DID YOU KNOW that it takes the average person shopping for home plans about three years from browse to commit?
Pamela McClaran and Don Evans had no idea. They bought a lot in early January 2012 and two weeks later had chosen their house plans.
McClaran and Evans are far from average people.
“What we tell people when they ask how we got here is: without a plan,” says McClaran, looking over her bifocals; the smile is in her eyes.
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McClaran and Evans already had a perfectly lovely home on Bainbridge Island: 2,400 square feet on 2½ acres up island with a vineyard that offered grapes tasty enough to crush and bottle (which they did as 2 Old Fools Winery).
But it wasn’t their perfect house.
McClaran craved smaller and smarter. But it was just a distant thing, a thought in the back of her head.
The couple left for vacation. Then this happened: Daughter Lindsay discovered the perfect lot. Wooded and sloping toward the water at the head of Eagle Harbor. The couple bought it the day they got back and fired up the computer to hunt worldwide for plans focusing on smaller homes.
They found many to choose from. But the plans they liked, it turns out, were homegrown. Drawn up right down the road in Winslow by Peter Brachvogel and Stella Carosso of the Perfect Little House Company.
Evans and McClaran bought “the Maple,” 1,848 square feet. Living spaces are separated from the sleeping area by a wide and windowed entry. The great room is two-thirds kitchen, one-third living room, dining room off to the side. All of it wrapped in windows that carry to the open, beamed ceiling. (No window treatments necessary; the home is tucked into the woods.) What isn’t glass is wainscoted, cabinetry in poplar, all of it white, bright and light. A double set of French doors opens the space to the fat back deck and the water at the end of the yard.
“Stella and Peter were one of the great finds of this house,” says McClaran, cutting into a slice of Evans’ homemade sausage-fig pizza, delivered directly from oven to a chopping-block kitchen island that seats at least eight. Pebbled black granite wraps counters and frames a large white farm sink.
Brachvogel washes down a slice with a slug of red wine. Says, “This is an idea born of Sara Susanka (architect and author of the common-sense “Not So Big House” series). I went to hear her speak and she said, ‘Why can’t everybody have great architecture? Dig deep in your files and give people a good house they can afford.’
“That was a great comment. It made sense: Why couldn’t we bring good period and vernacular architecture to market that didn’t cost a fortune?”
Carosso and Brachvogel have long been in the business of designing custom homes as BC&J. But plans for one of the 31 models (and growing) on their PLHC website cost just less than $2,000. Homes have fireplaces, window seats and nooks. The Maple has a tower on the home’s private side, fulfilling Susanka’s call for an away space. To the back, waterside, is the master suite, “an absolute treat,” McClaran says. Rooms are small but they serve.
Dusk falls fast and hard in the winter months. A flock of geese honks its way past the place. “We have trouble leaving,” McClaran says. “We have a little vacation house, and we love that. But we talk ourselves out of it every time.”
Rebecca Teagarden writes about architecture and design for Pacific NW magazine. Benjamin Benschneider is a magazine staff photographer.