Calacatta Caldia marble that is in the kitchen. Honed hexagonal Ann Sacks Carrara marble tiles from Lambert Marble & Tile run across the floor. The mirror and towel holder are from RH; the faucet is Hansgrohe.

From Charlie Brown and Harold and Maude to Edward Scissorhands, popular culture is full of oddballs and eccentrics. And so is architecture. Case in point: A Whidbey Island house that shares the off-kilter spirit of these motley characters. 

It’s exactly what ultimately attracted the family who bought it as an escape from their Capitol Hill home. “One of its advantages,” the wife says, “is that, architecturally, it doesn’t fit into one style. It’s quirky, and we wanted to elevate that and be intentional about it.” Admittedly, the design team they assembled to make it functional as the family’s second home found its idiosyncrasies something of a conundrum. “The angles were a little weird and the roofline was kind of crazy,” recalls designer Brian Paquette. “There’s nothing soft or curvy about the architecture, so I had to play to that.” 

And while architect Martin Henry Kaplan could appreciate that the 1970s construction was “strong on engineering,” he admits it was also “a little bit lighter on design.” “It was planned to be symmetrical based on a square,” Kaplan says, “but when we got into the house, we found it was 18 inches off square.” Aside from the wacky angles, both floors were chopped up, restricting both the views and the interior flow. “With that beautiful view of the water, I wanted to get rid of any interference with it,” the architect says. A key “solve” was to open the space, so the team removed several walls. 

That, of course, required some engineering, recalls the project’s superintendent John Rogers. “Now we have two steel beams through the central part of the house,” he explains. “Wood posts are on each side of the stair system to support the two new steel beams.” A wood post at the kitchen island supports another new beam. The old oak stair itself was replaced with a Kaplan-designed steel-cable version featuring floating wood treads, a nod to the industrial steel plates and caps that hold the barn-like post-and-beam construction together. New engineered- wood oors throughout ramped up the rustic vibe. And removing the river rock-faced replace in the living area not only imparted a more contemporary appearance, but gave the room a few more inches of depth. 

All this was done in service of the owners’ desire for a modern farmhouse aesthetic. The design team delivered on that vision with white walls, black-trimmed windows and exposed structural details. Nothing reads fussy or precious. “We wanted a house to live in not look at,” notes the husband. Once these elements were in place, Paquette addressed the furnishings, playing up the graphic black-and-white contrasts with rugs in the first-floor media room and the upstairs playroom and with a wallcovering in the powder room. 

Unlike many a beach cottage, Paquette says, the owners “didn’t want the palette to be washed out. It had to be colorful and fun for the kids.” But which colors? Blue, of course, is a natural for seaside locales, but the inspiration for the particular blue found throughout the home came via the kitchen. “If you’d done an all-white kitchen with all the color they wanted, it would look off,” Paquette says. While reviewing powder-coat options for the range they were buying, the clients fell in love with a deep cerulean the designer continued onto under-counter cabinetry and the living room’s ottoman-style coffee table. He mixed this vibrant hue with paler blues and green-gold tones. All the shades are also grounded in nature, even in the children’s playroom. “I like to add earth to colors,” Paquette says. “I don’t want some manufactured green; I want real-grass green.” He also threaded the same palette throughout the house, varying the dominance or restraint of particular shades to create variety that nevertheless telegraphs consistency. 

Paquette’s blend of color and earth tones provided the perfect foil for the rugged beauty outside the windows, which landscape architects Randy Allworth and Brian Gregory helped transition with seamless ease by pulling out diseased pines and restoring the sand banks. “There was a dune that was migrating because the grass that held it in place had either been pulled out or died,” Gregory says. So, they added plantings of evergreens, beach strawberry and dune grass to keep the sand in place. They also connected entrances and exits with a series of paths, and installed an outdoor shower and a chess court with oversize playing pieces. 

Despite an unusual out-of-the-box framework, the dwelling turned into exactly what the family was looking for. “We wanted a place where our kids could be in touch with nature like we were back in the day,” the wife says. 

Jorge S. Arango


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