It is a wood frame, tri-level home typical of those built in the Pacific NW circa1960-70 but with distinguishing features that set it apart from the tract homes of that era.The wide tapering eves and extensive windows on the river side say custom built and suggest a NW Indian long house heritage. The opposite side the house displays no special character but has the natural surrounding of the forest. Old growth cedar stumps well over a hundred years old, cut when the first loggers felled the virgin forest now decorate the right half of the front yard. The stumps now serving as nurse logs for new growth of Douglas fir, western red cedar and hemlock lend a look of "frontier" to the landscaping. The left half of the front yard is separated from the right by a wide gravel drive. On the left an open meadow extends from the entrance road to the river's edge. Lana has supplemented the natural forest plants with grasses and wild flowers. The theme is natural and low maintenance with only a small grass area on the far right side of the house that wraps around to a small area on the river side. Only the planted areas near the main entrance, the entrance garden, and the flower beds on the river side require regular attention. All the planted areas are irrigated with automatic micro sprinklers. On the left side between the meadow and the house there are three long concrete pads put there in anticipation of some additional features. Originally we thought about a greenhouse but have since decided it would not survive the heavy winter snows. Instead we may build an extension of the main structure and use the space for a sauna and atrium/sun room. Nearer the river there is space for a hot tub gazebo. It would have great views looking up and down the river. Only time and money are needed. The dreams are already in place. The builder had been generous with the space for most rooms but scrimped on the interior furnishings such as kitchen cabinets that appeared to have been site-built by the same guys who framed the walls i.e. functional but crude. The bathrooms too were true to the era having pastel colored fixtures that now seem garish. The main bathroom was done in violet tiles with matching tub and toilet. A woman's make-up counter with built-in mirror and matching tile adorned one wall. Yet even with all the outdated features the house retained a feeling of being something special, one of a kind, an energy, a spirit taken from the natural surroundings of the forest and river.
And so the remodel began in the Fall of 2006. The initial concept and budget was limited to restoration of the kitchen, bathrooms and the living room. The living room had a standard 8' ceiling with built-in, flush mount lights which may have seemed very chic in 1966. The living room has a wall to wall red sand stone fireplace on one end that says built in the 1960s like the exterior of so many homes in the burbs of Seattle. Not unpleasant even today the fireplace is the focal point of the living room. But it has serious competition from the large bay window looking out on the river. The bay window keeps turning the head towards the river and the wilderness on the far bank. You find yourself looking across the river perhaps to see a deer or bear coming down for a drink. We have seen both but more often you are rewarded with a glimpse of a bald eagle soaring along the river or perching high in one of the snags that line the opposite bank.
Over the 40 previous years past owners added their own features such as the semi-circular entry stairs made from concrete and attached to the original straight concrete stairs leading up to the old main entry door. No bother had been made to remove the old stairs. The addition was built next to the old ones. The original main door still functioned but appeared to have been ignored in favor the newer door that opened directly into the middle of the living room. Someone seemed to have tried to make the house look like a mobile home. What a retro concept! There were four more outside doors, one into the utility room, one into the garage and two more on the river side. So in all there were six outside doors on this 2000 square foot home. The utility room was nearly as large as the kitchen and had its own bathroom. Someone must have planned on spending a lot of their time there. The water heater had been installed in the utility room like a tree in the middle of the driveway and of course it was leaking and needed replacement. But it was difficult to tell what was leaking more as the roof vents were also leaking into the attic and down into the kitchen walls. The kitchen had three entrances plus the stairway leading to the top floor so was obviously the main cross roads on the ground floor. It was quite a challenge to decide how to rearrange the floor plan such that it made sense. Lana came up with the solution. It provided for closing all but one door on the street side of the house, reducing the size of the utility room to a minimum while creating an entry hallway into the living room plus opening access to the ground floor bathroom to the bedroom, kitchen and living room. The schizophrenic concrete stairs were removed and replaced with ones that looked like what originally were in place but also incorporated a wrap around stoop that formed the back wall of a terraced entrance garden. At the same time the concrete stairs were removed and replaced we built a wide pathway from the entrance garden around the right side to the back patio. The walkway is curbed and covered with paver stones of alternating colors.
On the river side we faced challenges both decorative and structural. The original concrete terrace looked like it had been through an earthquake such that the large pads were up and down in random fashion. At some point someone had decided to make a giant backgammon board out of the concrete pads by inserting elongated red triangles in a regular pattern. But they must have run out of color or money as the board was only half completed. Ridding the property of large amounts of reinforced concrete consumed a considerable amount of time and money. Along the river bank there is a vertical concrete block wall about 30 feet high and 130 feet long. Along the top of the wall is a black wrought iron fence. The retaining wall is in most parts still in good condition with the exception of about 20 feet along the terrace area where the concrete pads had become uneven. The ground had not properly prepared as we found large, live tree roots that were responsible for heaving the concrete slabs. When fixing the concrete terrace we dug down about 20 feet and filled the entire volume with reinforced concrete and tied it to the retaining wall so as to support the wall against further deterioration then back filled with sand which we compacted in preparation for the surface finish.. In place of the concrete we used paver stones with an alternating geometric pattern/color. The new concrete borders for the patio were integrated into the existing concrete stairs and flower boxes which were still in good condition. The overall effect combines a the best of the old with the new. The black wrought iron fence has been repainted and looks really stunning. It was one of the features that was done well and is still in excellent condition after all these years.
As you can tell if you have had the persistence to read this far that this is
a labor of love, a project that expresses our tastes and personal essence. While
this home will likely never be included on the national register of famous
structures it will be always be a famous place in our hearts and minds. Here we
met the challenge and succeeded. Here we made our statement of good taste and
grace. One cannot now build a home like this along this wild river. Some may say
that is a good thing and some may disagree. To combine our lives with nature in
a non-invasive fashion is the goal. We must live and so must all other creatures
who are living nearby. We have endeavored to construct, to remodel, to
reinvigorate this special house such that generations from now it will continue
to provide shelter and comfort for our progeny and if not ours someone else's. A
house is meant to have life inside. It is a place where life is created, lived
and finally ends. For Lana and I this house is the place that focuses our
creativity and commitment. We hope that this house will inspire our children and
all those who come to visit us.
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