A homeowner’s love of Italy inspired this handcrafted beauty on the beach.

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AL AND PAM GIDARI’S home in the South Beach neighborhood of Bainbridge Island is so new that, at this point, they haven’t even stayed there much.

But, just one day after returning from a long trip … “It felt like home right away.”

Al Gidari’s sun-filled office holds a special place for a picture of his father.  (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)
Al Gidari’s sun-filled office holds a special place for a picture of his father. (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)

And that’s because this place, this golden and handcrafted Italian villa with a Pacific Northwest attitude is all about la famiglia, from the long and prominent entry hall streetside to the wood-fired pizza oven out back.

“My grandfather and grandmother were from Calabria (Italy),” Al says. “He moved to Syracuse (N.Y.) in 1910 and worked for seven years to bring over my grandmother and a daughter he had not yet met.

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“We all lived in Little Italy in Syracuse, but I hadn’t been to Italy until I took my dad to Calabria in 2005.

“You can’t help but fall in love with that place.”

That’s Al’s story. And he’s been stickin’ to it since the couple signed on to build a beachfront villa of their own with Bainbridge architects Peter Brachvogel and Stella Carosso of BC&J.

“The design for the house was generated from a sketch Al provided, showing the organic form with which an Italian country family home might grow through the generations,” report the architects.

Sort of a something-old, something-new right out of the box.

South Beach Road house. Bainbridge Island, Washington.
Image license: BC&J Architecture
© Copyright 2015 Benjamin Benschneider All Rights Reserved. The Seattle Times may publish in Pacific Northwest Magazine.
South Beach Road house. Bainbridge Island, Washington. Image license: BC&J Architecture © Copyright 2015 Benjamin Benschneider All Rights Reserved. The Seattle Times may publish in Pacific Northwest Magazine.

The architects took the long and narrow beach lot and played to its strengths; a long covered loggia is the place to be almost anytime but a driving rainstorm. The pizza oven has its own patio with a vegetable garden. An upper stone terrace and fire pit sit closer to the beach. There are yet more opportunities to take in the glories of Rich Passage from upstairs bedroom decks and a “sky terrace.”

Inside, a long and fat hallway serves as a buffer between the street and living spaces. (“In France and Italy this was the place to overwinter the trees,” Al reports.) Etched, stained and polished concrete floors (by Maverick) have the appearance of leather in an oxblood color. They carry from hallway to the open living room-dining room-kitchen. To the south lies the master bedroom tower overlooking Mount Rainier and the Olympics.

Fat window trim, deep moldings (cherry, stained mahogany), and three heavy stone fireplaces repeat the mantra: villa, villa, villa.

Al opens the master bedroom’s French doors. The sun has tossed hundreds of diamonds across the blue, blue water, and it lap, lap, laps at the beach. Birds of various sorts swoop and dive. The Olympics hunker down in the distance. “This gives you a nice view of everything,” he says simply.

Pam Gidari says architects Peter Brachvogel and Stella Carosso “transformed our vague ideas into a real home.” Floors are etched, stained (oxblood) and polished concrete (heated). Custom woodworker John Steiner crafted the walnut island. Cabinets are from Savvy Cabinets. The chandelier is Hubberton Forge. Windows are Pella. (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)
Pam Gidari says architects Peter Brachvogel and Stella Carosso “transformed our vague ideas into a real home.” Floors are etched, stained (oxblood) and polished concrete (heated). Custom woodworker John Steiner crafted the walnut island. Cabinets are from Savvy Cabinets. The chandelier is Hubberton Forge. Windows are Pella. (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)

Cassie Picha of In The Garden set home into landscape with a rose garden and jasmine among the plantings, and “miraculously” also a flat lawn.

The exterior of this Northwest/Italian home, a hefty tonnage of Montana ledgestone, cedar and metal roofing wrapping about 5,000 square feet of living space, is set apart by its more than 500 shaped and oiled rafter tails. All of this is handcrafted work (Mark Driscoll of All Trade Construction hand-sanded each rafter tail; stonework by Wall Masonry; construction by Jerry Reese Construction) is on full view to the many passers-by walking to the beach through popular Fort Ward Park.

The idea was “an Italian country family home that has grown through the generations,” report the architects. The exterior is Montana ledgestone and cedar with a metal roof. To the left is a separate studio, and on the right sits the master-bedroom tower.  (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)
The idea was “an Italian country family home that has grown through the generations,” report the architects. The exterior is Montana ledgestone and cedar with a metal roof. To the left is a separate studio, and on the right sits the master-bedroom tower. (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)

Al is amused that some people don’t know what to make of the place. “They say it’s contemporary or Asian. But it could also be Salish. Everybody sees something in it, and that’s kinda cool.”

Their island audience is, indeed, vast.

“We meet everybody on the island at least once on the weekend,” says Pam. “Twice if the pizza oven’s on.”