This home on Pleasant Beach offers spectacular views of Rich Passage and was built to suit the understated personalities of its owners.
MELANIE AND SHANNON do dining out right. Seated at an exquisite marble-inlay table just steps from an enticing fireplace, they sip and sup to the picturesque goings-on of glistening Rich Passage. Submarines glide by en route to the naval shipyard. Bremerton ferries navigate the narrow, deceptively deep strait, to and fro. Dolphins frolic. Eagles perch. Remnants of an old Mosquito Fleet pier stagger from the water, resolutely refusing to yield to time or tide.
The view is spectacular, the ambience superb, the hassle nonexistent: Welcome to the four-star deck of Melanie and Shannon’s quietly elegant Bainbridge Island home. It’s not just for dinner anymore.
Clear as the see-through saltwater at the edge of their rocky beach, this special space is the perfect backdrop for dining, birding, relaxing, retiring, living.
“We’ll flip two chairs around and sit here with books almost every afternoon, and later at night,” Shannon says. “We spend a lot of time outside.”
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Melanie, a retired police commander, and Starbucks executive Shannon previously lived in West Seattle and Ballard, retreating most weekends to their cabin in Port Ludlow. Eventually, “retreat” pulled considerably more strongly than “urban,” and Bainbridge, just close enough to the city and practically synonymous with nature, “was perfect,” Melanie says.
Once they discovered this almost-half-acre Pleasant Beach lot (then “pretty vanilla,” now deliciously layered/flavored) — and architect Marc LaRoche — Melanie says, “We talked about our West Seattle house and what we loved: open beams; big windows; big, big kitchen; indoor/outdoor spaces.”
And now, that beachfront deck couples with a concrete and stone courtyard out front to shape a beautiful bracket of out-in-out — simply and suitably, in 2,500 square feet.
“It’s a very manageable scale and lives very well,” LaRoche says. “They wanted a little less — everything they need, but not more. Melanie and Shannon are understated, and I wanted to reflect their personalities.”
So, because they love nature (“Their garage looks like a mini-REI,” LaRoche says), there’s a whole-house emphasis on natural materials: cedar siding, super-durable Pennsylvania bluestone and end-grain wood-block floors, exposed concrete work, fir paneling. Because they love to listen to the rain, the roof is metal. (“It’s great in the Northwest and sympathetic to low-pitch,” he says.) Because they are birders, Shannon requested a window seat — and there it sits, snuggled into a windowed corner of the living area, binoculars on top, right next to the wood-burning fireplace.
The word “simple” keeps surfacing, but definitely not in a “settling” kind of way: The guest and master bathrooms share a warm, low-key palette; understated bronze hardware runs throughout; the wine-cellar racking system Shannon discovered (a delightfully geometric series of aligned pegs) is “so simple and elegant,” LaRoche says.
“We have a practical side to arrange all the pieces, and an artful side to reflect the people and make something beautiful, never boring,” he says.
Anything-but-boring tables, all kinds of tables, especially reflect practicality, personality and beauty. In the kitchen, LaRoche says, “One of their requirements was a little settee breakfast table” they brought from West Seattle. Filling its custom nook perfectly, surrounded by glass, it complements stainless (“bulletproof”) countertops, seaworthy greenish-gray cabinetry and cast-in-place concrete.
The coffee table in the living area (walnut base, madrone top) “was made by a female furniture maker (Birgit Josenhans) we met at an artist studio tour,” Shannon says. “Rocks from our very own beach, we took to her in a bag. It’s very special. A lot of furniture makers would find flaws (in the wood); she carves them out and puts in rock.”
The RH Modern dining table — because, sometimes, with “nonstop friends and family” popping over, you do have to come inside to dine — is 500 pounds of reclaimed oak, with a concrete base that echoes the fireplace. “We asked, ‘Can the floor hold it?’ ” Melanie says, “and Marc said, ‘You can drive your car in there.’ ”
And on that deck, in that one-of-a-kind outdoor dining area with the out-of-this-world ambience, LaRoche turned history into practical art.
“We’d been carrying this marble around for 15 years and asked Marc to design a table for it outside,” Melanie says.
He did, and local artisan Kris Skotheim built it. Possibly, it’s the best table in the house.