“THE FIRST thing you’ll want to know is that this is a full-length Batchelder,” says Marie Peters, her hand resting on the fireplace surround in the living room of her Mount Baker home.
It is made of lovely handcrafted tiles from floor to ceiling, without interruption from even a mantel. The clay pieces have been molded around corners, not cut. “I’m told there are only three of these.
“There’s a lot of Batchelder in the neighborhood,” she says, “but lots of people call this the tile house.”
No. Wonder. Peters’ stately brick home is an extravaganza of Batchelder tile, Batchelder being Ernest Batchelder, a leading designer of the American Arts & Crafts Movement whose work is coveted by enthusiasts of the genre. At Peters’ home (which if you go on this year’s Mount Baker home tour you will be lucky enough to see for yourself) it is everywhere: on the floors, along the steps, in the fountain, and the walls, all over the bathrooms. Even as trim across the chimney at the very top of the house. Each room is unique and in all of Batchelder’s most popular motifs: Mayan designs, birds, foliage, geometric abstracts.
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It’s a swell house for sure, from the front stoop to the decorated chimney. Old (1923) and grand (five bedrooms/baths with rooms big and fat, heavy oak moldings and built-ins). But there’s not one square inch of it (don’t ask, Peters has no idea) that’s precious or off-limits.
“I like the old-English-country-house look,” she says. “Nothing’s perfect so that grandchildren can come in in swimsuits, and Taz (her trusty rescue pup) can bring in mud and I’m not going to panic.”
And when Peters speaks of old English country houses she knows exactly what she’s talking about — she has owned homes all across the globe; seven at the same time at one point. Hong Kong, London, Seattle, Orcas Island, Tucson and two in Australia.
“That was my husband’s need, not mine,” she says simply.
Hers was to travel. “I came up with a plan that I would marry a pastor because they move all the time,” she laughs. Instead, she married a Norwegian professor, and the pair lived and taught (Peters has a doctorate in psychology) in Norway and Denmark. Her second husband was an attorney and merchant banker. They lived in many of the world’s most vibrant cities.
“I think where I have the greatest memories is from Hong Kong,” Peters says. “We lived there in the 1980s up to the handover. Talk about dynamic. It made New York City look slow!”
The Mount Baker house serves Peters; her now and her then. It offers security and the camaraderie of a tight neighborhood, while also nestling her collected treasures. French and English paintings, kimonos, Moroccan tables and ottomans, Chinese furniture, Turkish rugs … It shelters friends in town during their own global trotting. “I had 17 people staying here last summer,” she says, not quite believing it herself. “I realized that I’m not 50 anymore!”
Blame it on the house.
“But I love this house, and my wonderful, wonderful neighbors,” Peters says. “I was talking to one of my neighbors the other day and said to her, ‘Why don’t you come over with a bottle of wine?’ We ended up with 60 in here and a feast.
“All I had to do was turn on the lights and make sure there was enough wine.”
Rebecca Teagarden writes about architecture and design for Pacific NW magazine. Benjamin Benschneider is a magazine staff photographer.